Select Page
Girl Banker of the Week: Julie Croak Waddle

Girl Banker of the Week: Julie Croak Waddle

As women in banking, it is important that we lift each other up and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The entire purpose of the Girl Banker blog is to do just that! The Girl Banker of the Week series serves as a way to highlight Girl Bankers everywhere by telling their stories and motivating and encouraging other women in banking. It also is a great way for women in banking to connect! Read below about this week’s Girl Banker of the Week!

Julie Croak Waddle | AVP, Digital Marketing Manager | FNB Community Bank
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m a social media nerd. Without social media, this blog would be non-existent and I wouldn’t have a clue what any of my friends were doing these days, much less know what they ate for dinner or if they worked out this morning. That being said, through social media, especially Twitter, I have been exposed to a whole new world of banking friends! Many of which I have actually never met in person but feel like if I did, everything would be cool and we could hang out like we’ve known each other for years. Enter Julie Waddle, AVP, Digital Marketing Manager of FNB Community Bank in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Julie and I are connected on Instagram (both of my accounts) and on Twitter, and I’m pretty sure I could run into her somewhere and be like, “Oh hey, Julie!” but surprise, we have never actually met in the flesh! Banking can be boring. Really boring. And it can be even more boring on Twitter, that’s why I like following Julie! She is often involved in ICBA Twitter Chats and offers a fun, fresh view of banking. Here is her Girl Banker story.

Girl Banker Story
Julie is no stranger to banking as she is a part of the fourth generation of Croaks to have worked at FNB Community Bank. It’s a family thing! Her first job was popping popcorn at the bank at the age of 10. “I loved coming up on Fridays in the summer and making some extra cash,” said Julie. Sounds like a banker in the making! Prior to starting college, Julie had decided to study marketing and at that time, FNB Community Bank had just started thinking about bringing on additional help for their marketing department. She began working part-time for the bank in April of 2012 in the Solutions Center and continued to work there during her summer’s off from the University of Oklahoma. During her senior year, she worked part-time as an Operations Intern, rotating through each department of the bank and gained a good understanding of how everything was connected and worked. In April 2016, she was given the title of Digital Marketing Manager and transitioned to a full-time role. Later in December of 2016, she became an Assistant Vice President. Since that time, Julie has amped up the marketing of FNB Community Bank by providing a true online presence through social media and digital marketing campaigns. “Being able to express creativity, while also using my background education is business management has made this role very rewarding.”

“Julie truly has been a game changer for my bank with regard to fresh outlooks and communication styles with younger generations of current and potential customers,” said Bill Croak, President and CEO of FNB Community Bank. “I believe she exemplifies the positive qualities of her generation and I believe she is developing into a future senior manager of the bank.” If that’s not a proud dad, I don’t know what is!

Julie’s dad, Bill Croak, President and CEO of FNB Community Bank.

Julie graduated from The University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business with special distinction in Marketing and Management. At OU, Julie was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, the President’s Leadership Class, and the Campus Activities Council Executive Committee. Julie attended and graduated from the Oklahoma Bankers Association’s Basic Banking School in 2016 and the OBA’s Intermediate Banking School in 2017. She also serves as the Intermediate/Basic Banking School Board of Regent for the OBA.

In her spare time…
Just like any good community banker, Julie is involved in a variety of non-profit and community organizations. She serves as the Public Relations Director for the Junior Service League of Midwest City, is a Mid-Del Food Pantry Board Member, a Mid-Del Group Home Board of Director, and is a Big Sister for Big Brother & Big Sisters of Oklahoma. Julie and her husband, Austin, reside in Midwest City with their beagle, Boomer.

Julie and her husband, Austin.

MOTIVATION | “I am most motivated by my husband who constantly reminds me of my strengths and gifts that I bring to the table. It is so encouraging to have a partner who believes in everything I do whole-heartedly at such a young age. I am beyond thankful for his influence in my life. I am also motivated by the fact that I get the chance to continue my family’s legacy of community banking and philanthropic impact on Midwest City and Eastern Oklahoma County.”

Join me as we celebrate this week’s Girl Banker of the Week, Julie Waddle!

Girl Banker of the Week: Olivia Bajaj

Girl Banker of the Week: Olivia Bajaj

As women in banking, it is important that we lift each other up and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The entire purpose of the Girl Banker blog is to do just that! The Girl Banker of the Week series serves as a way to highlight Girl Bankers everywhere by telling their stories and motivating and encouraging other women in banking. It also is a great way for women in banking to connect! Read below about this week’s Girl Banker of the Week!

