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A new chief at the helm of First National Bank Alaska

Sean Doogan
After more than six decades, Dan H. Cuddy has stepped down as president of First National Bank Alaska. His daughter, Betsy Lawer will take the reins of the family-run bank, which now manages more than $3 billion in assets. Loren Holmes photo

After more than 60 years, Dan H. Cuddy has retired as president of First National Bank Alaska, succeeded by his daughter, Betsy Lawer, who took over on May 1.

Cuddy will remain as chairman of the board at the bank, but says he is looking forward to "working less hours."

Following the death of his father in 1951, Cuddy assumed leadership of the little, family-run bank, which at the time managed about $28 million in assets. He steered First National's role in the state's initial North Slope oil-and-gas lease sale, in 1969, which netted $900 million and ignited a boom. Today, the bank manages more than $3 billion in assets and is instrumental in financing much of Alaska's business and infrastructure. 

Cuddy says First National has flourished during the recent recession, much as it did during the economic hangover that blanketed Alaska in the 1980s after the heady pipeline construction days a decade earlier.

"I saw carpenters building houses for other carpenters," Cuddy says, so his bank became more conservative with lending during those lean years, and concentrated on helping its depositors -- something Cuddy says drew a lot of criticism at the time, but was key in helping First National succeed while more than a dozen other local banks and savings-and-loans went under.

And while Dan Cuddy only ever held one job, as the bank president -- "I never got a promotion," he likes to joke -- Lawer has slowly worked her way to the helm of one of the largest companies in the state, beginning as a secretary 39 years ago, and working in almost every department within the company.

"Since then, FNBA has blossomed with the rest of the state’s economy," according to Cuddy.

His family also blossomed in Alaska and stayed true to its bankers' bloodline. In addition to new president Betsy Lawer, two other daughters, Lucy Mahan, and Jane Klopfer sit on the bank’s board of directors.

Cuddy says he will continue to meet with customers, but looks forward to having more time to fish.

As for the future of the family-run bank?

“People shouldn't expect any major changes in the way we do business," Lawer says. "Our mission statement will remain the same as when my father first wrote it: protect the depositors, help the communities where we do business, and make sure our employees are paid fairly and have a decent place to live."

Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com