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Sharing Success: Marcus Guinn, SVP/loan manager, Arvest Bank

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Sharing Success: Marcus Guinn, SVP/loan manager, Arvest Bank


By Dwain Hebda — Marcus Guinn, executive vice president and loan manager at Arvest Bank, is one of central Arkansas’s most respected and well-known bankers. Over a nearly 40-year career, the native of Gurdon has steadily created a solid reputation as he climbed the ranks through changing times, consolidation and mergers. He’s shuffled loan papers for Main Street startups and small car loans on up to $90 million corporate deals, delivering each with the same professionalism and sound business acumen. 

In fact, he’s been such a fixture in the local banking community it’s hard for others to imagine him in any other professional role, despite never imagining himself staying there this long. 

“I started working for a bank because it afforded me the flexibility to go to school, but I always knew that I would only work at the bank until I graduated college,” he said. “But a funny thing happened, as I tell people all the time, banking sort of chose me. I became really comfortable with the work and the responsibilities.”

“Besides, I knew that banks observed quite a few holidays and I thought, ‘You know what? This is not a bad gig.’ Plus, it beats being out pouring asphalt in the dead of summer.”

Guinn’s early life was marked by loss – his mother died when he was young, and his father worked long hours to keep the family fed and together. In high school, he’d started seeking out acceptance from the wrong kind of friends, a situation that set up an interaction that he still considered foundational to all the success he’d enjoy later.  

“There was one biology teacher that really made an impact on me,” Guinn said. “He pulled me to the side one day and said, ‘Mr. Guinn, I know your family, I know your dad, I know he works hard. But I can tell you that you’re running with the wrong crowd. I want to leave you with this: Too much association brings about assimilation.’ He was trying to tell me that if you hang out with someone long enough, sooner or later you’ll start to act like them.” 

“I consider that a turning point in my life because I started to pay attention to the guys around me and what they were doing,” he continued. “They were not doing things that I knew my dad would approve of so I started slowly trying to distance myself from them and rightfully so. A lot of them continued on that path and some were killed, some went to prison.”

Guinn’s grades were good enough to get him into Henderson State University, but the lure of social life trumped his efforts in the classroom and he took a detour into the service to gain some maturity. Three years later, he’d enter the National Guard and return to college on the GI Bill, graduating from UA Little Rock with a degree in finance, by which time he’d already started working for Twin City Bank. In 26 years there, he’d sample different parts of the banking industry from loans to operations to retail, surviving three mergers and name changes along the way. 

He joined Arvest Bank 12 years ago and in 2016, completed a long-held dream by earning a degree from the prestigious graduate school of banking at Louisiana State University (LSU). Today he’s responsible for all lending functions in the metro Little Rock footprint, which also includes Hot Springs, Conway, Morrilton, Sherwood, Cabot, and Saline County. 

At 61, he’s seen a lot of changes in technology and banking products but said the things that haven’t changed still matter most.

“The things that remain are focusing on customers and delivering customer service,” he said. “You really need people who are good at customer service in this business. That hasn’t changed. If you’re not a people person, you’re not going to deliver good customer service and some people aren’t people persons. They are happy just being in the background and don’t need contact with others. I’m not like that, I’ve always had to connect with other people to be happy in my job.”

Banking technology being what it is today, there are far more opportunities at the company’s disposal  to connect with customers. Guinn said working with younger employees as he has, he’s seen the advantage they hold in navigating rapidly changing technology. But he’s also seen how reliance on digital tools has come at a cost to interpersonal skills in general. 

“Good old-fashioned communication skills and professionalism are at a premium,” he said. “There are things that I take for granted that I think new hires ought to know, and then I find myself having to explain to them why something’s not appropriate in the workplace. Sometimes it’s how they dress or it could be something as simple as when they write an email they use jargon or text code, or they abbreviate words. I have to remind them when you’re communicating professionally in the workplace to not use ‘GM’ because not everyone may know it means ‘good morning.”

Just as Guinn invests time and expertise into helping young people lay the foundation for successful careers, he’s also been a driving force behind helping underserved communities improve their financial habits. For nearly four decades, he’s led Money Matters classes where he shares the basics of financial literacy. 

“In the mainstream of banking there are so many unbanked or underbanked individuals and many people just don’t know the simple things they can do to improve their credit score,” he said. “I’m really passionate about passing this information on to the younger generation.”

Guinn’s penchant for helping young people was recognized in 2018 when he was named UA Little Rock College of Business’ Distinguished Alumnus of the Year for service to the school and its students. He said he enjoys being a mentor for the opportunity it gives him to help shape lives and perhaps even save someone from heading down the wrong path as was done for him so many years ago.

“Sometimes setbacks are just positioning you for a setup to move forward,” he said. “One thing my dad always said: when one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes you can’t see it in the moment, but I’m a firm believer that blessings sometimes come in disguises. I had a friend lose a job and he was all bummed out about it, but he actually ended up finding a better job that paid more money and he was working less. So it was a win-win-win for him. 

“The Bible speaks about being hungry while being full, in other words, being content but always looking for something else. That’s a hard thing to do sometimes; sometimes the hardest thing for us as individuals is to be patient,” he said. “I’ve had to learn to be patient and just do my best. I think when you give 110 percent and you make good connections with people and make a good impression on people, they will actually try to help you when they know that you need it.”

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