to close down-
Technology hasBy Peter Wagner
negated the need for the
Bishop Street site
Boston-based Fidelity Investments will close its Honolulu office on Feb. 26, responding to the heavy use of telephones and computers to make transactions.
"One of the things we found at our Honolulu branch is that our customers are not necessarily in Honolulu," said communications manager Cari Kaye. "They are spread out among the islands and most of them are doing transactions by phone or our computer Web site."
The company's seven Honolulu employees have been offered jobs elsewhere in Fidelity's network of 78 Investor Centers, Kaye said.
Fidelity, the largest mutual fund company in the United States and one of the biggest discount brokerage firms, is closing another branch, in Durham, N.C. this year for similar reasons.
"Like any other company, we have to evaluate our branches to see if they are running efficiently and make good business sense," Kaye said.
Fidelity, which opened its only Hawaii office in Honolulu in 1991, has $694.9 billion invested in 274 funds for more than 12 million shareholders.
One of them, Alan Marugaki of Mililani, was surprised to hear of the planned closing through another brokerage firm.
"It's not going to cause me to close my accounts," he said. "I have a computer and I can use the telephone. But I'm disappointed."
Marugaki said he and his wife had a relationship with their agent and prefer personal service to an electronic device.
Fidelity plans to send a letter tomorrow to Hawaii clients explaining and apologizing for the move. "While we understand that some investors use the Honolulu location as a resource, the location has not proved convenient for many Fidelity customers living in the broad geographic area," says Executive Vice President J. Peter Benzie in the letter.
He invited customers to call Fidelity's toll-free number (1-800-544-8666), or tap its online services, at www.fidelity.com
Kaye said the closings are not a move away from personal service. She notes that while Fidelity closed one location last year and is closing two this year, the company plans to open a new office at an undisclosed location this year.
But there's no denying the increased reliance on computers among clients. According to Kaye, 60 percent of Fidelity clients used its Web page this year compared with 10 percent last year.