Bank strengthens executive management team
Lawer named CEO, Longacre named President, other experienced bankers add to responsibilities with new appointments and promotions
In a sweeping example of First National Bank Alaska’s strength and commitment to Alaska, the bank’s Board of Directors recently appointed many of its top bankers to new or expanded roles on the executive management team.
In addition to her duties and role as Board Chair, Betsy Lawer is now the bank’s Chief Executive Officer at the top of the organization. She will shape the bank’s vision, strategies and goals today and moving forward and act as management’s point of contact with the Board of Directors. Lawer oversees the President, Information Technology, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Financial/Trust, Bank Support/Corporate Compliance and Audit units.
As a third-generation Alaskan banker, Lawer grew up with many of Alaska’s business and community leaders. She learned the banking business literally at her father’s knee, earned her economics degree from Duke University, and returned in 1974 to work her way up to the leadership position she holds today. Lawer previously served on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Board of Directors and their Audit Committee. She has served on the Smithsonian National Board since 2008.
Doug Longacre was named First National’s new President. He will serve on the Board of Directors and be responsible for the overall management of all lending and loan-related functions as well as branch operations in and outside of Anchorage. Longacre will work closely with Lawer to help make sure customers gain access to innovative banking solutions that will help them succeed in the Great Land.
Longacre’s grandparents mined the gold fields north of Fairbanks in 1902 and were original First National shareholders. Longacre continues that tradition today by mining the potential of Alaskans and Alaska businesses. The West Anchorage High graduate worked his way through college doing construction work before joining the bank in 1974.
Working in the fishing industry and as a construction worker before joining First National in the early 1980s, Charlie Weimer was promoted to Chief Commercial Lending Officer and appointed Executive Vice President. He’ll oversee all phases of the commercial lending process. Upon graduation, Weimer joined the bank’s management associate program, working in Anchorage before finding a permanent home on the Kenai Peninsula in 1984 where he served many years as senior regional manager and most recently as the Branch Lending Administrator.
Not far removed from her 40-year First National employment anniversary, Cindi Buzitis was promoted to Chief Compliance Officer and appointed Executive Vice President. Years of experience and work in almost all areas of banking at First National gives Buzitis the breadth and depth of experience vital to successful leadership. In addition to serving on the executive management team, she is also the Bank Secrecy Act Officer and oversees the bank’s Support/Corporate Compliance division.
Cheri Gillian was promoted to Chief Administrative Officer and appointed Executive Vice President. She oversees the bank’s Human Resources and Corporate Communications division. An Alaskan for 40-plus years, Gillian has spent most of those years marketing and promoting Alaska products and services, including more than two decades at First National managing broad internal and external communications initiatives that have led to a strong corporate culture and well-respected bank brand. Her understanding of the unique needs and characteristics of Alaskans is invaluable in helping the bank hire the right employees and develop and make available services that meet those needs.
Chief Information Officer Phil Griffin was appointed to Executive Vice President. Griffin began his banking career in the early 1980s after graduating from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He arrived in Alaska after holding CIO positions in California and Nevada. Griffin is responsible for the bank’s information technology strategic planning, implementation and security, core and item processing systems, network services, software solutions and support, e-Payment services, card processing systems, ATMs, online banking and business continuity planning.
Bill Renfrew was appointed Executive Vice President. Working a gold mine in the 70s taught Alaska-born Renfrew things about banking he couldn’t learn in school or behind a desk. The experience of making payroll and borrowing money during his stint as a miner helped Renfrew understand his customers’ needs. He uses that experience and the relationships he’s built from more than 35 years in Fairbanks serving as regional manager.
A third-generation banker, a second-generation First National banker and the bank’s Chief Financial Officer since 2013, Michele Schuh was promoted and appointed Executive Vice President. Schuh brings more than 35 years of finance and accounting experience to the CFO position. She directs the bank’s financial reporting, shareholder relations, property, investment management and trust services departments. Schuh is a graduate of Anchorage’s Dimond High School, the University of Washington and the Pacific Coast Banking School.
David Stringer was appointed Executive Vice President. Head of the Special Credits and Participation Loans Division, the third-generation native of Juneau and University of Alaska graduate worked his way through the bank’s management associate program in the 70s while serving in the Alaska National Guard. Stringer is a graduate of Pacific Coast Banking School. He has served in various areas of the bank, including Kodiak and Seward.
In charge of the bank’s Retail Banking and Cash Management Division, Ryan Strong was promoted to Chief Banking Officer and appointed Executive Vice President. Also the bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Strong began his financial services career as a management trainee at First National. He soon moved up to Commercial Loan Officer and then to manager of bank branches in Palmer and Fairbanks. His strong leadership skills and real estate knowledge led him to the position of President and CEO of an Alaskan title insurance agency, expanding it into new markets and within existing ones. After a move back to First National six years ago, the bank’s customers again benefit from Strong’s know-how.
“These promotions and appointments only fortify our message to Alaskans,” Lawer said. “We truly believe in you and our state. I’m eager to see what our executive management team can help Alaska achieve today and in the future.”
Alaskan-owned and operated since 1922, First National proudly meets the financial needs of Alaskans with ATMs and branches in 18 communities throughout the state. In 2017, Alaska Business Monthly readers voted the bank the “Best of Alaska Business” in five categories, including the Best Place to Work for the second year in a row and best Customer Service, Corporate Citizen, Family-Owned Business and Alaska Ad Campaign. In January 2018, Microsoft News named First National the most-admired company in the state.Visit FNBAlaska.com for more information about Alaska’s largest locally-owned bank and access to efficient and secure online banking services.
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