Zions Bank agrees to take over ASG payroll account
Utah-based Zions Bank will be taking over the processing of the large American Samoa Government payroll, which is over $4 million every pay period, and Zions Bank will provide for ASG employees currently getting paper payroll checks a VISA brand “payroll card” to access their funds.
This new information was made public at yesterday's news conference at the Governor’s Office, presided over by Acting Governor Lemanu P. Mauga, who expressed sincere appreciation from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to Zions Bank for responding quickly to the call for help to ASG and the territory, as Bank of Hawai’i prepares to close down its operations by June 14.
Also present at the news conference were the Governor’s Legal Counsel, Steve Watson, the governor’s chief of staff, Fiu Johnny Saelua and Zions Bank executives — Jacob Heugly, executive vice president of corporate services and John Richards, director of Zions treasury management.
BoH has been processing the ASG payroll for many years but such a service cannot be provided by ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank. Additionally, BoH also holds the ASG general fund account as well as other ASG bank accounts.
“Zions Bank [has] agreed to offer multiple services and after studying various providers, I am happy to announce that they will provide payroll services and other innovative banking services in an effort to bridge the technological gap facing the American Samoa Government,” ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ M. Pili told reporters during the news conference.
“...this option will certainly resolve a huge issue of great concern since ANZ is not able to handle ASG’s large payroll and other banking services,” said Pili, who also pointed out that the two Zions executives also met over the weekend with other semi autonomous agencies of the government to extend the same services being offered to ASG.
Heugly and Richards arrived in the territory last Friday morning and thereafter started meeting with Treasury Department staff and those of other departments. They were dispatched to the territory by Zions Bank president and CEO Scott Anderson following meetings with Lolo, Pili and other ASG officials more than a week ago in Salt Lake City, where Zions is headquartered.
Anderson “asked us to find out what services or what things we could do for the American Samoa government,” Heugly told reporters. He also said that an assessment of ASG has been completed and all the necessary information gathered.
“Now we’re going through the normal due diligence that banks goes through in getting those services set up,” he said and made clear that Zions does not intend to set up a local branch, nor do they need a local branch to provide electronic banking and payroll services.
He explained that Zions Bank has customers throughout all 50 states, while its branches are located in western states of the U.S.
“Electronic banking allows us to go beyond our borders to offer services such as payroll, where we can come in and have direct deposit go right into the employee’s account,” Heugly pointed out.
In ASG’s case, ASG will administer the files, and funds will be electronically deposited by Zions into an employee’s bank account. For those employees without a bank account, Zions will provide “payroll cards” which will allow customers with the VISA-branded cards to have the funds deposited into those cards, said Heugly.
With the payroll card, the employee can go to any ATM or anywhere the VISA brand is accepted to use the card “just like you would do with normal debit cards that are out there today,” he said and noted that “we have many customers that use this service, that don’t reside in Utah.”
Pili added that the government, which has a workforce of close to 6,000, currently issues just over 2,000 paper checks for employees, who still prefer to receive a paper check. He noted that for most banks, a person needs to have an account with that bank in order to get a debit card.
However, Zions is offering a feature here where the person does not need to register with Zions, or to open an account with Zions Bank. Zions Bank will issue the payroll card that can be used to purchase goods, locally or when traveling off-island, or even use at an ATM to get cash, he said.
“It's a beautiful feature... this is a new thing that we will introduce with our payroll system,” said Pili, who pointed out that ASG wants to have the payroll processing transferred to Zions Bank within the next 30-days.
Pili said three ASG accounts — including payroll and the general fund — will be migrated into Zions Bank. “We’re hoping to get all this done within the next 30-days,” he added.
According to Heugly, “we are now gathering all the information and data” to take back to Utah, and then go through the appropriate approval process to get these services set up for ASG. “Once we receive our full compliance, our approval, we will start thereafter and will continue to move forward as we have planned with Dr. Pili,” he said.
The Zions official also pointed out that they have already conducted an assessment of ASG's technology infrastructure and “we have found there is no difference than what we are used to" in dealing with other jurisdictions in the U.S..
“So once we go through the approval process, we don’t believe there will be any limitation to the services that we can provide to the American Samoa Government,” he said. “We are very committed to the opportunity of helping and reaching out to the people of American Samoa and that is what we intend to do.”
He also said there is a large American Samoan population in Utah, and Zions “wants to make sure that we look out for their families no matter where they reside.”
At the beginning of the news conference, Pili said Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert, following meetings with Lolo and his territorial delegation, has “kindly offered technical support from his Economic Development Office to strengthen our economic situation.”
Asked for additional information about the technical support, Pili offered no specific details only noting that he believes that Utah is on the top list of states attracting various business industries “and Governor Herbert would like to share those resources, with us.”
Additionally, Herbert wants to make available his staff to assist the territorial government in any way — including working with the local Commerce Department to promote economic development, Pili said.
“So we want to continue to build that relationship with them. Hopefully we can bring in some other industries,” he said and noted that Lolo and Herbert have a “real good friendship”.
“Many civic and ecclesiastical leaders in Utah extended forth a generous helping hand to our territory by seeking ways to assist us in our time of need,” as BoH prepares to depart, said Pili.
Besides the Utah governor, Lolo also met with Utah’s Congressional delegation and others to discuss “our financial challenges here.”
Due to the high percentage of Mormon population in American Samoa, Pili said Governor Herbert suggested "that we meet with the LDS Church officials” in Utah. On behalf of Governor Lolo, Pili did meet with the LDS senior officials, along with Governor Herbert.
“We are so ever grateful for their efforts to connect us with key people, who could assist in resolving this daunting challenge,” said Pili.