Northrim Bank co-founder retiring after 50 years working in Alaska

A prominent Anchorage business leader who co-founded Northrim Bank in a pair of trailers in a Midtown parking lot is retiring after half a century working in Alaska's banking industry.

Marc Langland, who in 1990 created the bank with the late Arnold Espe, helped expand it from an $8 million startup to a $1.5 billion institution with 14 branches and more than 300 employees. Today, it's the state's third-largest bank, behind Wells Fargo and First National Bank Alaska.

Langland, 74, will stay on as Northrim's chairman until the end of the year. He'll be replaced in that role by Joe Beedle, current CEO.

"It's time for other people to step forward and they're doing that," said Langland, who said he and his wife, Sandy, are looking forward to enjoying more family activities.

The bank announced the retirement on Friday, the day it celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of Langland, it will establish a $100,000 scholarship endowment at the University of Alaska, a statement from the bank said.

Joe Schierhorn, a loan officer who worked in one of the trailers when the bank was launched and is now its president, said Langland was already well-respected in banking circles in the late 1980s when he saw a new opportunity amid crashing oil prices and a stalled economy in Alaska. Thirteen financial institutions had failed.

Following upheaval in the industry, just three banks held the majority of the state's banking assets, forcing many customers into new banks after their original bank was shut down, he said.

"Marc saw an opportunity to attract customers with a vision of providing customer-service first," said Schierhorn, who will become CEO in the transition at the end of the year.

Langland said there was risk involved in launching the new business at a time of great uncertainty.

"It was not the most comfortable situation, but we felt like we could do it and obviously it worked," he said.

When the bank opened its doors, 21 employees worked there. Customer services were provided in two trailers beneath what would become the company's headquarters building in Midtown Anchorage. The building was being renovated at the time to serve as a branch, but during that time Langland worked in one of the building's offices.

Schierhorn said it was inspirational in the bank's early days to look up from the trailer and see Langland's light in the building before most people got to work.

"We've all learned a tremendous amount from him," Schierhorn said.

The bank grew rapidly, boosting assets from $8 million to $50 million in its first year, Schierhorn said. It took advantage of automated phone banking in 1991, off-site ATMs in 1995, and Internet banking services in 1999, according to a history on its website.

In a major move in 1999, Northrim acquired eight Bank of America branches in Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla, boosting its workforce and customer base. In 2007, it purchased Alaska First Bank and Trust.

Langland came to Alaska in 1965, after he was recruited to work at National Bank of Alaska. (The bank was purchased by Wells Fargo in 2000). He had started his career at a community bank in his small hometown of Zearing, Iowa.

In 1977, he became chief executive of First National Bank Fairbanks, purchasing it with Espe and others investors. That bank merged with Alaska Pacific Bank, and the merged bank was purchased by Key Bank in 1985. Langland was chief executive at Key Bank for three years before leaving and helping to create Northrim Bank.

Langland said he's most proud of helping Alaskans grow their investments and businesses, and in seeing employees rise through the ranks.

"We've had tellers grow up to be senior executives in the bank. That's pretty cool," he said.

Over the years, Langland has played a prominent community role, serving on boards for businesses and other organizations.

He is a former chair of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. and serves on the board of directors for Usibelli coal mine, a position he'll keep after his retirement, he said.

In 2014, he waded into politics as co-chair of "Keep Alaska Competitive," an organization that advocated for the retention of the 2013 production tax overhaul supported by the oil industry.

He said he will help that group if it becomes more active again, but he's not sure if he'll remain co-chair.

Langland and his wife plan to spend more time at a home they own in Tucson, Arizona. But they'll also spend a fair amount of time in Alaska, where their children and grandchildren live.

"We've got too much invested in family and love Alaska too much to leave, but I won't be involved as much as I used to," he said.

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