KOLOA — Koloa Federal Credit Union members are deciding the fate of their bank with a vote to be released this week.
The vote deciding a possible merger with Garden Island Federal Credit Union was discussed Wednesday at Koloa Elementary School. Approximately 25 Koloa FCU members showed up for a meeting with staff and board members.
“Staff will not be removed and the Koloa office will still be open,” said Ralph Fujinaka, interim manager of the Koloa FCU. “Koloa would still open for banking.”
Fujinaka said new regulations require credit unions to hire a full-time manager. Although he retired recently, it has not been possible to replace him due to decreased assets from bad loans caused by unemployment and a bad economy, he said.
“Resources have been stretched to the maximum,” Fujinaka said.
“Unfortunately, this is a trend right now with small credit unions not being able to survive in this
Juliette Souza, a Koloa FCU board member, said that other island credit unions presented offers for a merger, and that Garden Island FCU was not the biggest.
“We listened to them all and the Garden Island FCU package was more favorable for Koloa,” Souza said. “Everybody wanted in but theirs was the best package.”
Garden Island FCU President Keith Uyeno returned a call from The Garden Island but was unable to provide comment in time for this article.
The Koloa Federal Credit Union currently has 2,716 members and $17,149,005 in assets, according to Fujinaka. The Garden Island FCU has 5,758 members with assets of $71,669.357.
The two institutions are small when compared to other island banks and credit unions, he said. They are stronger together and Koloa FCU can survive when that may not be possible on its own, he said.
Members asked for details about how the smaller Koloa FCU would be absorbed into the larger Garden Island FCU. Staff replied that members would have a new Lihu‘e branch for banking, expanded hours and more ATM outlets.
Koloa FCU would likely become Garden Island FCU — Koloa branch, said Fujinaka. The shares would move but would still be insured, or if in excess of FDIC limits, could be withdrawn at any time.
Members posed many questions about changes to services and account numbers that would change for checking, savings and online banking.
Fujinaka said the credit unions operate with different banking systems, and that the transition would take some time. For the next several months there will growing pains and all kinds of questions, and he asked that members trust that the Garden Island FCU board will do their best.
The members applauded Fujinaka for his hard work. He came out of retirement to serve as an interim bank manager and either oversee the merger or the transition to a new manager if possible.
Garden Island FCU has seven board members and when one completes a term it will be possible to appoint a Koloa member, Fujinaka said.
Among the five Koloa FCU board members present were Teresa Morita, Rowena Cobb and Craig Kaneshige.
Chona Parbo, a Koloa FCU teller, said that after looking at Garden Island FCU products and services, she felt there would be more to offer and that the change would benefit members.
Theryl Kashima, loan officer, said transitioning into a new banking system would take time to transition.
Other staff present included Aida Dolfo, bookkeeper, and Cheryl Kashina, loan officer.
Koloa FCU was established in 1937 and is entering its 75th year. Garden Island FCU opened in 1938.
Karl and Catherine Lo of Po‘ipu said they have been with the Koloa FCU since the 1970s. It is important to them to have a local bank, as Karl’s father, So May Lo, was a banker with Bishop Bank of Hawai‘i in the first half of the 20th century.
“We believe the merger will be good for the Koloa community,” Catherine said.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.