First Hawaiian Bank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Walter Dods, left, announced yesterday that Vice Chairman Don Horner, center, will take over as president and chief operating officer of the bank when Jack Tsui, right, retires at the end of the year.

First Hawaiian
Bank taps Horner
to become president

He will succeed Tsui, 65, who
is planning to retire on Dec. 31

By Dave Segal

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Don Horner came to First Hawaiian Bank with aspirations that he might someday be able to ascend through the ranks to an assistant vice president position.

As it turned out, his banking skills were superior to his ability to predict the future.

Last night, Walter Dods Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian, announced at the bank's annual Christmas party that the 52-year-old Horner will take over Jan. 1 as president and chief operating officer. Horner, currently vice chairman and head of the retail banking group, will assume the duties of Jack Tsui, who will turn 65 in March and is retiring at the end of this month.

"I still have the leadership of Walter to rely on as I attempt to fill some very large shoes of Jack," Horner said. "My new job is to help Walter craft a vision for the future, which I'm honored and feel qualified to help him do that. I have a lot of love for this institution and its communities. I have a lot of respect and love for the people. ... I spent half my life at this bank."

Even before yesterday's announcement, Horner had been publicly endorsed by Dods as his successor. So it was a natural progression that Horner move up to the No. 2 spot with Tsui's retirement.

Horner, who began his career at the bank as a credit analyst in 1978, will now be responsible for all consumer and commercial lending, the branches, marketing, private banking, trust and technology. Earlier this year, Dods and Tsui gave Horner the additional responsibilities of overseeing technology and the Financial Management Group, which encompasses trust, investments and insurance.

The 61-year-old Dods said he has set no timetable for his retirement but expects it to occur before he hits 65. He said he has been thinking about Horner as his successor for the last five years.

Dods said he felt it was important to start planning early to have a successor in place because of what happened to him in 1989 when then-Chairman and CEO John Bellinger died suddenly of a stroke while Dods was attending a business meeting in Budapest, Hungary.

"Because he was a very vibrant type of guy, he felt that he would live forever and never quite prepared me for the job," Dods said. "Taking over the bank was fairly traumatic. So I made a vow to myself that I would never let that happen. I wanted to groom the next person to take over the right way ... so we would have a good transition.

"With that in mind, I started looking to who would be best suited to take over the bank, and Jack and I together looked through the management ranks and it was very, very clear that Don stood out ... his leadership ability, his analytical ability, his ability to communicate and get the team working together. He just had all the ingredients that I thought would make for a great leader for the bank."

Tsui, who will remain a board member of First Hawaiian Bank, plans to stay in Hawaii but spend considerable time visiting his daughter and three grandchildren in New York.

"I'm very proud of the fact that I'm a professional banker and I've worked for 40 years in this industry," said Tsui, who began his career at East Coast institutions before coming to Hawaii in 1984 to join Bank of Hawaii as head of wholesale banking. He later became a vice chairman at Bank of Hawaii before moving to First Hawaiian Bank in 1994 as president and chief operating officer.

"I worked for four great institutions, culminating with First Hawaiian Bank. I was adopted at a later stage of life (by First Hawaiian), and you know you're really welcome when (that happens). It's been a wonderful working relationship."

The soft-speaking Horner, who is humble about the promotion, admits he has come a long way from his first days on the job.

"I remember someone mentioned I might one day become an assistant vice president, and I thought that was the most ludicrous thing," he said. "I remember vividly meeting my first assistant vice president when I went into the credit department as a credit analyst, and my knees were knocking. I was scared to death."

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