Executive Snapshot: KeyBank’s Alaska Market Leader Lori McCaffrey
Lori McCaffrey is a multifaceted executive whose essence can be encapsulated in three key words: finance, family and faith. As KeyBank’s market president in Alaska, McCaffrey has a long, accomplished banking career. She began working in banking in 1979 at Mellon Bank in her hometown of Pittsburgh and joined KeyBank in 1995 as a commercial lender. Being the daughter of a banker, you might say banking is in McCaffrey’s blood. From Pittsburgh, she moved to Montana and worked for a small community bank in Bozeman. She was later provided a unique opportunity to assist in the initial startup of a bank in Big Sky, Montana. She was a member of its senior management team, assisting in the capital raise, charter applications, risk management infrastructure, and implementation of safe and sound manner of operations ensuring regulatory compliance.
In Alaska, McCaffrey's industry expertise and leadership skills have continually propelled her forward, elevating her from the positions of senior lender, commercial banking team leader and interim leader of Key’s Alaska private banking group. In 2015, she assumed the helm of KeyBank after her predecessor, Brian Nerland, retired. Today, the down-to-earth, results-focused McCaffrey successfully manages the commercial bank and provides market oversight of the Private Bank and Retail lines of business and its fifteen branches, nineteen ATMs and one hundred and eighteen employees in Alaska.
Over the years, McCaffrey has garnered a string of honors for her fruitful efforts, including Key’s Chairman’s Award, Signature Circle, and Extraordinary Leadership Award. In addition to being a consummate business leader, she is also an active community volunteer who supports a variety of causes.
McCaffrey recently spoke with Alaska Business about a range of topics, from banking to community service to her personal interests. We welcome you to meet Lori McCaffrey:
What attracted you to your current position as president of the Alaska market for KeyBank?
The opportunity to be a part of and lead a very engaged workforce and best in class talent while serving our client’s needs. I can’t underscore enough the importance of a great team and having the privilege of working with such a talented and driven workforce. The partnership and collaboration with so many at Key is invaluable and a differentiator in our success.
When you joined the bank more than 20 years ago, did you envision yourself becoming president of the Alaska market?
No, but my aspirations were long-term due to the culture and values of KeyBank. I was fortunate in that I had several leaders within Key who provided great mentorship and career path guidance. I have also been afforded mentorship with many influential leaders and business executives throughout Alaska. Our workforce in Alaska is extremely talented, diverse and educated, and I have been privileged to be afforded personal insight from many business and community leaders with respect to their vast knowledge and experience, which continues to be an invaluable resource to me, both professionally and personally.
What do you find to be one of the most rewarding things about working as a commercial banking executive in Alaska?
It provides an opportunity to work with extremely talented and diverse people across our state. It has afforded me great personal and professional development. I have had the privilege of working with many clients as a trusted advisor helping them to realize their financial goals and grow their business. Contributing to the overall financial wellness of the clients we serve and watching them thrive is extremely rewarding. While Alaska is geographically a very large state, it is small in so many ways, and that affords great outreach, including economic, education, healthcare and corporate social responsibility programs, as well as outreach to the Alaska Native people, military, youth, and elder populations.
People often ask successful executives what keeps them up at night. But can you tell us what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Results that matter, whether they’re associated with improving our communities, employee engagement, performance management, empowering others, being impactful or striving always to exceed expectations. Results do matter!
Also, what makes you sleep well at night?
Certainty in the workplace and market stability. Volatility can create fear and unpredictability. Unpredictability can be worrisome for many and impactful to business. The financial system is critical to the functioning of our economy. As a financial institution, we must understand our role during times of change and uncertainty, as it relates to our clients, their businesses, as well as our employees. Change adaptability is imperative, including steering change and responding to change.
What concerns you most about what is happening in the financial industry today?
Security and cyber risks, regulatory uncertainty and talent management. Security and cyber risk is concerning as attacks are becoming more frequent and widespread. Tactics, techniques and methods continue to change at a rapid pace and higher level of sophistication; as such, banks must continually invest heavily in systems, technology and people. Regulatory uncertainty is concerning with respect to costs, implementation, and the required ongoing education of our workforce to ensure compliance. With respect to talent management, employee engagement must be a priority at all times to retain top performers within the industry and reduce turnover.