Olivia Bajaj | Vice President, Credit Officer | American National Bank & Trust
You might be noticing that a big selection of the Girl Bankers of the Week are connections from Graduate School of Banking Colorado. I may be a little biased but it’s my blog, so I can do what I want! Regardless, all of them are noteworthy and Olivia Bajaj of Little Elm, Texas is no exception. A quick glimpse of her resume will blow you away! I first met Olivia in 2013 during our first year at GSBC in Boulder, Colorado. Regardless if I ran into her in the classroom, hallway, or on Pearl Street, she always had the sweetest smile and demeanor.  She is lethal with numbers and one selfless gal. I’m thrilled to tell her story this week as the Girl Banker of the Week!

Girl Banker Story
“When I started college, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” said Olivia. “At the time, I found it important to understand my own finances in an effort to set myself up for the future, so I decided to go the financial route.

Olivia and her fiance, Andre.

Olivia got her Bachelor’s of Business Administration Degree with a Minor in Finance from the University of North Texas in 2007 and upon graduating, found a credit analyst position at TIB-The Independent Bankers Bank in Farmers Branch, Texas. It was then that she realized how much she understood and loved numbers and the rest was history. She was promoted to VP|Commercial Loan Underwriter II after just 18 months on the job. While in that role, she attended Texas Tech Banking School in 2010, obtained her MBA from Texas A&M in 2013, and graduated from Graduate School of Banking in Boulder, Colorado in 2015.

In 2016, Olivia was recruited to American National Bank & Trust in Flower Mound, Texas to be a Vice President, Credit Officer, where she has been instrumental in implementing stronger risk management processes for active management and asset quality in addition to performing annual portfolio review of credits over $1 million to identify any material changes in borrower/guarantor financial position and collateral deficiencies amongst many other duties.

She is a member of the Texas Chapter of the Risk Management Association (RMA), National Society of Leadership and Success, and Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.

In her spare time…
When she isn’t banking, Olivia volunteers with Soup Mobile, a program benefitting the homeless in the Dallas community. She also participates in the Christ United Methodist Church Metrocrest “Sack Summer Hunger” food program. She and her fiance,

MOTIVATION | “Creating a positive work environment so everyone can be successful is my motivation. I’m always striving to help others shine brighter even if that means my light gets dimmer during the process. My grandmother my true inspiration and is the most selfless person I know so I’m just trying to be more like her each and every day.”

Olivia and her grandmother, her inspiration!

Join me as we celebrate this week’s Girl Banker of the Week, Olivia Bajaj!

Girl Banker of the Week: Donna Townsell

Girl Banker of the Week: Donna Townsell

As women in banking, it is important that we lift each other up and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The entire purpose of the Girl Banker blog is to do just that! The Girl Banker of the Week series serves as a way to highlight Girl Bankers everywhere by telling their stories and motivating and encouraging other women in banking. It also is a great way for women in banking to connect! Read below about this week’s Girl Banker of the Week!

Donna Townsell | Director of Investor Relations | Centennial Bank
My first introduction to this week’s Girl Banker of the Week was in 2016 at the Arkansas Bankers Association Women In Banking Conference when she sat on a panel with recently retired, Lisa Ray of Arvest Bank. As she answered questions from the audience about how she managed work, life, balance, and overcoming typical stigmas that come along with being a female in this industry, I immediately knew I would be seeing more of her at some point in my career. I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from a fellow girl banker and fan of Donna, nominating her for Girl Banker of the Week. While we have only communicated via email and social media, I have a feeling I have a new friend and mentor! Here is Donna’s Girl Banker story!

Girl Banker Story
When Donna was 8 years old, she wanted to be a veterinarian. In high school, she shifted toward being an attorney.  (A girl can be whatever she wants to be, am I right?) She didn’t end up pursuing either one and according to Donna, never really decided what she wanted to be when she grew up. She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing but didn’t begin her career in banking until several years later. “I’m very fond of the motto, ‘bloom where you’re planted’ and I feel that my career is a testament to that,” Donna said. Immediately following college, she worked at R&G Sloane as a Customer Service Rep for three years and then Acxiom Corporation for eleven years.

Her girl banker story began in 2007 when she joined Conway, Arkansas based Centennial Bank as a project manager. And girls, let me tell you, Donna began to bloom! In 2009 she was promoted to Director of Corporate Efficiencies and managed Centennial’s initiative to lower their efficiency ratio from the 60’s to the 30’s.  By 2016, Donna was promoted to Director of Marketing and has since served on the Operations Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Executive Committee, and M&A Committee. Earlier this week, it was announced that Donna was promoted, yet again to Director of Investor Relations for Centennial Bank and Home Bancshares, Inc., parent company of Centennial.

