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Avamua Dave Haleck heads up effort to launch new bank

AMERICAN SAMOA — A group of local citizens headed up by businessman Avamua Dave Haleck is seeking federal approval to open a new bank in American Samoa later this year.

“We believe an American Samoan solution is the only answer to American Samoa’s banking problems,” Haleck said, explaining why he and others are trying to launch a community-based, full-service bank. “We must pull together and do it for ourselves. Frankly, we don’t believe an outside bank is going to come in to replace BOH.”

Haleck, who served 10 years on the board of directors of Amerika Samoa Bank before it was sold to ANZ, said that a locally-owned and controlled bank can do a better job of serving local customers, and will not leave the territory to pursue profits elsewhere.

“There are many challenges to tackle before a new federally-insured bank can be chartered to serve American Samoa,” said local attorney Marshall Ashley.

Ashley, who has been working with Haleck on the project for the past year, led a group of five people who met last week with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in San Francisco. “As a result of that meeting, we can now publicize our efforts and engage the community directly,” Ashley said.

Governor Lolo Moliga was briefed on Friday regarding the progress of the Community Bank of Amerika Samoa (IO) as it seeks to gain all the necessary approvals to conduct business in the territory. Governor Lolo reiterated his full commitment and said his administration would assist in any way possible. He also urged Avamua and his partners to accelerate their efforts, which had previously included negotiating, unsuccessfully, to buy out Bank of Hawaii’s operations in American Samoa.

Haleck, who will be the acting Chairman of the Board for the new bank, said the bank will open in the second half of 2013 if the necessary funds can be raised and federal approval is granted. He said the federal review process is lengthy and strict, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

In order to meet the stringent FDIC requirements, the new bank will need to raise in excess of $10 million in equity capital, a significant portion of which must come from local investors and investors with close ties to American Samoa.

“We have spoken with about 20 local businesspeople to gauge their interest in investing in a local bank. Based on the response, we are confident that we can raise the funds needed,” Haleck said. “In the near future, we will provide residents of American Samoa the opportunity to purchase shares in the bank.”

Ti’otala Lewis Wolman has joined the Community Bank (IO) team and will be responsible for communicating with interested investors, government officials, the private sector and the general public.

Wolman, former Samoa News publisher and co-CEO of Blue Sky, said the FDIC wants to see evidence that the community supports creation of Community Bank (IO) and he will therefore be meeting with stakeholders throughout the territory to explain the group’s plans and obtain expressions of moral and financial support.

“Community Bank (IO) needs the support of everyone in American Samoa, especially the individuals, families, and businesses who have prospered here and want to ensure a bright future for their family, friends and customers.

 “This bank won’t belong to Dave Haleck,” Wolman said. “Although Dave is the originator and driving force for this initiative, the bank needs widespread support from many others in the community.”

Haleck will be a major shareholder and the initial board chairperson. As chair, Haleck will ensure that Community Bank (IO) treats its customers with the respect they deserve and provides the banking services they need.

FOLLOWING IN TE’O ANNESLEY’S FOOTSTEPS

The Haleck family, led by Dave’s parents Otto and Dorothy Haleck, was an initial shareholder in Amerika Samoa Bank (ASB), which opened its doors in 1979 after local businessman Te’o Gus Annesley spearheaded efforts for local residents to invest in their own bank. According to the Annesley family, Te’o worked to launch ASB after becoming frustrated with how locals were treated by the commercial bank then operating here.

Te'o Annesley believed that a bank owned and patronized by locals would better understand and respond to the unique challenges of our island economy, and would stick with the community through good days and bad.

Avamua Haleck said Te’o’s belief is as valid now as it was 35 years ago.

And just as Te’o Annesley offered shares in Amerika Samoa Bank to the general public in the 1970’s, Community Bank will offer shares to the general public in the near future.

Haleck said he was proud to announce that the Te’o and Vera Annesley family is among the first to confirm its intention to invest in Community Bank (IO). [Te’o Annesley passed away in 1981; the Annesley family is the owner of the Samoa News.]

OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE BANK’S PROSPECTS

While acknowledging the poor state of the local economy at present, Avamua said the new bank’s business plan is based on very conservative assumptions, and the group’s feasibility analysis shows a reasonable expectation for profitability even after factoring in a slow economic recovery.

Avamua said he is confident that American Samoa’s economy will improve soon due to the new administration’s emphasis on promoting economic development and encouraging new businesses and higher private sector employment.

Haleck, who oversees wide-ranging business interests in American Samoa and Samoa, said he and his family firmly believe: “Better days are ahead for American Samoa. We are investing our money to make that belief a reality, and I encourage others to do the same.”

Source: media release



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