Walter A. Dods, Jr. is recognized as one of the most influential people in Hawaiʻi business. For more than 30 years, this renowned corporate executive has had his finger on the pulse of business and has been an important player in the growth of Hawaiʻi’s economy.
Dods has more than three decades of corporate experience at the highest levels of executive leadership. He currently serves as chair of the board of Honolulu-based Matson Inc., a publicly traded shipping company. However, Dods is most recognized for leading Hawaiʻi’s largest bank for three decades and growing it into one of the 25 largest banks in the nation.
Dods initially joined First Hawaiian Bank in 1968 as director of advertising and public relations. Over the course of the next 15 years, he worked his way through all sectors of management—marketing, consumer loans, auto loans, wholesale lending, and retail banking. In 1984, he was named president at the age of 43, making him one of the youngest presidents in the nation for an institution of that size. Five years later, Dods was named chair and CEO of the bank and its holding company. Under his leadership, First Hawaiian Bank grew from a Hawaiʻi-based company that earned 57 million USD a year with assets of 5 billion USD to a national bank with earnings of over 400 million USD and assets of over 50 billion USD, and over 300 branches throughout Hawaiʻi, Guam, and the U.S. mainland.
Upon his retirement in 2004, Dods continued to serve on the boards of both First Hawaiian Bank and BancWest while taking on new roles, which included serving as chair of the board for Alexander & Baldwin Inc. and Hawaiian Telcom. Boards he currently serves on include Bank of the West, Pacific Guardian Life, Hawaiian Telcom, Pohaku Pa, and Servco Pacific Inc. Most recently, he joined the board of Houston-based Par Petroleum Corp.
On a national level, Dods served as a past president of the American Bankers Association from 1996 to 1997, and he served a two-year term (1998–2000) on the Federal Advisory Council to Chairman Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Although Dods is recognized as one of the state’s top business leaders, his philanthropic and community endeavors play an equally important role in his legacy. Over the years, Dods has spearheaded major fundraising efforts for a number of nonprofit organizations and served on the board of an array of charities, including the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaiʻi, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiʻi Visitors Bureau, Hawaiʻi Employers Council, and Honolulu Museum of Art, to name just a few.
Some of his more notable nonprofit ventures have included chairing the committee that built the Hawaiʻi Blood Bank building, raising funds to build Saint Louis Schools’ Mamiya Theatre, and helping United Way with its annual fundraising campaign. Dods and his wife Diane also established a million-dollar USD fund for a University of Hawaiʻi scholarship program for immigrants.