In terms of your community service, you have supported numerous organizations. Why do you feel it’s important to serve the community as an individual and as the head of KeyBank in Alaska?
The role we play in serving our community can be that much greater, simply because of the influence and additional outreach we are afforded as a leader within the community. It provides a platform to empower others to take action, as well as, inspire others to contribute to a cause. It is also a great way to build relationships, visibility and brand awareness. Our clients and employees consider corporate social responsibility to be very important. As a leader, it is important to create a culture of community involvement.
Next year, you will serve as the chairman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women. What does it personally mean for you to be able to hold this position and to be involved with the American Heart Association?
Having a history of heart disease in my family, first and foremost, I think it is important to create awareness and motivate women to take action against heart disease. I am privileged to work with an incredible leadership team of women taking critical steps together to end heart disease and stroke. While so many women’s issues are front and center, it is disheartening to know that cardiovascular diseases still kill nearly one in every three women each year, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
You actively support empowering women through KeyBank’s Executive Women’s Network, Key4Women and other initiatives. As a female executive, what do you think is one of the most important things organizations can do to address gender equality and sexual harassment in the workplace?
I am fortunate to work for a company that values and is committed to diversity in the workplace. Valuing diversity and fostering inclusion must start at the top. Achieving gender equality and addressing sexual harassment requires eliminating harmful practices both in the workplace and, as a society, on a global scale. Understanding unconscious bias is important. Access to resources and opportunities must be afforded on an equal basis.
What advice would you give to young women who are entering the banking industry in Alaska or elsewhere?
The financial industry has a long history of attracting energetic and ambitious individuals. Understand that it is an industry that will always navigate change due to regulatory, economic, technological and innovative business model changes. But change can often provide rewarding opportunities. Working in the banking industry is meaningful and impactful, providing diverse and innovative career opportunities. For women in particular, it provides a voice in which creative thinking and differentiated views are valued and rewarded. Banking can provide professional training and development opportunities. I would advise women in particular, to be their own advocate. Always be an advocate for change, seek mentorship, and consider all opportunities.
On the personal side, where were you born and raised, and how different was this place from Alaska?
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is very different from Alaska in population alone, with a metropolitan population of 2.3 million. It is very diverse in its ethnicities. Originally a steel, electronics and manufacturing city, it has shifted to a region now of high technology, health care, finance and education. I began my banking career in Pittsburgh, where my father was a bank executive. Of course, I have to mention that Pittsburgh boasts of great professional sports and many championships, to which I continue in my loyalty as a life-long black and gold fan!
Aside from the professional opportunity, what attracted you to Alaska?
I met my husband in Pittsburgh, and he had a love of the West and the outdoors. We moved to Montana shortly after we married. After spending ten years in Montana, we both wanted to experience the outdoors in a grander way. We packed our belongings and travelled the Alaska Highway north to Anchorage—unemployed—for the adventure we knew Alaska would provide us. We were awestruck by the beauty, like everybody is—in Alaska. That was 25 years ago, and Alaska remains our home.
What hobbies do you enjoy doing with your family?
Our entire family shares in a love of the outdoors. We all hunt, fish and hike together as a family. We love to travel, and in our travels, we always indulge in the local culture and foods. Our travel "bucket list" includes a family trip to Africa and the Holy Land. We love reading. We encouraged reading with our children at a young age and all share in that passion today.
Can you tell us something interesting, humorous or surprising about yourself?
First and foremost, my faith is extremely important. And, very randomly and in no particular order, I love sports, cooking, music, jazz in particular, and the holidays—all of them. In our home, Christmas music begins in October and holiday decorations remain well into the new year. Cooking and baking are traditions passed down in both our families. Growing up in Pittsburgh, sports were engrained in our culture. I grew up playing field hockey, swimming and golfing. As a Steeler fan, my love of football is lifelong. Interesting fact, I was charged by a very large black bear while scouting for an upcoming bear hunt in Montana. I was extremely shaken, but to my husband's relief, I firmly stood my ground and fortunately, the bear only bluff charged and then retreated into the timber.
Five years from now, what would you like to be doing with your life and where will you be doing this?
Work is in the plans, and I would love to be near my children. No doubt, we will continue with our outdoor adventures. I grew up in a "golfing family" and suspect that may become more a part of our life, as time permits, as our kids and extended family love the game. As to where...a required component of the plan includes a cabin on a lake somewhere in Alaska.