Jul 2, 2021 - News
Despite pandemic, banking jobs still a bright spot in Arkansas
Data: FDIC. Chart: Axios Visuals

While employers everywhere suddenly seem to be scrambling for workers, there's at least one bright and steady spot in Arkansas.

Jobs in the banking industry here are down only 1.3% from the first quarter of 2020.

  • As of March 31, FDIC-insured banks in Arkansas employed 23,528 people.

The long view: The number of full-timers working for FDIC-insured banks in Arkansas has grown nearly 34% in a decade, up by almost 6,000 jobs.

  • Meanwhile, the number of banks has dropped nearly 33%, due mostly to consolidation.
Data: FDIC. Chart: Axios Visuals

The intrigue: There are two primary reasons for the job growth, Susannah Marshall, Arkansas' state banking commissioner, told Axios.

  • Due mostly to acquisitions, assets managed by Arkansas banks grew from $44 billion at the end of 2010 to $127 billion at the end of 2020. That requires more people to deal with back office work, compliance and the like.
  • And, as banks transition to more online services, they require more information technology positions to deal with compliance, cybersecurity and user experience programming.

Laura Andress, chief people officer at Arvest Bank Group, said the growth in jobs for her company, not tied to acquisitions, are mostly related to technology.

Flashback: Those who were here in 2006 may remember a frenzy of new bank charters and brick-and-mortar branches popping up overnight. The activity was mostly in NWA as investors looked to cash in on the white-hot real estate market.

  • So many banking jobs were created, the industry helped develop a training curriculum at Northwest Arkansas Community College to ensure a pipeline of qualified staff.
  • At the time, 17,000 statewide jobs seemed like a giant number.

The bottom line: There's no indication bank branches, or the jobs they support, will contract in Arkansas following the pandemic.

  • Marshall said state banks continue to open and close at about the same rate as always.

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