Best in the Biz 2016 – Banker

Best In The Biz - Crystal Howell


Branch Sales Manager, Assistant Vice President | Arvest Bank

If you need advice on how to change the oil in your car, install new flooring in your house or build a backyard deck, visit Arvest Bank in Bryant. The person that can help you is not one of the manly-looking guys at the teller counter, but rather the lovely woman in the office with a sign that reads, “Crystal Howell, Deposit Services.”

Crystal Howell, Arvest Branch Sales Manager/Assistant Vice President, is the one to ask about almost anything . . . from car and home maintenance to banking and consumer loans. “I like to work on things in my home. I guess you could say I am a handy-woman.” In her role at Arvest Bank, Crystal is also the “go to” person about all things banking. “From opening accounts, to helping out on the teller line, no job is too big or too small. I help out where needed and fit the rest in as I go.”

Originally Crystal’s professional interest lie in the arts, but soon after high school she discovered the path in which she would truly excel. “I started in banking a little over nine years ago as a way to change careers. When I graduated from Lake Hamilton High School, my dream was to become an art teacher, but once I started, I found that it did not interest me as much as I thought it would.” After realizing that art was not what she really wanted to pursue, a friend told Crystal that Arvest was hiring and she immediately applied. “I started at the Bryant location as a Teller, moved up to Financial Sales Representative, Teller Supervisor and Assistant Manager. Then in 2011, I became a Branch Sales Manager of the Arvest Bank on Chenal in Little Rock. This allowed me to meet my professional 5 year plan a year early.”

Crystal managed the Chenal location for three years before moving to the Bowman and Markham branch following the acquisition of National Bank of Arkansas. After a short time managing the new Arvest location, she had the opportunity to once again work closer to home. “In June of 2014, I came back home to Bryant and have loved the opportunity to be involved.” Crystal has lived in our community for 9 ½ years and credits Arvest as the reason for her decision to move Saline County.

Arvest understands the need to educate its associates and places a lot of emphasis on continual learning. They encourage and support their associates to grow, both professionally and personally by offering many different opportunities to develop as individuals. Crystal has consistently excelled in the banking industry and recently received the American Bankers Association award for completion of the Branch Manager Certificate, completed the necessary training to accept consumer loan applications and graduated from a 12-week Effective Communication and Human Relations course through Dale Carnegie. “My mom raised me to work hard and apply myself. Once I started working for Arvest, it was very easy to push myself to give it my all. I have loved working for Arvest as they promote from within, and anytime I felt the need to expand my knowledge, an opportunity was available.” Arvest is a company that puts very strong focus on ‘People Helping People.’

A large part of Crystal’s responsibilities include building relationships with local businesses and customers in the area. “I visit with businesses in our community to further our relationships and help if they have any banking needs. I volunteer for events such as Fall Fest, Relay for Life, Arkansas Foodbank, and Junior Achievement. Whether it be handing out suckers to the kids, or listening to an upset customer, I can honestly say I love my job.” Crystal enjoys her current position and sees many more years of managing in her future. She would like to develop and expand her customer base just by meeting the many small business owners in the area. She wants to continue to contribute and give back to the community when opportunities arise.

Crystal, husband Matt Howell, and their 18-month old daughter make their home in Haskell where you can always find her working on a home improvement project.


Best In The Biz – Mike Rushing


Saline County Market President | Malvern National Bank

As kids, we all dream big dreams and are told that we can be whatever we want to be. Saline County resident Mike Rushing, has done just that, fulfilled those big dreams by becoming what he always, or sort of kind of, wanted to be.

Mike Rushing is the Saline County Market President for Malvern National Bank. “I have the responsibility of ensuring growth and development of the bank’s vision and mission of providing bank needs to all of Saline County and central Arkansas,” Mike stated. He specializes in commercial banking from construction to development. However, per his own account, his main goal is to “deliver the best personal banking experiences to each one of our customers.”

At the onset of Mike’s professional career, a banker wasn’t what he aspired to be. It wasn’t until taking a banking job in southeast Arkansas opened the door to his rewarding career. The journey began in 1998 when Mike accepted an entry level position with Simmons First National Bank in the Bankcard and Consumer Banking Specialist group. Within a few years, he transitioned into a position as a Loan Review Officer. In 2003, Mike moved to Saline County to join Union Bank as a Commercial Loan Officer. An opportunity with Summit Bank in 2006 allowed Mike to advance up to EVP / Sr. Lender with Summit. Mike joined Malvern National Bank in 2014 as the Saline County Market President which oversees the 3 branches within Saline County.

Within the community, Mike previously served on the board and was the past president of the Boys and Girls Club of Bryant. He was also a former member of the Saline Memorial Hospital Foundation and a board member of the Bryant Chamber.

“It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in; the customers are the brick and mortar of every successful business and it’s no different in banking. It’s rewarding to see your customers achieve their dreams of starting and/or growing their business to its full potential. What separates myself and Malvern National Bank from the competition is we are a locally owned community bank which improves our ability to deliver our products quickly with exceptional customer service,” Mike concluded.

By Jamie Miller

Best In The Biz 2016 – Bronze


Chris Williams | Senior Vice President, First Security Bank

Kathy Pannell | AVP – Branch Manager Bryant, Bank of the Ozarks

Michael Sparks | Mortgage Loan Officer, US Bank