Alaskan banking pioneer continues commitment to build Alaska.

Author:White, Michele
Position:First National Bank Alaska - Company overview


Before Alaska became the 49th State, First National Bank Alaska, then First National Bank of Anchorage, was founded. It survived the Great Depression of 1931 and the collapse of many other financial institutions in the 1980s. In 1922, it served the businesses and people of Anchorage. Today, in its 90th year, it serves the businesses and people of Alaska.

Its mission has not changed since 1951, when D.H. Cuddy stepped into banking as FNBA's president and established its mission statement.

His goal for FNBA was simple: to provide all the banking services that the community requires and to take care of the bank's employees.

"And if all those things are done well," says Cheri Gillian, one of the senior vice presidents of FNBA, "then the shareholders will reap the benefits."

How the bank accomplishes that goal has changed over the decades.

FNBA has grown to have a greater network of physical locations with more employees to provide all the banking services required today--and, of course, the tools it uses to deliver financial services have become much more sophisticated.

What hasn't changed is the personal customer service, "with feet on the ground, shoulder to shoulder, eye-to-eye customer service from Alaskans who live here and have a vested interest in the success of all the communities in Alaska," Gillian says.

Personal & Decisive Service

Gillian says the key is staffing 30 physical locations with Alaskans who live in those communities, each with a decision-maker on the premises who can provide answers more quickly than a bank headquartered outside of Alaska.

"You can call me up--or any of the other senior vice presidents--on any other given day and speak to us directly," she says. "You can call and reach Mr. Cuddy. You can walk in and see him at his desk between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on any working weekday."

Gillian says Cuddy continues to greet customers, leads the loan committee meeting, and works right up until five o'clock.

"He's still making loans and handling customers' deposits," she says, "He's a hands-on guy."

His daughter, Betsy Lawer, as vice chair, is second-in-command. Gillian says Lawer learned banking as a child on her father's knee, flying with him in his small airplane to visit customers in rural Alaska.

"She has a passion for Alaska that, I must say, in my experience of 40 plus years is unmatched," says Gillian.

Modern Decisions Continue Commitment to Rebuild

After the 1964 earthquake, D.H. Cuddy began...

To continue reading