Southern Bancorp CEO watching inflation, supportive of diversity efforts

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,503 views 

Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams.

Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams wears a lot of different hats.

He’s the CEO of the Arkadelphia-based financial institution, serves on the Federal Reserve Bank’s Little Rock branch, is a promoter of diversity, equity and inclusion goals, has just led a bank acquisition, and now boasts a large banking presence in Little Rock’s 12th Street corridor with an aim to help revitalize this area of the city.

And that’s just a partial resume.

Williams, a Little Rock native and former state legislator, has his eyes more on the economy and banking opportunities than on activity at the state capitol these days. Appearing on this week’s Talk Business & Politics TV program, Williams said he’s not sure if the U.S. will or won’t plunge into a recession, but he knows people are feeling economic pain.

“Let me just say I’m not speaking for the Fed. I’m speaking for myself, but I guess depends on how you define it [recession], right?” said Williams. “So, you know, what we think more about at our bank is how do we impact the people we serve, particularly, low-wealth people, and while we may not technically be in a recession, depending on the definition, people are feeling the pain. Inflation numbers are, they’re coming down. What’s the price of eggs, right? What are people talking about? What is the price of milk, price of gas? So people are beginning to feel some pain, particularly those in the lower-income spectrum.”

He foresees high interest rates for the short-term future.

“The Fed is trying to get inflation at 2%, and it’s not. The last time was, what, 6.41%? So if you’re going to drive that inflation number down, you probably have to keep interest rates up much above where they are now for a longer period of time, so we’ll see,” he said.

Last June, Southern Bancorp closed on its acquisition of Premier Bank, a $213 million asset bank with three branches operating in Marion, West Memphis, and Jonesboro, Arkansas. Williams said this weekend the conversion of signage will take place, expanding Southern’s footprint into three new markets.

A big move in banking circles nationally and worldwide is understanding how financial institutions should adapt to diversifying workforce and customers to compete with the changing demographics of society. There have been cultural and legislative attempts to push back on diversity, affirmative action and social governance.

Williams said people need to understand that embracing change and adapting corporate policies and personal attitudes to be more inclusive is good for business and good for American culture.

“I think you just look at the numbers, right? McKinsey & Company – a global company that does a lot of research in this area – McKinsey says that those companies that are more inclusive, that are more diverse, are 36% more profitable, and this is not just in America. This is around the world,” he said.

“They say that millennials want to work for companies that are more diverse, and if you look at the changing population, the changing demographics – baby boomers are about 75% white, millennials are about 50% white – and so you see the world’s becoming more diverse. So people are expecting to be more included, and companies that are more inclusive just make better decisions, and they’re more profitable, according to McKinsey, so I think it’s a smart thing to do.”

You can watch Williams’ full interview in the video below.