1. When did you attend Henderson and in what activities did you participate?
I attended Henderson starting in the fall 2002 through spring 2006 for my bachelors and immediately started on my masters finishing up in Spring 2007. I was member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, serving a variety of vice president roles as well as becoming president in 2006. I also was the president of Order of Omega in my final year. From an academic club perspective, I was in Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), Student Activities Board (2 years), Finance Club (2 years), and several others. Finally, I worked as an intramural staff member for 3.5 years during my time as an undergraduate.
2. What was your major? What prompted you to pursue your particular degree?
I have my undergraduate degree (BSBA) in Finance and finished with my MBA. When I came as a somewhat clueless freshman to campus in 2002, I thought a future in corporate law or accounting was in store. As I began taking business classes, I quickly learned that accounting is the science and finance is the art behind the world of numbers in business. As someone who is both competitive and creative, I quickly was drawn to the “art” and the world of finance.
3. Why did you choose Henderson?
I have to give full credit to my parents for ending up at Henderson. As a naïve high school junior and senior, my perception was that the best schools for an education are those you see every Saturday under the bright lights of college football’s biggest stages or those that populate the March Madness bracket every year. My parents stressed that I take a good look at mid-sized schools within a three to eight-hour radius. Many ask why 3-8 hours, but it was simple in that I was close enough to drive home on holidays and breaks, but I wasn’t close enough to bum food or have my laundry get done for me. After surveying schools that had an accredited business school, a significant amount of scholarship opportunities, the potential to play golf (a passion of mine at the time), and was within the radius my parents suggested; Henderson State became the clear choice for me.
4. What is your hometown? From what high school did you graduate and in what year?
I graduated Carl Junction High School in Carl Junction, Missouri, in 2002
5. What is your current occupation and your primary focus?
I currently am the executive director of Integrated Account Servicing at Arvest Bank. That is a really long title, which basically means that I’m accountable for creating a consistent customer fulfillment experience by leveraging a team of approximately 500 associates focused on banking operations. As an executive director, my focus is on creating a balance between what is happening today while simultaneously positioning ourselves for the next two to three years. Our team’s focus is making sure our associates who directly serve our customers are armed with the technology, tools, and processes needed to create the best possible experience.
6. Please “chart” your education and career progression since you graduated Henderson. And what are your future plans?
Following graduation, I went to work at Summit Bank as a temporary loan operations specialist responsible for manually entering loan collateral into the system. I earned a position as an executive banker trainee under my mentor and fellow alum, Chris Wewers. Following conclusion of the program, I became a financial analyst until 2011. Life took a turn and an opportunity presented itself to move to Harrison, Arkansas, to be part of a recapitalization effort of First Federal Bank. After a few months, I was asked if I would take my financial experience and pivot into the world of bank operations. A shift of focus while adding managerial duties was undoubtedly a challenge, but one that I quickly embraced and became my new passion. In 2015, our team merged three different banks together forming Bear State Bank and I became the executive vice president – director of operations. As that journey continued, I pivoted once again into the role of chief technology officer of Bear State Bank leveraging my financial and operational skills to enhance the technology experience for our customers. Being 33 years old and serving as an executive officer of a publicly traded company, was both a unique and challenging position. I was grateful for my experience at Henderson in a variety of leadership roles to prepare me for that challenge and how to embrace that discomfort with courage.
In 2018, Bear State was acquired by Arvest Bank, and my career journey once again pivoted in the form of another physical move and alignment back into the operations world. While the scope of different responsibilities might have shrunk, the shift of working with a team of 80 to now roughly 500 presents new opportunities to learn and grow. Just like in my role as an executive director, I’m always looking at “what’s next” in this journey. My future plans are to just continue to learn. I’ve been exposed to working with emerging FinTech companies, negotiating significant contracts, managing a $40 million budget, and working on developing a team that focuses on both efficiency and fun. While that seems like a lot in roughly 12 years, the reality is I have only scratched the surface on what there is to know and learn about this industry.
7. How has your degree benefited you in your career progression?
The doors that have been opened following my time at Henderson I can directly attribute to both my degree and the school. Starting with the executive trainee program at Summit Bank, I know that having attended Henderson did not hurt my chances when interviewing with the bank’s chairman, Mr. Ross Whipple, and Chris Wewers, both HSU alumni. The skills learned throughout many of the classes I took have been directly relatable to different projects and initiatives that I have worked on throughout my career. I often tell people there isn’t a true degree for banking operations, but that many of the skills acquired through a variety of degrees can be directly relatable. This doesn’t just end with a finance or business degree. I currently have senior leaders on my team who have degrees in English, Communication, Economics, and Engineering. The piece of paper hanging on the wall is just that, but the name behind it of Henderson, coupled with the experiences and knowledge acquired during my time there, is how my degree has benefited me throughout my career.
