20 FOR THE NEXT 20 2015
Hawaii Business magazine | March, 2015
Executive VP, Chief Administrative O!icer for American Savings Bank
Growing up as an Arkansas farm girl, Beth Whitehead viewed working in an office as “exotic, something I saw on TV.” Nonetheless, she went on to become a lawyer and join the corporate world in Memphis, serving as deputy general counsel for First Horizon National Corp. and general counsel at National Commerce Financial Corp.
Since coming aboard at American Savings Bank in 2008, Whitehead has been a dynamic force, leading to the bank’s appearance on Hawaii Business’ Best Places to Work lists for the past five years and repeatedly on the journal American Banker’s list of Best Banks to Work For, the only bank in the state to be so recognized.
Her role also encompasses compliance, training and development, facilities, communications, corporate security, community development, human resources and benefits, such as the LifeBalance program. LifeBalance “focuses on wellness and having fun at work, rather than an ROI on health,” says Whitehead. It uses a video game-style tracking system, ping-pong tables to encourage people to move, FitBits for any employee who wants one and stairwells painted with encouraging ninjas.
“She’s not afraid to bring up an idea,” says Judy Bishop, owner of Bishop and Co. Bishop serves on the board of the Women’s Fund of Hawaii, which Whitehead chairs. Bishop notes that Whitehead’s innovations have “changed the whole culture at ASB.”
“Even though she’s in a very senior position,” says ASB’s president and CEO, Richard Wacker, “she’s down to earth, a real straight shooter. She helps ensure we aren’t letting bureaucracy get in the way of being as compelling and competitive as we can be.”
“Taking care of your employees also means taking care of your shareholders,” says Whitehead. “It’s hard to get someone energized and passionate about things if they aren’t happy.”
In addition to the Women’s Fund, Whitehead serves on the boards of three other local nonprofits – Hawaii Theatre, the YWCA and the YMCA – and somehow found time to get married last August to Linda Lockwood, her partner of 15 years.
She relishes seeing initial designs for ASB’s new downtown campus, which she says will look more like a tech company than a bank: “wide-open spaces, play areas, casual areas for problem solving.” But once construction begins, she may not be able to resist the backhoes. “I’ve already got my hard hat … and I can drive a tractor or any farm equipment you can name!”
– KATHRYN DRURY WAGNER