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Tuesday, February 27, 2001


Hawaiians would
control new
community bank

Organizers say Bank Aloha
could be up and running
on Maui in 10 months


By Pat Omandam
Star-Bulletin

ORGANIZERS say Bank Aloha, a proposed native Hawaiian community bank on Maui, could be a reality in less than a year if details of its federal charter can be worked out.

Jim Wagele, executive director of Hawaiian Community Assets Inc. on Maui, said the nonprofit group -- which has applied to become the first native Hawaiian-controlled and operated community development financial institution -- is working on Bank Aloha's federal charter with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal agency that regulates national banks.

The group plans to submit a final application for Bank Aloha in 60 days and hopes for a preliminary charter this summer, which will allow it to formally raise capital, Wagele said yesterday at the Capitol during a conference on socially responsible investments.

Bank Aloha is the name of the proposed institution, he said.

"Once you get all the pieces together -- you have the charter, you have the commitment of capital -- that then will allow you to actually go back and seek your final charter," Wagele said.

"The examiners come out and look at how you're setting up and you can hire staff and do those things. All together, we think we're about 10 months way from opening the doors. But it's dependent upon our success and speed on raising the capital."

Wagele is a retired senior vice president at Bank of America, which in the mid-1990s committed to provide up to $150 million in loans for Hawaiian homesteaders. A native Hawaiian community bank could help deliver those funds to Hawaiians.

The bank hopes to raise capital as a socially responsible investment, a growing practice where values and societal concerns are heavily considered in investment decisions.

Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, a Hawaiian activist and community organizer for the bank, said the group hopes to raise local awareness of socially responsible investments during the three-day seminar at the Capitol that ends tomorrow.

"The thing we're trying to bring to Hawaii is the awareness of what we're doing when we invest," said Kanahele, a member of the Native Hawaiian Advisory Council, co-sponsor of the event.

Kanahele said the bank would try to make environmentally friendly and socially acceptable investments and not invest, for example, in a lumber company that was destroying rain forests, wiping out native tribes and displacing people.

In 1999, about $1 of every $8 of investments under professional management -- about $2 trillion -- was directed toward socially responsible investments, which has its roots in the colonial era when abolitionist Quakers refused to invest in any business associated with slavery.

Organizers hope to attract such capital for Bank Aloha from Hawaii's public and private trusts, the state's labor union pension funds and others investors.

Council member Elizabeth Hooipo Pa Martin said the goal is to get the Hawaiian trust assets -- the Alii trusts such as Kamehameha Schools, as well as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs -- to eventually invest in Bank Aloha so it can be the economic engine for the Hawaiian community.

She said the effort, known as the Kuleana Waiwai Like project, is intended to assist Hawaiians from a position of economic dependency to economic independence.

Over time, Hawaiian Community Assets Inc. hopes to develop a range of financial services through Bank Aloha, including home mortgages, venture capital, investment banking, trust services and a regulated depository institution.

It eventually plans to expand statewide to help Hawaiians and then to a broader Native American focus, according to its Web site: www.ruralisc.org/hca.htm.



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