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Pursuit of a new bank for American Samoa led by Afimutasi

reporters@samoanews.com

Afimutasi Gus Hannemann is leading a group, at the request of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, to persuade another U.S. bank to open its doors in American Samoa, according to an article posted by www.americanbanker.com, Jan. 10, 2013.

The article, written by Jake Steward,“The Fight to Bring New Banks to American Samoa”, identifies Afimutasi as “serving as caretaker of the American Samoa government in Hawai’i.”

It identifies Afimutasi's group as including Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga and that it “has contacted several banks in Hawaii to set up meetings about their cause. They have already met with Lance Mizumoto, the chief banking officer at Central Pacific Bank. However, Central Pacific, a unit of Central Pacific Financial (CPF), has ‘not made a decision to pursue it further at this time,’ a company spokeswoman said.”

The article notes that “the group is also meeting with executives from Bank of Hawaii later this month to find out what prompted their departure and what the government could do to entice another U.S. bank to the area. Hannemann is also hoping to get advice for other banks considering opening branches in the territory.”

"Shocking," "upsetting" and potentially "devastating" are the words Afimutasi has for Bank of Hawaii's (BOH) decision to close its branches in American Samoa, according to the article.

It had become "increasingly evident" that the "geographic isolation" of American Samoa "posed challenges for us," Wayne Hamano, vice chair of Bank of Hawaii, said in an email to American Banker.

BOH announced in November that it would close its two branches in the territory late in the first quarter (March 2013) and has said that customers who wish can stay with them, and they would be working closely with ASB/ANZ, the soon-to-be only bank in the territory, to ensure a smooth transition.

Last week Samoa News reported efforts of a group led by the lieutenant governor to encourage another bank to open a branch in the territory.

In a press release from the governor’s office, it was noted that Lolo and Lemanu supported the efforts of a local group to open a territorial bank and encouraged them to step up their timetable; while the credit union, for which former Gov. Togiola Tulafono had signed a permit to operate in the territory before he left office, was still an unknown factor, as details about the entity had not yet been made available to the new administration for review.



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