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FOLLOW THE LEADER: Joselyn Baldner is the new president and chief operating officer at Central Bank of the Ozarks, succeeding longtime leader Russ Marquart.
SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson
FOLLOW THE LEADER: Joselyn Baldner is the new president and chief operating officer at Central Bank of the Ozarks, succeeding longtime leader Russ Marquart.

Central Bank makes history with new president

Joselyn Baldner becomes organization's first female president, an industry rarity

Posted online

Central Bank of the Ozarks named Joselyn Baldner as president Jan. 21, making her the first female to fill the role in the organization’s 64-year history.

Baldner was elected by the bank board as president and chief operating officer, effective immediately, as part of a company succession plan. As president, she succeeds Russ Marquart, who remains with the bank as CEO and board chairperson ahead of his planned phased retirement.

Marquart said via email he will remain with the bank “for the foreseeable future” and assist with transitioning departments under Baldner’s leadership during the next few months. Bank officials say no one other than Baldner is part of the succession plan.

“Joselyn exhibits the qualities you look for in a great leader: intelligence, focus on results, fairness in decision making and, most of all, a drive to serve customers with legendary service,” Marquart said via email.

Baldner, a 23-year banking industry veteran, started in 2005 at Central Bank and was promoted to executive vice president and retail market manager in 2014, she said. She became chief retail officer in 2016, a role in which she was responsible for leading the retail, business banking and training divisions.

“I’m honored and excited to have the opportunity that I’ve been preparing for a number of years,” she said.

First female
Baldner said she recognizes the significance of being the company’s first female president.

“You can’t approach an opportunity like this without understanding that you are helping to pave the way for some others,” she said. “But honestly, I’ve always wanted my results to stand for themselves. That’s what I want looked at in order for me to achieve a promotion or anything like that.”

Robin Robeson, executive vice president and chief operating officer with Guaranty Bank, said there are a lot of females in the local banking industry but not many in top executive roles.

“I wouldn’t call it a rarity, but I would also say it’s not the norm,” she said. “I’m really glad to see that changing some. I consider Joselyn a friend and an industry colleague, and I couldn’t be happier for her.”

Central Bank of the Ozarks is the lone company on Springfield Business Journal’s 2020 list of the top 20 area’s largest banks and savings banks to now employ a female president. Only Buffalo-based O’Bannon Banking Co. listed a female among its top local executives: Martha Lewis is the bank’s chief operating officer, according to list research.

Central Bank ranked No. 3 on the list with deposits over $1.4 billion in the five-county Springfield metropolitan statistical area as of June 30, 2020. The bank’s deposits were up 21% from the prior period recorded by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The company also reported 254 employees, 22 local branches, local assets of nearly $1.6 billion and local net loans of roughly $1.1 billion.

Robeson said women have representation in high C-level positions at Guaranty Bank, where she’s worked nearly a decade of her 30-year banking career. She and Sheri Biser, chief credit officer, are among the bank’s five-person executive management team.

“I wouldn’t say I track it, but I’m always looking and seeing who is rising up in the ranks and going to be the next tier of leaders,” Robeson said. “Anytime there are women or any kind of diversity, really, in those ranks, it makes my heart happy.”

New York-based management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. said in a 2020 report that representation of women in corporate America was trending up. In senior management, women in senior vice president positions grew to 28% in January 2020, a 5% increase from five years earlier. Representation in the C-suite increased to 21% from 17% over the same time period.

Baldner isn’t alone among females heading up financial institutions. Judy Hadsall at Multipli Credit Union and Loretta Roney at Volt Credit Union both serve as president and CEO of their companies. Tammy Rowden is CEO at Mercy Credit Union and Jessica Shorney took over Jan. 1 as CEO for TelComm Credit Union.

Women are making an impact in other industries, too. They comprise roughly one-third of business owners and represent the fastest-growing segment in the economy over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

At Central Bank of the Ozarks, Baldner said the company’s leadership program she helped create, dubbed Central Connect, remains a standout accomplishment for her. The program aims to develop current and emerging leaders. She said the two-year program has had roughly 60 participants since its first class in 2016. However, the fourth class, which kicked off in January 2020, was paused in March amid the coronavirus pandemic. She said it will resume when classes are able to more safely gather.

In transition
Baldner is just the third president of Central Bank of the Ozarks over the past four decades.

Marquart was named president and CEO in 2006 and has worked over 30 years for the company. He succeeded Mike Williamson, who began leading the bank in 1980.

“I had been planning for my early retirement many years ago and began identifying potential successors to help develop the skill set for leadership consideration by our board and company leadership,” Marquart said via email. “I applaud the board and our company’s executive leadership for picking someone familiar with our customers, our great team of professionals and our community bank focus.”

Marquart gave no date for his retirement, but said he plans to support Baldner in the leadership transition just as Williamson did for him. Williamson remains on the bank board of directors and served as its chairperson for over 10 years after his retirement, Marquart said.

The bank’s taking a measured approach to layering on responsibilities, Baldner said, adding she will maintain responsibility for leading the business banking division. A manager will be hired to lead the retail division, she said.

Both she and Marquart said they remain committed to continue local financial decision making for individuals, families and businesses.

“I’m in a unique position, having already been part of the organization for some time and part of the executive team leading strategy for our organization,” Baldner said. “Our loan approval process will remain the same.”

Baldner said her initial goal is to get educated about all bank operations as she gets settled into the new position.

“While I was part of the executive team, I’ve been leading our retail business divisions primarily. I have a lot to learn about our other lines of business,” she said of lending, private banking and wealth management. “I’ll spend the first few months doing that, sitting back, listening and observing.”

Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.

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