CEO Steps up for Community

April 22--Don Horner doesn't sit on the board of every nonprofit and key organization in the state.

It just seems that way.

If running the state's largest bank, holding down 24 directorships or advisory positions and raising two boys as a widowed father isn't enough, the chairman and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank now has two more high-profile positions on his resume. In February he was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the state Board of Education to fill a vacant position and then reappointed earlier this month as chairman. On Monday he was named by Mayor Peter Carlisle to the 10-member board that will oversee Honolulu's rail transit project.

But the 60-year-old Horner said yesterday he doesn't feel he's spreading himself too thin. For starters, more of the day-to-day operations of the bank were transferred to several members of First Hawaiian's senior management team on Feb. 28 as part of the bank's process of management succession.

The senior management team, which has an average service of 20-plus years with the bank, includes Robert Harrison, president and chief operating officer, and four vice chairmen. They are Raymond Ono, Retail Banking Group, chief banking officer; Albert Yamada, Finance and Administration Group, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer; Robert Fujioka, Commercial Banking Group, chief lending officer; and Gary Caulfield, IT and Operations Group, chief information officer.

Horner said the moves provide an opportunity for the bank's younger managers to assume increased responsibilities and gives senior officers a broader range of experience.

"The way our succession planning works is just like it worked for (former First Hawaiian CEO) Walter Dods," said Horner, who has been at First Hawaiian for 33 years.

"One of my responsibilities as chief executive officer is to prepare the next generation to manage the bank, and that process is well under way."

Besides delegating some of his bank duties, his home life figures to be a little less hectic as well.

"I have been a single parent of two boys since my wife died in 2004, and my oldest will be starting college in August of this year," he said. "That means a lot less ballgames and potlucks."

"I also don't play golf," he added.

Yet, Horner finds time to teach Bible study every Wednesday night.

"My nights are free," he said. "My meetings are during the day, and I rarely go to any social functions at night because I choose to spend time with the family."

Horner acknowledges that to give the necessary time commitments to his Board of Education and rail positions, he needs to transition from some of his community service responsibilities, including giving up seats on several nonprofit boards.

His two-year term as chairman of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau expires at the end of this year. Horner also has been actively involved as chairman of the Salvation Army's steering committee in fundraising and the construction of the 150,000-square-foot Kroc Community Center in Kapolei. The project is nearing successful completion and will be open by the end of the year.

He also resigned from the Hawaii Children's Discovery Center, effective March 17, and plans to step down from either board seats or advisory positions with the Hawaii Business Roundtable executive committee (although still remaining on the board), the National Financial Services Roundtable, the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund National Board, the Consortium Advisory Council, the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, Teach for America-Hawaii and the University of Hawaii College of Business Advisory Council.

His first meeting with the new Board of Education is Tuesday, and his duties with the Honolulu Authority for Rail Transportation, or HART, won't begin until the third quarter.

Dods, the First Hawaiian chairman and CEO who preceeded Horner, said it's not unusual for the head of the bank to hold as many directorships as Horner. Dods, who is still a director at the bank as well as at sister bank Bank of the West and parent BancWest Corp., said that at his peak he served on about a dozen nonprofit boards as well as a similar number of corporate boards.

Horner, for his part, also holds nine board seats connected to his position at the bank.

"Don comes from a wonderful corporate culture that puts a high value on community services going back to the days of Johnny Bellinger," Dods said of his own predecessor as CEO. "So it's been ingrained in all of us as the CEOs at First Hawaiian to serve not just at profit-making functions, but serving our communities. It's ingrained in our DNA, but having said that, Don is extraordinary in the amount of community service and involvement that he participates in."

Horner, who serves only on nonpaying boards outside of his bank duties, said he's up to the challenge as he prepares for a new phase in his life.

"Both of these volunteer responsibilities are about having a competent management team, providing strategic direction and being a fiduciary to ensure our taxpayer money is invested wisely," Horner said.

"I am committed to provide the time necessary to work with my fellow board members to ensure that happens."

Horner said his latest two appointments are important for different reasons.

"The Department of Education is obviously critically important for the future of our state," he said. "I've always had a commitment to education both personally and corporately, and I have a lot of confidence in the governor and he asked me to serve.

"Equally, I've been a proponent of the rail. It's an important strategic investment for our city and could substantially enhance the quality of life for the people of Oahu while alleviating a challenge we have in traffic as well as making an opportunity for social change by creating a new avenue for transit-oriented development. It's something I have a keen interest in, and the mayor asked me to take some of the role on the financial side because of my background."

Horner said his rail position won't start realistically until August and that it likely will take several months before the board "is fully engaged." He called the Board of Education position the most challenging and said he expects his commitment to that position will be about one day a week even though the board meets twice a month.

"The reality is it will take one day per week, especially since we're reorganizing the board," Horner said. "I expect rail would take a similar amount of time, perhaps less."


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