Donna has served as a mentor to many women in the industry throughout her career. She has had the opportunity to speak at the Arkansas State University Business Women’s Leadership Conference as well as the Arkansas Bankers Association Women In Banking Conference and participated in the University of Central Arkansas Young Business Women’s Conference. “I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the college ladies and hear about their future plans and share with them my own experiences,” said Donna.

Donna and her adorable daughter, Riley.

In her spare time…
Donna is the proud single mom to her daughter, Riley, and miniature Schnauzer, Rosie. She has held various board positions over the years in Conway. She is a current member of the Weekday Childcare Committee for First United Methodist Church, serves as a board member for Faulkner Lifestyle Magazine, and is a Conway Area Leadership Institute graduate and Delta Zeta alum. Donna says that she hopes that if anyone had to sum her up in one word it would be “thoughtful.”

MOTIVATION | “Be the person your boss thinks of when he or she needs something done.”

Join me as we celebrate this week’s Girl Banker of the Week, Donna Townsell!

Girl Banker of the Week: Michelle Hodge

Girl Banker of the Week: Michelle Hodge

As women in banking, it is important that we lift each other up and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The entire purpose of the Girl Banker blog is to do just that! The Girl Banker of the Week series serves as a way to highlight Girl Bankers everywhere by telling their stories and motivating and encouraging other women in banking. It also is a great way for women in banking to connect! Read below about this week’s Girl Banker of the Week!

Michelle Hodge | Review Examiner | Texas Department of Banking
Not all bankers come in the form of a lender, teller, president, new accounts representative, or marketing director. There is another banker role that is likely not celebrated enough and plays an incredibly important role in the continued safety and soundness of America’s community banks: the bank examiner.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with bank examiners, here is the definition according to Wikipedia: A bank examiner is a financial professional, a species of auditor, who has the task of making sure that banks…are operating legally, ethically, and safely, in accordance with the bank regulations imposed on these institutions by the chartering level of government. In the United States, they may conduct supervision on behalf of state governments, a United States government agency, or the Federal Reserve System. The main duties of a bank examiner are to ensure that a bank’s operations are legal and can guarantee financial stability.  A bank examiner will also review the balance sheet, evaluate the level of risk associated with a loan, and assess the management of a bank. Got it?

Meet Michelle Hodge, Review Examiner for the Texas Department of Banking in Austin, TX.

Girl Banker Story
Michelle got her start in banking in 2006 as an Accounting Analyst at Platinum Bank in Lubbock, Texas, which happened to be one of the last state chartered de novo banks prior to the Great Recession. While there, she worked directly with the CEO and CFO to purchase a branch from another financial institution and with the Texas Department of Banking on the de novo bank application and director profiles. She performed the role of accounts payable, assisted with setting up internet and telephone banking and was instrumental in preparing board reports and policies.

Michelle, and her girl banker pals, Molly and Katie at their GSBC graduation in 2017.

Her love for community banks began while working at Platinum Bank.  “The impact community banks have in their communities is great,” Michelle said. “I can think of several small towns in Texas that have a community bank but are so small they don’t even have a restaurant or a stop light. However, they provide a service that keeps the community alive.” One of Michelle’s favorite quotes that she believes exudes the essence of community banking is by ICBA Past Chairman, Jack Hartings: “There is not another industry that has a more vested interest in the communities they serve or has more opportunity to provide that community with the resources to succeed. We don’t cut and run when the economy gets tough. We roll up our sleeves and work side by side with our customers to get them through the tough times.”

Michelle graduated from Texas Tech University in Lubbock in 2007 with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration degree and was hired by the Texas Department of Banking in Houston as a Financial Examiner I  in 2008. In March of 2013, she passed the commissioning process and was promoted to a Senior Financial Examiner VII in September of 2017, just a few months after graduating from the Graduate School of Banking in Colorado. Her roles included acting as Examiner-In-Charge (EIC) of all types of examinations regardless of size and complexity, ensuring proper application of department policies and procedures in addition to state and federal regulations, and serving as a leader, mentor, and supervisor of less experienced examiners among many other duties.

