Dominik Mjartan, the new chief executive officer of Southern Bancorp Community Partners in Little Rock, Ark., knows what it is like to crave a better life.

Mjartan came to the U.S. from the former Czechoslovakia at the age of 16 with hopes of attaining the American Dream, a goal he now strives to make achievable for underbanked consumers. He is married to Georgia Mjartan, executive director of Our House Inc., a homeless shelter in Little Rock, and they are the foster parents of two young children.

"Increasingly, the American Dream is out of reach for hardworking people," Mjartan said. Community development financial institutions like his "are uniquely equipped to bring capital and financial development services into communities and ensure that capitalism works for everyone."

Southern Bancorp Community Partners is a development finance partner of the $1.1 billion-asset Southern Bancorp.

Mjartan had been senior vice president of Southern Bancorp. Last week he was named CEO of Southern Bancorp Community Partners and executive vice president of Southern Bancorp.

Both entities were founded in 1986 by then-Governor Bill Clinton, Wal-Mart Stores Chairman Rob Walton, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and others concerned about the economic decline of rural Arkansas.

As a nonbank affiliate, Southern Bancorp Community Partners can pilot and deliver products many traditional lenders are unable to consider, Mjartan said.

"For example, we're exploring how to best fill the void in the [nonqualified] mortgage space," he said. "We're also thinking about how to enhance the borrowers' ability to repay by providing relevant financial education on a large scale. We believe that significant opportunities to responsibly meet the credit, capital and banking needs exist regardless of zip code."

Southern Bancorp Community Partners' previous CEO, Tanya Wright, will continue with the Southern organization in a newly created executive role "managing the implementation of new products and services aimed at banking the unbanked and underbanked," Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams said.

Mjartan emphasized that the goals of serving the underbanked and running a profitable business are compatible.

"It is a true honor to work for a mission-driven financial institution that carefully balances margin and mission to ensure it can sustainably grow its impact," Mjartan said.

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