Arkansas bank Arvest considers entering Wichita

In the past two months, an Arkansas bank owned by descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton has expanded its Kansas branch presence from one to 10.

And an official of the $10.5 billion Fayetteville-based Arvest Bank said this week that the bank is looking for more expansion in Kansas, including Wichita.

Less than two weeks ago, Arvest acquired the six Kansas City-area branches of the failed SolutionsBank. All but one of those branches are on the Kansas side of the city.

That acquisition, which added $511.1 million to Arvest's assets, followed the bank's purchase of the former NCAA headquarters building in Mission and the November acquisition of three Harrington Bank branches in the city.

Those deals, in addition to the 2007 acquisition of Caney Valley National Bank, a $43 million single-office bank in Caney, Kan., means Arvest has a presence at the north and south ends of the state.

"If you take a look at the states we're in — Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma — they are states with a lot of hard-working people, and each of them have two or three large metro areas but there's a rural base also," said Brad Krieger, Arvest executive vice president and regional manager. "I think our entry into Kansas is no different."

Arvest has 240 branches scattered among those states, including one branch in Texas. The bank operates as both a consumer and business bank.

Krieger said the bank will continue to look for opportunities in the state. That includes Wichita.

"Wichita is a strong market, and we would end up taking a look at (it) if the right opportunity presented itself," he said.

He said those opportunities could come through either an acquisition or "de novo" — building its own branch network.

"In the past we've certainly done de novos," Krieger said. "Right now it's much easier, much more cost-effective to do acquisitions."

But for now, the focus will be on its biggest Kansas market, he said.

"We have some things we have to digest now in Kansas City," Krieger said.