Janice Spooner is a “firm believer in creating exceptional experiences,” she says, and the nomination she received for BankNews’ Outstanding Woman in Banking supports that description. “Not only is her banking talent and competency of the highest level, her love for people and genuine interest in the lives of her customers is completely different from the norm,” said Mark Lovvorn, Southlake market president for Great Plains Bank in Southlake, Texas. “It goes well beyond an interest solely for business purposes.”
Spooner’s entry into the banking profession started a little differently than most other career bankers. When Spooner’s mother died of cancer, Spooner’s dad took her to the local bank to put her on the checking account. Spooner was 14 and the oldest of three children. By the time she was looking for a job, she was so familiar with banking that she transitioned from household finance manager to mortgage banking. She has moved around since then.
“I’ve been through the ranks on both mortgage and commercial banking. I’m doing both still. And consumer banking,” Spooner said. Having experience in all three areas has made her “a bit of a unicorn.”
With more than 30 years in the industry, she has had time to craft her customer service mindset to create those exceptional experiences. “I never want anyone to feel like a number,” she said. “My customers all have my cell phone number,” and she has gotten calls in the wee hours of the night. Because she has been in banking so long, she feels her expertise in commercial lending has helped the $1.6 billion Great Plains Bank stand out. “I’ve always been local. I’ve seen really good, bad, and ugly” in banking, she said. “Going through the tough times gives us the opportunity to see and think outside the box.”
Spooner credits that creativity and a willingness to look for ways to mitigate risk with helping the Elk City, Okla.-based Great Plains achieve so much in commercial lending. Spooner said she knows how to say “no,” but prefers to say “not yet,” if she can.
A potential customer approached the bank about financing a car wash. However, the bank had never done a loan in that industry before, and it seemed risky. Car washes “are dependent on weather and environment, which are uncontrollable,” she said. But she researched car washes and the many facets surrounding them, including water reclamation systems, and now knows more about car washes than some car wash owners, she said. Spooner’s research paid off: The car wash received a loan from the bank and became profitable.
Spooner recently closed a multi-million-dollar economic development loan two years in the making for the town of Northlake, Texas, and a developer which wanted to build a conference center and hotel a half-mile away from the Texas Motor Speedway. “There were other banks that showed interest; we were the ones — the team collectively — that got it done with outside-the-box thinking,” she said.
She sees herself as a sounding board for many clients as they come into the bank to buy a house, expand their business, or open an account. “I walk alongside them and allow them to ask any and all questions,” Spooner said. “I really take in their heart’s desire, and that’s important to me, to give them an opportunity to leave a legacy.”
For many clients, getting the financial services they needed has been life-changing. “I’ve kept the hundreds of thank you cards I’ve received over the years,” she said.
Her commitment to the community has brought with it accolades and other avenues in which to serve the Keller area. She was named one of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas’ Rising Stars, Affiliate of the Year for the Greater Metro West Association of Realtors, and most recently, the Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year by the Keller Chamber of Commerce for 2022. She has also been a keynote presenter, emcee and community event planner.
Her motivation is finding those in need and helping as much as possible. “Truly, it’s the day-in and day-out, finding the opportunities to help. I love doing that,” she said. “If I can help, please let me. And if I can’t, let me connect you with someone who can.”
She brings that desire into her personal life. Spooner married her high school sweetheart, and they have three grown daughters and two grandchildren. However, they now have an almost-four-year-old son because they accepted a kinship placement. “I’m passionate about community, about giving back, but I’m not going through this journey alone,” she said. “All these things I’ve been able to do is [because of] God’s gifts, my family, my team, and support.”
“Of this I’m convinced: you can search the entire state of Texas and you will never find a more professional, competent, ‘get-it-done’ banker with a more authentically caring heart and kind demeanor for her customers than you find in Janice Spooner,” said Lovvorn, Texas chair emeritus of the bank. “And that is one truth you can ‘take to the bank!’”