Banking is in Burt Hicks’ blood. A native of Pearcy, Arkansas, Hicks (’13) distinctly remembers telling his parents as a kid that he would start his own bank one day.
And while he’d grow up to do just that – co-founding Encore Bank in 2019, of which he is president – it required a professional and educational journey that the young Burt Hicks could’ve scarcely imagined at the time, from a stint on Wall Street in New York to law school to a spot in the Clinton School of Public Service, the latter two happening concurrently.
This diverse set of experiences, as well as his business grounding, made him stand out even in a school known for diversity.
“I was looking for a way to make my [educational] experience more additive to my longer-term career plans,” Hicks said.
Hicks said the unique nature of the Clinton School provided soft skills and leadership training that rounded out the myriad curriculums he’d experienced.
“The Clinton School curriculum is really interesting. The student body is really interesting,” he said. “I love to surround myself with people who think differently than me and challenge my assumptions. My purview is expanded when I’m with other folks. That was part of it.
“The second piece is just the curriculum itself. There are technical skills that are part of the curriculum and there’s a lot of soft skills that the best business managers I’ve ever been around really understand, things like change management, leadership, organizational continuity and strategy.”
Hicks said getting the chance to put such concepts into practice with others and in the community are other valuable elements of a Clinton School education.
“I became a better communicator and a better manager and leader as a result of the Clinton School curriculum and team projects where there are group discussions,” he said. “It’s unlike any other educational experience that I’ve had, and I’ve done a lot of executive education, went to law school and other things.”
A component of his experience in the Clinton School that contributed to these outcomes was the opportunity to study internationally, which also dovetailed nicely into his other educational pursuits.
"The international component was really intriguing to me,” Hicks said, referencing the Clinton School's International Public Service Project. “I love traveling and international exposure. Not only did I do my summer project, which is supposed to be done internationally, in West Africa, I did my Capstone in Mongolia. I then leveraged the Clinton School experience to do a banking and economic development project in Myanmar to wrap up my law school stuff."
Hicks said the Clinton School influence also came into play during the launch of Encore Bank, shaping the corporate mission and internal culture. These elements have only intensified as the bank has enjoyed rapid growth while pushing innovation at every turn.
“We’ve been really intentional in terms of our corporate culture,” he said. “A lot of this is hard to pinpoint to any one specific thing, but a lot of my experience and learning from the Clinton School, I think, has shaped my view of what corporate culture is. The culture we’ve created is about Encore giving back; that’s a big part of who we are. We encourage community volunteerism and we give folks time off to do volunteer hours.
“I also think our overall corporate strategy has been impacted by my time at the Clinton School. An example would be we are a ‘branch light’ bank, and this idea of having just one branch in every market has an environmental impact, it means efficiency and sustainability are woven into our corporate culture and strategy. I think there’s a lot that I could tease out of that, in some form or fashion, that was influenced by my time at the Clinton School.”
Asked what advice he would have for someone considering the Clinton School – or a cohort member just starting out – Hicks said he’d urge students to embrace the moment.
“The Clinton School is extremely unique,” he said. “You are surrounded by individuals who will make an impact in the world, and in the community, in numerous ways. They’re all super talented, super experienced. They are all ambitious in their own right. I would say to absolutely recognize the opportunity for what it is and make the most of it.”
Burt Hicks, a 2013 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service, is Co-Founder, President, and Chief Strategy & Growth Officer of Encore Bank. Hicks earned a concurrent Juris Doctor from the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
Story written by Dwain Hebda
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.