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American Samoa gov seeks government-owned charter bank

  • COURTESY BANK OF HAWAII
    Bank of Hawaii is keeping its Utulei branch open in American Samoa until a "suitable replacement can be found."
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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa >> American Samoa’s governor is trying to open a government-owned bank for the territory.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga earlier this week submitted legislation that would allow the government to set up the charter bank, named Territorial Bank of American Samoa. It would be controlled and operated under a new territorial government holding entity called Territorial Bankcorp.

He’s targeting June for its opening.

This comes as Bank of Hawaii plans to close down its American Samoa operations and as ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank has reduced banking services.

Bank of Hawaii first announced in 2012 plans to close down its two American Samoa branches. But when Moliga took office in January the following year, he convinced the bank to remain in the territory until a second bank opens in Pago Pago. Bank of Hawaii closed one branch in 2013.

While ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank hasn’t signaled a desire to leave, it reduced its available lending products and is not otherwise able to deliver full banking services that should be expected in a U.S. territory, the governor said.

ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank, overseen by ANZ Guam, Inc., is the local subsidiary of the Australia New Zealand Banking Group.

The territory has suffered from “poor quality service,” from the commercial banks, the governor said in a letter to lawmakers.

However, the chairman of the territorial House of Representatives Committee on Commerce said he won’t schedule any hearings on the bill until receiving certain financial reports from the governor, including a five-year financial statement on the projected revenues and expenditures for the bank. Rep. Larry Sanitoa said he’s also requesting an analysis of pros and cons of the measure.

The governor said the charter bank is modeled after the Bank of North Dakota, a state-owned bank originally chartered in 1919.

Establishing the charter bank is “an ambitious effort but one we cannot afford to let pass us by if we want to build a more satisfactory, long-term future for our people,” he said. “Without a bank willing to invest in the territory and provide the same level of banking services existing across other states and territories, it will be difficult for us to move forward.”

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