In February of 2018, Michelle was promoted again to Review Examiner of the Texas Department of Banking which relocated her to Austin. She performs the Austin Headquarters review of regional examination reports and is always keeping up with the ever-changing laws, regulations, policies, and procedures of federal or other regulatory agencies that may affect the Department. The fact that a female has this role is a BIG deal. She’s a trailblazer, to say the least.

In her spare time…
When she isn’t keeping all the banks in Texas in line, Michelle and her husband, Stephen, of 15 years, and their dog, Gustav, love a good walk. They also are avid travelers, having visited 8 eight different countries in the last four years and have a trip booked for Singapore, Phuket, and Bangkok later in 2018. Michelle also serves as a Graduate School of Banking Strategic Topic Advisor and volunteers for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day event. She has walked in six Susan G. Komen 3-day 60-mile walks herself with 5 being in Dallas and 1 in San Diego, CA. Additionally, she is a member of the State Agency Council that supports the Governor’s Commission for Women. Her hobbies are running, hiking and basically anything outdoors. She even climbed a fourteener in Colorado last year!

MIchelle and her husband, Stephen and dog, Gustav.

MOTIVATION | “Working for a leadership team that I believe in.”

Join me as we celebrate this week’s Girl Banker of the Week, Michelle Hodge!

Girl Banker of the Week: Sheila Noll

Girl Banker of the Week: Sheila Noll

As women in banking, it is important that we lift each other up and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The entire purpose of the Girl Banker blog is to do just that! The Girl Banker of the Week series serves as a way to highlight Girl Bankers everywhere by telling their stories and motivating and encouraging other women in banking. It also is a great way for women in banking to connect! Read below about this week’s Girl Banker of the Week!

Sheila Noll | EVP, COO |Midwest Independent Bank
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan and alum of the Graduate School of Banking in Colorado and I love any opportunity to shed light on products of their program. However, this week’s Girl Banker of the Week isn’t just any “alum” and her resume is proof of that! Sheila Noll is an institution of operational banking knowledge and her list of organizations that she shares it with is nothing short of impressive. Here is her Girl Banker Story!

Girl Banker Story
Sheila got her start in banking straight out of college in 1995 as a cash management specialist for Midwest Independent Bank in Jefferson City, MO. In August of 1997, she transitioned to the loan department as a credit analyst and then returned to the operations department as the operations manager in June 1998. She has worked in various managerial positions within bank operations since that time and now serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer. As a member of the Executive Management Committee of MIB, she participates in organizational leadership, direction and guidance related to community bank servicing across the Midwest. MIB is a “bankers’ bank”, based out of Jefferson City, MO, which provides a wide array of correspondent banking services to close to 525 financial institutions throughout the Midwest.

Sheila and husband, Charlie.

She was given her start in banking by one of the country’s largest community bank advocates, Camden Fine, who was the founding president of Midwest Independent Bank. Camden went on to lead the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) as President/CEO in 2003. “He is still a strong mentor for me today and has a great respect for women in banking.” A testament to that is the recent appointment of Rebeca Romero Rainy as President/CEO-elect of ICBA just this past month.

Sheila has shared her wealth of knowledge in bank operations through current and past participation in a number of banking-related committees outside of MIB, such as: Chair of the Graduate School of Banking in Colorado Alumni Board, Faster Payments Task Force member with the Federal Reserve Bank, ICBA Operations & Payments Committee member, the Bankers’ Bank Operations Council, the ABA Correspondent Bank Work Group, The Clearing House RTP Advisory Committee and various government relations activities on behalf of community banking. She currently spends much of her time participating in local and national discussions regarding existing and emerging payment processing solutions in the United States and globally.

Noll earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri), in Warrensburg, Missouri. She subsequently graduated, with honors, from both the Missouri Bankers Association School of Bank Management and the Graduate School of Banking in Colorado.

Sheila with daughters Allison and Katie.

Outside of the bank, Sheila treasurer’s her role as mom to Katie (16) and Allison (10) and wife of 22 years to Charlie. She is a member of the First Christian Church of Iberia, MO and enjoys spending time with friends and family.  “I feel so very blessed and as such, I love spreading joy whenever possible; endeavoring to inspire others to live their lives with grateful hearts.”

MOTIVATION | “A problem solver by nature, I am always looking for ways to solve issues in order to improve the life experiences of others.  I am particularly motivated to promote the mission of community banking in the United States.  Indeed, I am passionate about it.  I know full well how important community banks are to the well-being of the communities they serve.  Community bankers do not just work in the communities where their bank can be found; they live there, worship there and raise their families there.  Just look at any small town in the Midwest and you will find community bankers serving the community with their time and talents.  From coaching sports, participating in local government, promoting economic development, teaching financial literacy and a host of other volunteer activities.  They do not do this because they have to, they do it because they care and truly want what is best for their communities.  I am inspired by the stories I hear from the bankers I serve across the Midwest.  I am simply in awe of the spirit of community banking.”