8. What aspect of your degree/career most interests you, and what do you enjoy most about your profession?
Change. Banking is both one of the most highly regulated industries in the world and one where the technological advancement is exponentially increasing to keep up with customer demand. The balance between these two aspects creates the need for consistent processes that can withstand dynamic situations. Leveraging my degree and understanding the difference between a budget and a forecast, allows the team to embrace the change of these dynamic situations and ensure that we have the resources accounted for properly.
9. Would you recommend your degree track at Henderson, and why? Any advice for current students?
The School of Business at Henderson is one that I have recommended to numerous individuals and will continue to throughout my life. There’s an adage that says, “would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a large one”. I wouldn’t consider Henderson a small pond, more like a medium one, but the adage fits. There aren’t many places where you can get a quality education with direct access to your professors (not adjuncts or GAs), coupled with a campus and classroom culture around teams fostering the development of your future professional resume, all while offering numerous amounts of athletic, academic, and social organizations to enhance your personal growth. Advancing in the business world requires the ability to leverage and work in teams, communicating openly, and applying the foundational skills learned into real-world practice. Henderson’s School of Business sets you up to accomplish exactly that.
In terms of advice, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves after you graduate. Sometimes the highest paying opportunity of an entry-level supervisor or tier two employee is the right choice for a new graduate. I chose a different path and one that I’m forever grateful for. I started making minimum wage as a temporary input employee learning the fundamentals of banking operations. Coming full circle six years later, I was asked to lead the operations area of a bank. I already had a significant advantage because I knew the jobs that were being performed. Sure, the system may be different and the logo on the door changed, but the stress, challenges, and sometimes boredom that comes with an entry-level operations role is something I could empathize with. Having that connection with my team is something that would have been difficult had I jumped right into supervising post-graduation.
10. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you related to your degree since you graduated from Henderson?
Prior to the first acquisition by Bear State Financial (holding company of First Federal Bank), the Board of Directors required a synergy analysis be completed. In conjunction with our Chief Operating Officer, we created the synergy presentation which required leveraging all the skills acquired throughout earning my degree. Heavy financial analysis around efficiencies to be gained (finance) started with analyzing volumes and identifying efficiencies (operations and statistical management) to reach some base numbers. An awareness of tax implications (accounting) related to acquisition accounting helped in making our determination if the deal would be accretive to earnings. Research was also required regarding branch closures, compliance/regulatory notifications, and other legal aspects (business law and management). Finally, all of this had to be pulled together to present to some of the most recognizable individuals in Arkansas business (business info systems and marketing). In one project, all aspects of my School of Business journey came into play and the results of the company’s growth speak for itself. That moment encapsulates the best thing about having my degree from Henderson and where my passion now lies within this industry.
11. If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you say? Could you share something that most people don’t know about you?
I recently took the Birkman assessment and those results are pretty telling. I’m an independent, self-starter who is outgoing and enjoys finding new ways to do things. I tend to be a little too competitive and candid but am willing to sacrifice self-interest for the greater good of my team. Through all that I am self-aware that I consistently stub my toe in life and am so grateful to be blessed by God’s grace on this journey.
Many people assume I’m international or that my parents were due to the uniqueness of my name. What many don’t know about me is that I was born a Northerner (Wisconsin), grew up as a Midwesterner (Missouri), and now call the South home (Arkansas). My parents liked the name Yuri to give some reference to our Slovak heritage, but wanted the name more Americanized. So, they added a consonant to the end and came up with Yurik.
12. What other degree did you consider pursuing?
Initially corporate law and possibly accounting, but by my third semester I knew finance is where I wanted to be.
13. Please list any awards or honors.
I was recently accepted and will be attending Stanford University and the Design Thinking Bootcamp in July. This is an opportunity that I would have never been afforded had it not started with my time earning my degree at Henderson.
14. Finally, feel free to add any additional comments.
I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my journey with my fellow alums and current students. None of this would have been possible without some very important people. My wife Emily, of six years, has been a display of grace throughout our journey, and it shines through every time I look at our now fourteen-month old daughter Aubrianna. My parents, Keith and Robin, and brother Nik who dropped me off on that hot August day at Newberry dorm and reassured me that Henderson was the place for me when it would have been easy to get back in the car and head back to the comfort of home.