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TBAS success becoming a hot topic in the US

Washington Post calls it a solution that nobody has used in 100 years


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Successful efforts by the government and Territorial Bank of American Samoa officials to establish a locally based non federally insured bank has already attracted attention from some US areas and at least two European jurisdictions.

The success has also captured the attention of the Washington Post newspaper, with a May 9th story, headlined, “When banks abandoned American Samoa, the islands found a solution nobody had used in a century.”

As previously reported by Samoa News, the TBAS, which opened its door on Oct. 3, 2016, is a charter bank, similar to the only other charter bank in the US — located in North Dakota.

Trade publication, American Bankers, in an Apr. 30th story on TBAS reported that the only type of public bank like this that's still operating in the US is the Bank of North Dakota, which was created a century ago. Additionally, states like New Jersey and cities like Seattle and San Francisco are receptive to the idea of forming these new types of banks as a way to help their local economies.

Despite not being an FDIC insured bank, and against all odds, not to mention the number of local skeptics of TBAS being able to provide full banking services, the financial institution last December secured a transit routing number, and got approval from the Federal Reserve to open a Master Account, which gives TBAS access to the US payment system used by US financial institutions.

And late last month, the master account was activated, allowing TBAS to start expanding its banking services.

The Washington Post “recognized what a big deal it is on what we accomplished,” TBAS president Philip Ware said early this week during a Samoa News interview along with TBAS chief operations officer, Makerita Polu.

“…And this is a bank, in the South Pacific. And this was big enough of a deal to the Washington Post,” he said adding that it was a Post reporter who contacted TBAS about a story.

Polu said “we didn’t contact them,” the Post reporter contacted us.

Both Ware and Polu say TBAS continues to get attention from other US jurisdictions on how the bank was able to accomplish this. Polu said she has received inquiries from at least two jurisdictions in Europe.

“They [in Europe] wanted to know how it was done, what challenges we face and what positives we came across. They'd like to ‘mirror’ how we were able to get this done,” Polu shared.

Ware added, “We’re getting world attention.”

Asked for a reaction and how he feels about what TBAS has accomplished, Ware said he has been so busy working in the US with the feds and others to move the bank forward, that “it didn’t hit me, until I read it in the Washington Post story.”

He said, "We continue to work with the Federal Reserve Bank” at this time, when asked about a US correspondent bank working with TBAS.

“We will work with other vendors and banks to gain their confidence now that we have the routing number and the fed account. And we will start adding other services in the future, such as wire transfer, foreign exchange,” he continued. “We’ve got more things down the road.”

According to Ware, it’s “a huge deal” that TBAS is now able to access the US payment system and it's something “not to be taken lightly.”

And when Bank of Hawaii leaves American Samoa, “We will be the only US bank in the South Pacific to have access to the payment system,” said Polu.