December 1, 2012 - The Bank of Hawaii is ending its presence in American Samoa. "After serving the American Samoa market for more than 40 years, this was a decision that was not made lightly," said Hobbs Lowson, district manager for Bank of Hawaii's American Samoa branches.
This break-up with their American Samoa customers comes at a bad time when the economy in American Samoa is still vulnerable from the closure of one of the canneries 3 years ago, and the ending of the U.S. Stimulus programs in the Territory coming at the same time, reducing the overall money coming into the territory from overseas.
Bank of Hawaii's withdrawal will also leave territory residents and businesses with only one option for all their banking, Australia based ANZ Bank. In a market with very little in the way of choices, it appears residents are going to be left with even less choice going forward.
Bank management is working closely with the American Samoa Government to ensure a smooth transition and will be making information available for customers regarding the best way to move their accounts. For some of though, this is a sad moment. I have personally had accounts with Bank of Hawaii almost my entire life and remember standing in line with my mother at the bank branch downtown when it was located in the Lumana'i Building in Fagatogo. The bank is reportedly scheduling shutdown of its operations in the first quarter of 2013. Reportedly, employees, of which there are 30 employees in American Samoa, will be provided with severance packages and benefits based on time of service, including some health benefits.
Territory residents, and myself included, are hoping that the government and Bank of Hawaii executives will be able to work together to find a way for Bank of Hawaii to remain in the territory and continue to serve the community that has come to rely on their services.