Leadership Team

The President, Executive Vice Presidents and Senior Vice Presidents each certify to the Board of Directors of First National Bank Alaska that in discharging their duties they adhere to and advocate the principles and responsibilities governing professional and ethical conduct (75 KB PDF).

Photo of Betsy Lawer

Betsy Lawer

Board Chair and CEO/President

Lawer shapes the bank’s vision, strategies and goals today and moving forward. 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 currently serves on the Smithsonian Alumni Board.

Photo of Darren Franz

Darren Franz

President - Lending Division, Chief Credit Officer and Bank Director

Franz brings decades of banking experience to First National. During his career, Franz has successfully overseen the management of retail and business banking in 16 Alaska communities with broad geographic, economic, and cultural diversity. As President of the Lending Division, Franz uses his proven expertise to lead the bank's full complement of lending managers and officers throughout the Great Land. He also provides oversight of branch operations in bank communities outside Anchorage and the bank's loan processing team. Franz holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics and is a graduate of the renowned Pacific Coast Banking School. He is a board member of the University of Alaska Foundation Finance and Audit Committee, and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.

Photo of Cheri Gillian

Cheri Gillian

Senior Executive Officer, Chief Administrative Officer and Board Secretary

Gillian oversees the Central Administration Division, including the bank’s Corporate Communication & Customer Experience, Human Resources and Audit departments, and the Wealth Management & Trust Section. An Alaskan for 50-plus years, Gillian has spent nearly 35 of those years building First National’s brand and helping shape the bank’s unique workplace culture, one recognized by Alaska Business magazine readers as the Best Place to Work in Alaska. Gillian helped formalize the bank’s relationship management program, provides administrative oversight for bankwide initiatives, and serves as Board Secretary.

Photo of Ryan Strong

Ryan Strong

Senior Executive Officer and Chief Banking Officer

Strong’s steady progression to the First National leadership team began more than 20 years ago when he joined the bank as a Management Associate. In his current role as head of the Retail, Treasury & Compliance Division, Strong leverages hands-on retail and business lending and operations experience. His responsibilities include oversight of the operations of Anchorage branches, Treasury Management, Mortgage Lending, Escrow, Compliance, and risk management. Strong earned a business degree from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from UAF. He is an active member and past president of the Alaska Bankers Association and serves as chair on the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation board of directors.

Photo of Phil Griffin

Phil Griffin

Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer

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 Chief Information Officer positions in California and Nevada. Griffin plays a key role in business continuity planning and 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 and online banking.

Photo of Michele Schuh

Michele Schuh

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

A third-generation banker and second-generation First National banker, Schuh brings more than 35 years of finance and leadership experience to her role as Chief Financial Officer. She directs the bank’s Property and Finance departments, encompassing a wide variety of functions including treasury and securities portfolio management, shareholder relations, facilities, financial reporting and tax. Schuh is a graduate of the University of Washington and the Pacific Coast Banking School.

Photo of Denise Brown Robinson

Denise Brown Robinson

Senior Vice President and Corporate Communications & Customer Experience Director

Brown Robinson brings more than 20 years of marketing and communications experience to her role as Corporate Communications & Customer Experience Director. A lifelong Alaskan, Brown Robinson oversees the bank’s Business Development & Customer Experience and Marketing sections. Her expertise has helped First National earn national recognition for its “We Believe in Alaska,” rebranding and promotional campaigns. She has also played an integral role in the bank’s Branch Re-Engineering and Digital Adoption initiatives.

Photo of Rick Flake

Rick Flake

Senior Vice President and Corporate Services Director

A graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Flake grew up in Montana and has lived and worked in Alaska for more than 40 years. He began his career as a teller and, over the course of 35 years in local banking, gained the wealth of financial expertise he now uses to oversee Credit Administration, Collateral Valuation and Special Credits at First National. Flake’s success stems from a genuine desire to help customers succeed.

Photo of Karl Heinz

Karl Heinz

Senior Vice President and Branch Administration Director

Heinz is proud to be the main character in a home-grown Alaska success story. He grew up in the Great Land and has lived in communities across the state. His deep understanding of Alaska, how it works and the people who live here help make him a valued member of First National’s senior management team. Heinz joined the bank in 2003. Today, the graduate of the respected Pacific Coast Banking School oversees all of First National’s branches outside of Anchorage. His involvement in numerous volunteer organizations across the state has given him a great appreciation for the importance of giving back to the many communities that First National serves.

