Japan tour firm, 2 local banks
eye promotion differently

F-Ness Corp. of Osaka is pitching
isle tours to open bank accounts;
the banks say they're not
working in cooperation

By Tim Ruel

For $2,500, a Japanese visitor can fly to Hawaii, stay at a nice hotel for five days, and get ringside seats to an interesting disagreement between a tour firm and two big local banks.

The tour company, run by F-Ness Corp. of Osaka, Japan, is promoting Hawaii as a place for Japanese tourists to open a U.S. bank account. The pitch: better interest rates than are available at Japanese banks, which pay next to no interest. The firm has announced it is selling isle tour packages in cooperation with Bank of Hawaii and Central Pacific Bank, starting this month.

Trouble is, both banks said they never formally agreed to such a promotion, and reacted with surprise yesterday when told of the announcement. Both banks said they were approached by the tour firm, but nothing was put in writing.

"They didn't tell us that it's a cooperative deal with us and CPB. They just asked us if it would be OK to bring people," said Alton T. Kuioka, Bank of Hawaii vice chairman.

"I think we'll definitely look into it with the appropriate managers," said Kim Komo, marketing manager of Central Pacific Bank.

In an e-mail from F-Ness, a company spokesman insisted that one of its affiliates has a cooperative agreement.

Bank of Hawaii and Central Pacific Bank have long been offering bank accounts to Japanese visitors as a part of their business.

Both have branches in Waikiki with employees who speak Japanese.

The business makes up a small part of Bank of Hawaii's total deposits, which were $6.6 billion as of Sept. 30, according to Kuioka and the bank's recent financial statement.

While the Bank of Hawaii is bothered by the promotion, it is not bothered by the prospect of new business, Kuioka said.

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