Join me as we celebrate this week’s Girl Banker of the Week, Sheila Noll!

Know someone who should be the next Girl Banker of the Week? Send nominations to thegirlbanker@gmail.com!

Girl Banker of the Week: Jill Bright

Girl Banker of the Week: Jill Bright

As women in banking, it is important that we lift each other up and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The entire purpose of the Girl Banker blog is to do just that! The Girl Banker of the Week series serves as a way to highlight Girl Bankers everywhere by telling their stories and motivating and encouraging other women in banking. It also is a great way for women in banking to connect! Read below about this week’s Girl Banker of the Week!

Jill Bright | SVP, Business Development Officer | Grand Savings Bank

When I started the Girl Banker of the Week, I found it important to highlight women from a wide variety of banks, positions, backgrounds, etc. While I am obviously incredibly biased to my bank, Grand Savings Bank, I also wanted to convey that the purpose of this blog is to advocate women in banking, not just my employer or even myself for that matter. However, its high time I throw GSB some love and I’m excited to recognize Jill Bright, SVP, Business Development Officer of Grand Savings Bank in Rogers, Arkansas.

Personally, out of my 17 years of banking, I have yet to meet a community banker that truly has the customer’s best interest at heart like Jill Bright does. I have witnessed firsthand her compassion for taking care of people and it is truly a reminder of why we community bankers do what we do. While attending a community function, I observed a gentleman approach Jill, take her aside and proceed to tell her how she literally saved his family’s finances when they had lost all hope. The interaction had taken place several years prior, but he described how she took the time to sit down with him and his wife and explain that everything was going to be ok and that she wouldn’t let them leave her office until they figured out a solution. Obviously, we all teared up as the gentleman told his story. Before he walked away, he told Jill, “you gave my family hope when no one else did. Thank you for taking the time to work with us.”

That, my fellow girl bankers, is a lesson to ALL of us. We all can get caught up in our busy schedules and get so task focused that we forget why we are bankers in the first place. You never know what a few minutes or even hours could mean in a customer’s life. Here is Jill’s Girl Banker story.

Girl Banker Story
Jill, a 32-year banking veteran, moved to Rogers, Arkansas from Joplin, Missouri in 1978. She graduated from Rogers High School in 1985 and attended Arkansas Tech University.

She began her banking career at Independence Federal Bank in Springdale, Arkansas in 1986. Jill always had the goal to be a banker in her hometown of Rogers and I think it is safe to say that she knocked that goal out of the park. She was hired in 1987 by First National Bank, which was later acquired by Arvest Bank. During her 18 year tenure at Arvest, she served as a teller, teller trainer, lead teller and teller operations manager. In 2005, Jill left to start a new bank in Northwest Arkansas, Parkway Bank, which was later purchased by Citizens Bank in 2015. She served as branch manager and was later promoted to Director of Marketing and Business Development.

In 2017, Jill says that she made the best decision of her career by joining Grand Savings Bank as SVP, Business Development Officer. “I really wanted to get back to real community banking. I love being a part of this amazing team!”

Commitment to the Community
If anything can be said about Jill Bright, its that she is EVERYWHERE in Northwest Arkansas! She loves all things community and NWA. She serves on the Rogers Lowell Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Chamber Audit Committee, and is a Chamber Ambassador where she received the 2014 Ambassador of the Year Award. She also has a seat on the Rogers Rotary Club Board of Directors, is a Paul Harris Fellow, and is a 2016 graduate of Leadership Benton County. Jill is also a former board member of the Arkansas Crisis Center Board and is a member of Cross Church in Rogers.

Jill, her husband, Richard, and daughter, Lauren.

Fun Facts
Jill has been married to her husband, Richard, for 30 years and has one daughter, Lauren, who is 28. When she isn’t serving her community or bank, she loves reading, boutique shopping, and spending time with her family and friends. Most importantly, she loves her dog, Berklee.

MOTIVATION | “My motivation is helping people. The more we give, the happier we feel. It gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose to be able to help others.”

Join me as we celebrate this week’s Girl Banker of the Week, Jill Bright!

Know someone who should be the next Girl Banker of the Week? Send nominations to thegirlbanker@gmail.com!