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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 18, 2010

A leaner bank is better than no bank

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ron Migita

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The departure of Ron Migita from the top job at Central Pacific Bank closes another difficult chapter in the bank's three-year effort to rebuild itself after its disastrous misadventures in California real estate.

Bringing the respected executive out of retirement in August 2008 soothed the nerves of anxious customers, who stuck with the bank even as its losses piled up and its stock price plummeted. But Migita was never seen as the leader who was going to be able to pull off the painful, top-to-bottom renovation that Hawai'i's fourth largest bank will need to succeed.

California turnaround expert John Dean was brought in this week to take over the bank, and by the time he's finished, Central Pacific will have fewer assets and probably fewer branches and employees. That's OK. Better a smaller, stronger CPB than no CPB.

Hawai'i remains one of the most "underbanked" states in the nation, with a relatively small number of financial institutions competing for business and a relatively high number of households with no accounts or limited access to banks.

First Hawaiian Bank and Bank of Hawaii dominate the state's financial industry, controlling 61 percent of the market in 2009, up from 59 percent in 2008, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

At 14 percent, Central Pacific Bank remains an important player and a competitive one, offering attractive deposit rates that have helped keep its customer base strong and giving consumers another choice. Despite its troubles, the bank has continued to aggressively market its services to businesses and individuals.

Central Pacific's board, management and employees will be living for years with the embarrassing consequences of the bank's overreaching in the mid-2000s. We're hopeful that under new leadership the bank will regain the confidence of regulators, customers and shareholders and remain a fixture of the Hawai'i financial community.