Julie Stackhouse has witnessed a lot of turmoil in the industry since she started her career in 1980 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
An oil-fueled recession made for an interesting start to what became a four-decade career, lastly as executive vice president handling supervision of banks. In the early 1980s, she spent a lot of time in Oklahoma at a bank that failed as a result of the excesses of the time, Penn Square Bank. The Oklahoma City-based bank made a lot of bad energy loans, selling loan participations to big banks like Chase Manhattan Bank, later JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Chicago’s Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. – which failed as a result in 1984, the largest bank to fail at that time.
Banks were overloaded with deposits; Penn Square had to put that money to work somewhere. Shoddy underwriting got deals done faster, and the bank grew rapidly before a run on deposits in the summer of 1982 resulted in its insolvency. Sound familiar?
“There [were] some real cowboys in Oklahoma back in those days,” she recalls. “And you pretty much had to figure out when you were being told what was happening with candor, and maybe when it was just a little bit embellished. And so I learned a lot from that.”
She’s learned a lot through the series of crises that hit the industry and retired on the cusp of another one, the Covid pandemic that hit the U.S. in early 2020. So, she swore she’d never join a bank board – until George Makris Jr. of Simmons First National Corp. persuaded her to join his. Makris, now executive chairman of the $28 billion, Pine Bluff, Arkansas-based bank, served as CEO until his retirement last year. She kept saying ‘no,’ she says. “I will give George credit. He is persistent when he has something in mind.”
But as much as she’s learned from a career regulating banks, it’s the five years she spent as an active stay-at-home mom – where she became deeply involved in improving her local community – that taught her about engagement and leadership.
“Just because I was not getting paid doesn’t mean I was choosing to do nothing,” she recalls. She joined the planning commission in Egan, Minnesota, and volunteered locally. She worked with great leaders, learning lessons she says she never would have learned at the Fed. “To be a great leader, you have to not only have a vision of what you want to accomplish, you have to have the energy and commitment to carry that vision along.”
She takes the same active approach to retirement as she took to motherhood, serving on the planning commission in Fort Collins, Colorado. Stackhouse shares lessons learned from her career as a regulator and weighs in on the industry’s current challenges in this edition of The Slant podcast.
This episode, and all past episodes of The Slant Podcast, are available on Bank Director.com, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Governance issues like these will be covered during Bank Director’s Bank Board Training Forum in Nashville Sept. 11-12, 2023.