INSIDE HAWAII INC.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Naalei Keaunui says she got into financial consulting to teach herself and her family about money. She was recently promoted to assistant vice president and financial consultant for American Savings Bank.
Financial adviser keeps customers in the money
American Savings' Keaunui provides framework for dreams to be realized
Question: What was your first job?
Answer: My first job was when I was 14. That was at Waimanalo public and school library. I was a student helper. I loved to read and I used to hang out at the library a lot. They needed help, a student helper, and since I was there a lot, they asked "why not just work here" and so I did.
» Promotion: American Savings Bank has promoted Naalei Keaunui to assistant vice president and financial consultant. She will be responsible for assisting bank customers in achieving their retirement and financial goals.
» Job history: She has worked for the bank for more than five years and is pursuing her Certified Financial Planner designation. She previously worked at the former Honolulu Federal Savings and Loan, a predecessor to American Savings, as well as for American Express Financial Advisors.
» Background: Keaunui lives in Waimanalo.
What brought you into banking?
A: I actually got into banking in 1988 and the reason why I did it was because I was looking for a Monday-through-Friday kind of job.
In a job I had previous to that, my schedule could change on a weekly basis because it was retail.
I worked for Honolulu Federal Savings & Loan, which eventually changed to HonFed bank. I started out as a customer-service representative and eventually became customer sales and service representative.
And then I found a job closer to home, two miles down the road, with Unisyn. I was there for nine years.
I got back into the financial industry with American Express Financial Advisors. They hired me and sponsored me to get my licenses. I stayed with them for a couple years, to the end of 2000, then I joined the bank.
Q: Becoming a financial adviser was your career goal?
A: I love my job. I think it's one of the best jobs in the world because I enjoy working with people and I love working with numbers.
I did a lot of numbers work for Unisyn. I was right below the general manager so I helped to run that business.
Q: What's your job description?
A: As a financial consultant, I help the bank customer to achieve their goals and dreams through the use of insurance and investment products and that's my primary job duty.
Becoming assistant vice president enables me to be part of an advisory committee for the bank within the financial services group ... to determine how we can operate more efficiently, if we can bring on new products, delete old products, and if there are any challenges we can overcome.
Q: How does the bank charge for financial advice?
A: There are actually no fees for our services. When I was at American Express we charged a flat-rate fee for our service, a one-time, lump-sum annual fee. Here at the bank they don't charge fees for our services. So I tell the customers pick our brains because we're not charging them for our time.
It's to retain customers. We want to offer them options to keep their business.
Q: So a customer does not need a certain amount of investments to get advice?
A: That's the nice thing. A lot of times when you work with a firm ... of course they want you to sell their proprietary products. Whereas here at the bank, we're the middleman between the customer and the investment company.
All the products and services we offer are nonproprietary. We're not just trying to push one product on them because we don't own any of them.
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I'm unique because I'm very grounded.
I come from a single-parent home, so I didn't have a lot when I was growing up. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy.
A lot of people work and try to promote themselves because they have a lot of material things they want to achieve in life. For me, because I came from a low-income family, I know what it's like to go without.
And it's because of my church, too. I was a raised in Kawaiahao Church as a young girl. The first time I went to the mainland was because of the church, to sing and perform hula. Today I belong to Hope Chapel in Kailua. I'm just a country girl in Waimanalo.
A lot of people get amazed when they realize my history. I know what it's like not to have certain things. I know what it's like not to have food on the table.
Q: What financial problems do you encounter most with your customers?
A: The most common is people start too late and they save too little.
A lot of people think that Social Security will be there to fund their retirement but that's not what Social Security was intended for.
It's just really unfortunate in today's society a lot of big corporations are doing away with employer-sponsored retirement plans, so it's more important for people to start saving on their own.
I became a consultant to educate myself and my family because I came from very little.
Who better to teach me than myself?
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