Then & Now: Morrison enjoying HR after mortgage career

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 735 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the July 31 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Christine Morrison has spent the past 33 years in banking, specifically in the mortgage industry. She recently started in a new role at Signature Bank of Arkansas after leading its mortgage department for 18 years.

In February, she became a team member assistance specialist in the bank’s human resources department. She was president of the bank’s mortgage department and helped to start it from scratch in 2004. The Fayetteville-based bank opened in 2005.

“Right at 18 years, I decided, ‘I’ve raised this mortgage baby. It’s time to do something a little different,’” she said. “That’s when I transitioned into HR, which has been different but a lot of fun so far.”

In 2002, Morrison was vice president of lending at United Bank when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her to the Forty Under 40 class. She left United Bank in October 2004 to join the startup that launched as Signature Bank in 2005.

“[CEO] Gary Head recruited me to come help him build the bank, and so I did. If I knew then what I was getting into, I probably would have been way more scared than I was,” Morrison joked. “But I decided to take it on, and of course, I’ve been here ever since. I love this bank and plan to retire here. It’s been quite an adventure.”

In her new role, Morrison, 57, focuses on employee training, retention and recruitment. Her office is in Fayetteville.

“They were kind enough to create a new role for me,” she said. “Two ladies have been handling all the HR for many years. I had always wondered how in the world are those two ladies keeping up with all of this.”

Morrison has some experience starting in new positions and said the transition has been “fairly easy” because she knows the bank and those with whom she works. She noted the complexities of human resources and the learning curve with payroll as she continues to learn new things daily. Still, the systems she used in the mortgage department are similar.

She said she uses her communication skills in her new role even more than she did as a manager. She recently led a first-time homebuyers seminar for staff.

Morrison earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Arkansas in 1988. She trained at the Louisiana Graduate School of Banking and completed multiple compliance seminars and the Arkansas Institute of Banking course.

In 1990, the Fayetteville native started her banking career with a former Northwest Arkansas mortgage company. She joined United Bank in 1991.

Over the years, one of the most significant changes has been the rise of non-banks offering mortgages, such as Rocket Mortgage and NerdWallet. She explained the challenges of competing with online mortgage lenders.

“We compete for deposits with a lot of those same places as well,” she said. “When I started so many years ago, this was not that way. You were competing with the bank down the street. You weren’t competing with a bank that was nationwide, almost exclusively an online bank.

“We pride ourselves in having an actual place you can go and sit down with somebody … and work through a problem. A lot of people love that, but not all people do. You have to try to find your way and compete on all those levels.”

Her career highlight was being a part of the decisions that went into building a startup that’s grown into a $1 billion bank.

“The greatest honor in these 18 years I was mortgage president or even longer than that was being able to help people buy their homes,” she said. “There’s usually no greater or bigger purchase for someone than their home … Although it was stressful, being a part of that was a lot of fun. It was rewarding.”

Recently, she used the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to raise $17,000 to help pay for a family friend’s medical expenses. She enjoys birdwatching, photography and craft-making.

She and her husband, Randy, reside in Fayetteville and have two daughters and three grandsons. Morrison noted that her new role allows her to spend more time with her grandchildren, her favorite pastime.