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the Girl Banker Series | Women In Banking: the Influencers
Every fall, the American Banker, the official publication of the American Bankers Association, releases their list of the Most Powerful Women In Banking. Seeing this list every year is both empowering and inspiring as it is a reminder that there are women making a difference every day in this industry. After seeing this year’s list, I started thinking about the women who have influenced me the most at different points in my banking career. I didn’t have to think very long to come up with my list as these women stand out to me as not only influential women in banking but influential bankers in general. No “woman” tag needed. This series is dedicated to a variety of women who have been influential to me: all at different times within my career and in different ways, but all in their own special way.

Jenny Stinchcomb | EVP | Sales Manager | Arvest Bank

My grandfather was my first real influence to banking. His 45 year banking career, all with Farmers & Merchants Bank in Prairie Grove, AR, ended with his retirement in 1991 and he later passed away in 1997. While I never had the opportunity to talk shop with him, I had the privilege to work with a number of people during my career that also worked with him. Jenny Stinchcomb was one of those people. Jenny will be retiring after 37 years in January so I find this post very timely. She started her career in banking in 1980, a time when banking jobs didn’t become available often, especially to women. At that time, her family was planning to move to Prairie Grove from Tulsa the following year, but due to a retirement in the bank, Jenny was told that if she wanted the job, she needed to move immediately, and so she did.

Jenny in front of the infamous mural at Farmers & Merchants Bank.

She started filing checks in the bookkeeping department and was only there two weeks before being asked to move to the loan side of the bank to be the bank president’s secretary and issue Certificates of Deposit. At that time, all loan officers, the president included, typed their own loan documents. (Oh how things have changed!) This only consisted of a note the size of a business envelope and a mortgage, given real estate was taken as collateral. Within a matter of days on the loan side, Jenny found herself typing all of the loan documents for all five lenders. Within a few years, the bank had purchased a loan processing machine that improved the process. She also began building loan files at the recommendation of state bank examiners to document on one sheet all the loans each customer had. In June of 1992, Farmers & Merchants Bank was purchased by Arvest and Jenny was given the title as Loan Operations Manager. She stayed in that role until 1995 when she was promoted to Sales/Operations Manager.

Jenny took her job seriously and set the tone for me for what professionalism looked like in the work place. As a junior and senior in high school, I was selected as member of the Prairie Grove Junior Bank Board and immediately started bugging Jenny and her counterpart and HR manager, Judy Carter, about working there upon graduating from high school. I clearly remember the moment Jenny told me to come down and apply for an open teller position. We were in a school bus, arriving back at the high school after our yearly trip to tour the Arvest Operations Center in Lowell, AR. I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to work at the bank that my grandfather did. I worked there through the end of high school and while obtaining my bachelor’s and masters degrees as the University of Arkansas.

Random Fact: Jenny and I met Charlie Gibson on the set of “Good Morning America” in New York City back in 2005.

During that time, Jenny was an advocate for me to be cross trained in multiple areas beyond just the teller line which proved beneficial to me later on in my career. She even went to bat for me to get a raise while I was still in college, arguing that my commute from the U of A back to Prairie Grove every day would be expensive. As a young, easily influenced young woman, that spoke volumes to me and I never forgot it. In 2013, when I received an opportunity to go work for a competitor bank after 12 years at Arvest, Jenny came to my office and in her ever-so professional tone of voice and said, “while I can’t wish you success against our sister banks, I wish you, personally, the most success in your career.”

Thank you, Jenny, for investing in me at a young age and showing me what women in this industry are capable of doing.

BANK ON IT | “Banking is absolutely a great career. It truly gives you an opportunity to interact with people in the community and have an influence on both customers’ and associates’ financial and personal lives. Over the years, I have witnessed the faith and trust that people place in their banker that extends far beyond the money they have in their accounts. My advice would be to accept each opportunity to learn all aspects of banking. In my case, each opportunity opened up another door.”