After more than eight years of working for Fayetteville-chartered Arvest Bank, Sara Heck was recently appointed CEO of Springdale-based Waco Title Co.
Heck was asked to become CEO of Waco Title, a company of Bentonville-based Arvest Bank Group, after former CEO Patrick Curry announced his intent to resign in early July.
“With Patrick’s resignation, there was that vacancy,” Heck said. “It was an honor to be asked and get to come over and get to know the Waco team and the business.”
Curry said his last day working for Waco Title was Aug. 6.
“I enjoyed my 15 and a half years at Waco and Arvest,” he said in a statement to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Arvest gave me an opportunity to lead an organization of amazing team members and helped grow me professionally. There is never a perfect time to leave, but Arvest provided an opportunity for me to leave well in order to pursue a personal passion of mine. My passion is to change and revolutionize the title and closing industry for consumers.
“I am currently making investments in technology and building infrastructure to execute the vision within an organization that will be solely focused on this mission.”
Curry declined to release additional details about the new venture until it launches in September.
“I am excited to start building a team to turn a vision into reality that will make a difference in the communities we work in,” he added.
The following is a Waco Title statement about Curry: “Waco Title made great strides under Patrick’s leadership, and we appreciate him helping with the transition. We wish him the best moving forward.”
Curry worked with Heck during the transition, and her first day as interim CEO was July 9. She started in her current role on Aug. 16.
“Sara has a clear and strong vision for the future of Waco that will build upon the positive momentum created by our exceptional Waco associates,” said Matt Machen, Arvest Bank’s regional executive for enhanced banking services.
Waco Title has 22 offices and nearly 250 employees across Arkansas and southwestern Missouri.
“The Waco team is phenomenal,” Heck said. “There are lots of wonderful people here. They’ve got a great business. It’s been a lot of fun to get to know the team and jump in, learn the business and start working for the future.”
Doug Heck, no relation to Sara Heck, is executive director of consumer lending for Arvest Bank and her most recent supervisor before she joined Waco Title.
“Sara possesses a blend of leadership and customer-service focus that, combined with her eye for process improvement, made her an invaluable asset at Arvest,” Doug Heck said. “She excelled in a variety of roles at the bank, and I have no doubt she will be successful leading Waco Title.”
She said her transition was good between Arvest and Waco Title.
“Both organizations have a mission that drives toward prioritizing people,” she said. “For that reason, it was a very similar culture — that we prioritize people, associates, and customers — so I felt like it was a very easy transition between the two.”
She started in the mortgage division when she joined Arvest Bank more than eight years ago, leaning on her legal and real estate experience. She worked in multiple areas, including an expanded role with the legal segment of the business in the mortgage division. She also broadened her experience in customer service and operations in her most recent position with the bank as director of operations for consumer lending. She was responsible for systems, mortgage origination, underwriting and control areas.
“I think I’ve got a pretty broad range of experience for having done that, and a focus on customer experience and processes and people have been a similar theme no matter what area I’ve been in,” she said.
‘WILD WEST OF BANKING’
Arvest Bank was her client when she worked in private practice as an attorney. She began at Stockland & Trantham in Fayetteville after she earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in May 2008. Later that year, she joined Hood & Stacy in Bentonville.
“I laughingly say it was the wild west of banking,” she joked. “During the recession, the CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] had not been formed. There was not the extensive regulation there is today. Arvest Bank always treated people with respect and integrity and cared for its customers — always trying to do the right thing. It left a significant impression upon me.”
She was corporate counsel for Lindsey Management Co. in Fayetteville before joining Arvest Bank. When contacted about an opening with the bank, she said she wasn’t looking for a career change, but it was a good opportunity. She noted the excellent work-life balance and how the company takes care of people. It’s offered her fulfillment, she added.
Before she became an attorney, she was a youth director for nearly 10 years. Initially, she’d considered becoming a youth prosecuting attorney and thought she could help children. But she found it’s an emotionally difficult area in which to work. Instead, she joined a private practice and focused on creditor law.
DEVELOPING HER TEAM
At Waco Title, she expects her legal experience will help her regarding title issues and general knowledge of property law. She said she’s most excited about investing, growing and developing her team in a leadership role. She explained her career highlight as the people she’s worked with over the years. She’s learned from the leaders for whom she’s worked and has had the opportunity to give that knowledge to others to help them develop and grow.
“My goals immediately are to pour into our team so that we can pour into our customers,” she said. “I want to look at ways to continue to grow and support our teams, look for areas of individual growth and success as well as leadership development and success. In addition to the people component, also looking at long-term growth opportunities for Waco and to provide exceptional service to our customers, our lending partners and our real estate partners.”
Like other businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Waco Title has adapted to serve customers safely and keep employees safe. It’s offered customers drive-thru closings and structured its closing rooms to ensure the safety of its customers and employees, she said. The company also has been flexible, as a mix of employees work from the office and remotely. She said she expects these benefits to continue to be offered.
Heck is a graduate of personal leadership effectiveness at the UA Global Campus and of Walton Institute. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business economics from the University of Arkansas in May 2005. She initially moved to Northwest Arkansas to attend the UA in 2001. The Arkansas native has lived in the area since then. Growing up, she lived in various cities throughout the state.
Heck, her husband and their three boys reside in Rogers.