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Dan O'Neill: A letter from the FDIC changed everything

Dan O'Neill: A letter from the FDIC changed everything

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Growing up in Council Bluffs, Dan O’Neill was never at a loss for company.

“I was one of 10 children — seven boys and three girls. I was exactly in the middle,” O’Neill said. “It was really church, family and the neighborhood that we revolved around.”

After graduating from St. Albert High School in 1971, 18-year-old Dan enlisted in the U.S. Air Force with a plan to see the world. His first duty assignment brought him all the way to Offutt Air Force Base.

“So my first travels took me from Pottawattamie County to Sarpy County. I didn’t go very far,” he said.

O’Neill discharged in 1974 (after eventually serving in Hawaii) and used the GI Bill to study at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. During his junior and senior years, he worked as the advertising editor for the school newspaper.

“I always thought my career was going to be in marketing and advertising. I thought that’s what I was going to do for a living,” O’Neill said. “My first job was at Sears & Roebuck on 72nd and Dodge. I was in the management training program for one month.”

And then a letter from the FDIC — the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation — changed everything.

“It was asking me to come and interview for a job as a bank examiner. I hate to say that for more money I changed careers, but that’s what I did. I was being paid $9,500 at Sears. The FDIC was going to pay me $10,500. That was a big increase. Also, because I was in the military, I got three weeks’ vacation versus two. So, that’s how I found myself in banking.”

After working as a bank examiner for three years, O’Neill sat for a pivotal job interview. It led to a 36-year career with the First National organization as a vice president and then president of Lauritzen Corp., president of First National of Nebraska, and president and chairman of First National Bank of Omaha. One of his proudest accomplishments? Leading First National in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008.

“Bruce Lauritzen, the owner of the bank, never once pointed fingers, never panicked,” O’Neill recalled. “Given that Bruce had confidence in me and our team to get this job done, I never looked over my shoulder in making decisions.”

By 2012, First National was in safe harbors.

“Since that time, we’ve been able to grow. The last few years that I worked, we had really good earnings and really good success,” O’Neill said. “I’ve been blessed with the First National Bank organization and the Lauritzens, who really care about the community.”

In recent years, Dan and his wife, Alison, have done their part to care for the community as well, leading major campaigns for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and United Way of the Midlands, and chairing or serving on various boards.

“It all goes back to First National,” he said. “It’s in our roots. John and Bruce Lauritzen always taught me, the bank is only as successful as your community.”

O’Neill, who has three grown daughters and three grandchildren, retired from First National on April 1, 2017. He said he considers himself an explorer now, always looking for a new adventure. The last one will be hard to top: an incredible 36-year career that sprang from the lure of a $1,000 raise.

“I landed with First National Bank and the Lauritzen family. I worked with three generations of that family through John, Bruce and Clark. You don’t find that in banking anymore,” O’Neill said. “It’s really been very, very rewarding.”

“It all goes back to First National. ... John and Bruce Lauritzen always taught me, the bank is only as successful as your community.”

Dan O’Neill

Retired President, First National Bank

Dan O'Neill, retired president, First National Bank

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