HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 3) - Guam's banking landscape is transforming as First Savings and Loan Association fades and all of its six branches take the Bank of Hawaii name.

The change follows the completion, on Dec. 31, of the previously announced merger deal between Bank of Hawaii and First Savings, which shared the same parent, Bank of Hawaii Corp., before the merger.

Matthew Blaz, Bank of Hawaii's marketing manager for the western Pacific, said the on-site transformation of First Savings branches into Bank of Hawaii-branded outlets is ongoing and expected to be completed by this week.

All 27 employees of First Savings are expected to be retained, Blaz said.

First Savings carried about 10,000 accounts, he said

Ron Leach, Bank of Hawaii executive vice president, Pacific island division, said former First Savings customers don't have to do any paperwork to adjust to their bank's new name.

He said former First Savings customers will have access to a wide range of services Bank of Hawaii offers, such as debit cards that can be used for purchases rather than just ATM cash cards.

Bank of Hawaii-branded replacement checks and VISA check cards have been sent to First Savings customers, Blaz said.

Blaz added that the new checks and cards are in the mail if customers have not received them.

Interest rates and terms for loans and savings accounts of former First Savings customers will not change as a result of the merger, but in some cases customers will get the added benefits of such programs as a bonus rate savings account, the bank announced.

The merger also means former First Savings customers can access Bank of Hawaii's 24-hour call center, automated phone banking services and services for private, business and commercial clients, according to a Bank of Hawaii press release.

Former First Savings customers also now have access to Bank of Hawaii loan programs, such as a post-Supertyphoon Pongsona loan recovery program, a loan payment deferral program and commercial and consumer loan programs for those waiting for payment on their post-storm insurance claims.

Market share

The merger increased Bank of Hawaii Guam branches from three to nine and ATMs to 35.

Based on deposit and loan figures from the Guam Bankers Association, Bank of Hawaii shares the top three market-share positions with Bank of Guam and First Hawaiian, Leach said.

Branching rights for what have been referred to as ''off-island'' banks, or banks not chartered on Guam, has been a sticky issue. Three local banks filed a lawsuit in 2001 opposing First Hawaiian Bank's opening of a third Guam branch.

After clearing some legal challenges from some local banks, First Hawaiian opened its third branch in May 2002 in Tamuning.

A Superior Court ruling said that off-island state and national banks already on Guam can open branches in the same manner Guam banks can. The Guam Supreme Court also ruled in favor of First Hawaiian in July 2002.

The local court rulings also were issued after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued a ruling saying, ''an out-of-state, state-chartered bank with a branch in Guam, specifically FHB, may establish additional branches in Guam to the same extent that a Guam-chartered bank may establish additional branches in Guam.''

Leach said Bank of Hawaii did not encounter formal opposition regarding its application to merge with First Savings and convert First Savings branches into Bank of Hawaii branches.

Banking regulators issued a short and simple approval, he said.

Leach said the First Hawaiian case knocked out a legal stumbling block for U.S. banks -- already operating on Guam -- to open additional branches.

January 3, 2003

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