Photo of Dustin Hofeling

Dustin Hofeling

Senior Vice President and IT Systems and Support Director

As a child, Hofeling showed an early interest in banking by sorting out the dollar bills in his allowance by serial number and Federal Reserve district. His attention later turned to information technology, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He later earned his MBA, and he currently attends the respected Pacific Coast Banking School. As a 15-year banking professional, Hofeling is in charge of the bank’s core processing systems and technical support. Hofeling and his team have played an integral role in the development and deployment of First National’s online and mobile banking solutions.

Photo of Tiffany Hoogerhyde

Tiffany Hoogerhyde

Senior Vice President and Controller

Tiffany Hoogerhyde brings more than 20 years of management and leadership experience to First National. As Controller, Hoogerhyde is responsible for reporting financial information to the bank’s Board of Directors, managers and the public. Her expertise helps First National’s relationship bankers meet the short- and long-term financial goals of each customer. She holds a CPA certificate from the State of Alaska and a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Photo of Elaine Kroll

Elaine Kroll

Senior Vice President, Treasury Management and Anchorage Branch Administration Director

In her more than 25 years as an Alaska banking expert, Kroll has excelled in a variety of positions in marketing, human resources, training, branch and business relationship management. A graduate of State University of New York at Fredonia and the prestigious Pacific Coast Banking School, she has also earned the designation of Certified Treasury Professional. Kroll leverages her decades of experience to ensure First National customers receive exceptional service. Kroll has served on the board for Catholic Social Services, one of Anchorage’s largest non-profits, where she recently held the role of board chair.

Photo of Morgan Neff

Morgan Neff

Senior Vice President and Wealth Management & Trust Director

Neff brings more than 20 years of executive-level investment and financial experience to First National. As the Wealth Management & Trust Director, Neff relies on his extensive investment experience with large wealth funds, municipalities, and public pension funds to direct all wealth management and trust activities for the bank and help meet the financial needs of Alaskans. Neff is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at industry events and conferences across the country including the Alaska Southeast Conference, various Alaska chambers of commerce events, and the Alaska Pacific University MBA program. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Photo of Steven Patin

Steven Patin

Senior Vice President and Human Resources Director

With over two decades as a U.S. Army officer and more than 10 years of executive experience in both the public and private sector, Patin knows the value of a strong team. As Human Resources Director, Patin leverages his experience to provide strategic human resources leadership and to direct talent management, compensation and benefits, employee relations and policies at the bank. His steadfast commitment to more than 600 employees exemplifies why First National has been voted the Best Place to Work in Alaska by Alaska Business magazine readers eight years running (2016-2023). Patin earned a Bachelor of Science from West Point concentrating in Behavioral Science and Systems Engineering. He also holds master’s degrees in human resources management and administration and supervision, and a doctorate in business administration from the University of the Incarnate Word.

Photo of Chad Steadman

Chad Steadman

Senior Vice President and Corporate Lending Director

Growing up on the Kenai Peninsula, Steadman has a deep understanding of Alaskans’ unique financial needs. He uses his expertise in commercial underwriting and lending to coach First National’s skilled corporate lending bankers. Armed with a bachelor’s in finance from Utah State University, a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and an education from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University, Steadman uses his banking knowledge to enrich Alaska communities by working shoulder-to-shoulder with local businesses and teaching construction finance management courses at UAA.

Photo of Craig Thorn

Craig Thorn

Senior Vice President and Regional Branch Manager

Since 1984, Thorn has played an integral role in meeting the banking needs of Alaskans in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, the fastest-growing community in the state. A lifelong Alaskan born and raised in Seward, Thorn provides Valley customers solutions-based expertise to help make their financial dreams come true. Based at the Wasilla Branch, he oversees branch and lending operations and relationship building there as well as at the bank’s branches in Valdez, Glennallen, Eagle River and Palmer.

Photo of Suzanne Whittle

Suzanne Whittle

Senior Vice President, Chief Compliance Officer, and Compliance & Branch Operations Support Director

With more than four decades of banking experience, Whittle excels at ensuring compliance with all state and federal banking laws, regulations and rules. She has extensive experience in branch management and operations, call center and operations support, bank operations, security, and compliance. According to Whittle, one of the best parts about her role is the opportunity to give back to the local communities of Alaska. Whittle has served as president and various other board positions for Kids’ Corps, Inc., a Head Start agency.