Little Rock-based investment bank Stephens Inc. enjoys a unique distinction in the annals of Arkansas business history. Not only does the institution, founded in 1933 by his uncle, Witt Stephens, stand on its own among the titans of Arkansas business, but it has played a pivotal role in the companies with which it shares elite company.
Warren Stephens joined the family firm – which in 1970 underwrote Wal-Mart’s public offering – in 1981 after graduating from Washington and Lee and earning his MBA at Wake Forest. Within five years, he was president and CEO, and assumed the title of chairman upon his father Jack Stephens’ death in 2005.
Under Warren Stephens’ leadership, Stephens Inc. added complementary divisions to its emergent investment banking practice including investment banking, research, public finance, institutional sales and trading, private wealth management, capital management, insurance and private equity.
The physical scope of the company also grew, from 100 workers and one location in 1986 to more than 1,000 employees in 28 locations in the U.S., London and Frankfurt. Stephens’ private-equity affiliate has investments in more than 30 companies and the investment banking group has advised on over $180 billion in transactions since 2008.
The Stephens family is equally noteworthy in its charitable giving in the arts, education and health care. Stephens also invested heavily in revitalizing downtown Little Rock, including ownership and renovation of the historic Capital Hotel. In 2019, he joined his father in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.