Am. Samoa Government Begins Transition To New Bank

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As Bank of Hawai'i phases out, Utah-based Zions Bank steps in

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 30, 2013) – It’s official — the transitioning of government bank accounts has begun, with the American Samoa Government already transferring three of their 26 accounts to Zions Bank, which is Utah's oldest financial institution, with the rest to follow by October 1. 2013.

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga reached out to Zions Bank after Bank of Hawai’i (BoH) announced their departure from the territory which is scheduled to take place next March. BoH has been processing the ASG payroll for many years and such a service cannot be provided by ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank.

BoH also holds the ASG general fund account as well as other ASG bank accounts.

The announcement of Zions Bank officially taking over ASG’s accounts was made during a press conference in the governor’s conference room last week, which was attended by Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Zions Bank executives — Jacob Heugly, executive vice president of corporate services and John Richards, director of Zions treasury management — and Treasurer Dr. Falema’o Phil Pili.

At the press conference, the Treasurer pointed out the government is happy to have been working with Zions Bank since March in having them take over ASG’s accounts. He said they are working on transitioning all of ASG’s accounts with BoH to Zions Bank by October 1, 2013.

"The services are limited at this point, but they are focusing on the payroll account, general fund and the grant accounts to be transitioned over," Falema’o said, adding "there are other services that will be offered to us in terms of investment and credit card set up within the government itself, to help maximize the cash flow that we have and maximize the return on the investment."

The Treasurer noted that both the Governor and Lt. Governor are strongly advocating that those who are without bank accounts get an account so their checks can be direct deposited. Those who do not have direct deposit will still be issued a paper check.

Falema’o said those who have direct deposits will have the opportunity to take advantage of the services provided by Zions Bank.

Heugly said for the services available, the bank is looking at rolling them out in phases and this will be more efficient for the government at this time. He said some of the services include payroll services which is the ability to direct deposit employees’ checks and therefore eliminate the need to cut checks, as those monies are sent electronically.

Online banking provides the ability for auto reconcilement, and they have found ways to automate those processes and services, which should save time and resources for ASG.

"We’re looking at wire transfer capabilities, (the ability to send money both domestic and international), and we have the ability to send in foreign currency which can help with the exchange rate exposure. That would allow for the margins that are typically placed on transaction overseas to be eliminated, to save the government money and time," he said

The Zions Bank official said one of the services they are "excited" to work on with ASG is the commercial card - which works twofold. This, according to him, allows for the managing of an employee’s expenses through a card issued to each employee for transactions and expenses — and it logs that information. The second one is for purchases, for vendor payments and procurement, and also to pay bills overseas.

"We will rebate back the government some of the monies that are processed through this card program. It’s something the government is happy about and it’s a program that will be rolling out shortly," Heugly said. He explained the rebate is based on a certain percentage upon the speed by which the government would pay back the services provided by Zions Bank within a 30-day window.

Heugly said Zions Bank will not be issuing payroll bank cards but instead, they will send the money to whichever bank the ASG employee banks with — whether it be ANZ or BoH — and those funds will be available for withdraw using the current bank card the employee holds.

The Treasurer said that down the line, they are looking at having ATM machines from Zions Bank.

(Samoa News should point out ANZ ATMs currently charge $7 per transaction to non ANZ bank account holders, whether it be for cash withdrawals or balance inquiries. This does not include the fee your own bank charges you for not using their ATM for cash transactions — which can be anywhere from $2 - $4 per transaction.)

Ma’o said altogether, ASG has a total of 26 bank accounts — all of which the government will transition over to Zions Bank.

Heugly said during the press conference they have met with ASPA and they are looking at working together with the semi-autonomous agency in utilizing the same services that have been provided for the government.

Zions Bank is Utah's oldest financial institution and is the only Utah bank with a statewide distribution of branches, operating 102 full-service offices, with an additional 26 full-service branches in Idaho. In addition to offering traditional banking services, Zions Bank is also a leader in small business lending and has been ranked as the #1 lender of US Small Business Administration 7(a) loans in Utah for the past 19 consecutive years.

The bank was founded in 1873 and has been serving the communities of Utah for nearly 140 years.

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