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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!

Eileen Jennings | SVP, Area Loan Manager | Arvest Bank
I met Eileen several years ago during my Arvest days. She was a Commercial Banker in the Fayetteville, Arkansas market and I was just getting my start as a consumer, commercial, and mortgage lender in a much more rural part of the county in Prairie Grove, Arkansas. At that time, Arvest Bank Chairman, Jim Walton, (you may have heard of his family’s little business, Walmart) was making a push for diversity within the Arvest system, more specifically in the commercial lending area. I impressed that he was making such an effort as it was rather unheard of in the early 2000’s in the banking industry. Mr. Walton wanted to do an ad of all of the female commercial lenders and I was invited to be a part of it. I was immediately intimidated by all of the other women. They really seemed to have it all figured out and I was super green, right out of Graduate School. Eileen really seemed to have it all figured out.

A few months later, I was in a C and I Lending class with her and she would ask a lot of questions and used a lot of big words only very experienced lenders would understand. I remember thinking, “I hope I can be half as smart as her someday.” Well, here I am several years later and I am confident that I am most definitely not as smart as Eileen Jennings. I’m so excited to feature her on the Girl Banker blog as this week’s Girl Banker of the Week.

Girl Banker Story
Eileen was born and raised in rural Madison County, Arkansas. She attended the University of Arkansas and received a B.S.B.A. in International Economics and Business with an emphasis in European studies. During that time, she attended the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi to study French and spent six months in Toulouse, France studying international business at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce.  After graduation, Eileen worked for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA in its national product development department and returned to Fayetteville in 2001 to finish her B.S.B.A in finance.  She moved to Kansas City, MO and worked for PNC Bank’s subsidiary, Midland Loan Services, as a credit analyst and was recruited and hired by Key Bank Commercial Mortgage Capital Group where she worked as a securitization analyst.

Eileen later returned to Fayetteville and was hired as a commercial credit analyst for Arvest Bank – Bentonville.  She has been with Arvest for over fourteen years and is currently Senior Vice President, Area Loan Manager in Fayetteville. As a commercial banker, Eileen works closely with many small business owners to start new businesses and expand current ones.  She is consistently one of the top SBA lenders in the area in terms of number of loans closed.

Eileen and her Arvest team dressed up as the Saved By the Bell cast for Halloween! #nailedit

Beyond the Bank
Eileen and her husband, Walter have one daughter, Scout Pepper.  They reside in in Washington County, south of Fayetteville on their farm, the Lazy “E”. She volunteers her time with the ASBTDC at the Walton College of Business as well as Start Up Junkie in Fayetteville. She is also the past President for the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas, on the Board of Directors for the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, and volunteers with Peace at Home Family Shelter, EOA Children’s House and with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program. Eileen is a two-time breast cancer survivor and frequently speaks on the subject.

Eileen and her husband, Walter. Fun fact: she made this dress!

She was a graduate of Leadership Fayetteville XXVII, former Board of Directors member for the NWA chapter of RMA, a member of Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2014 and named Commercial Banker of the Year for Arkansas in 2016 and was the Business Advocate of the Year in 2017 for the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.

If you haven’t already, you should follow Eileen on social media and get a look at her favorite hobbies which include sewing, fly-fishing, taekwondo and working around the farm. She makes the most amazing pieces including a pair of shoes! She’s a “Jill” of all trades, no doubt!

Eileen and her daughter, Scout at one of their taekwondo competitions.

MOTIVATION | I am motivated by potential. Having lost my mom when she was in her early forties, I am motivated by making the most of the life we are given and realizing our potential through hard work and joy. Going through cancer treatments twice in the last five years has proven how important it is to live your best life… all the time!

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