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American Savings Bank Receives Exceptional Community Bank Service Award

ASB September 01, 2023 | 5 MIN read Personal

Content written by Independent Banker

There’s a word in Hawaiian—kahiau—that means to give generously without expecting anything in return, and American Savings Bank (ASB), a financial institution with an almost century-long history of community support in Hawaii, exemplifies that spirit perfectly.

With roots stretching back to 1925 and 38 branches across the Hawaiian Islands, ASB is one of the state’s leading financial institutions. Yet the Honolulu-based bank’s focus, says president and CEO Ann Teranishi, is firmly on its community.    

Recognized as one of the best places to work by Hawaii Business Magazine for over a decade now, ASB has also been lauded by Fortune for its inclusivity, and it has a deep commitment to community service. “We understand that bringing real impact to our community means more than just giving financially,” Teranishi explains. “It also requires year-round commitment of our time, ‘sweat equity,’ best ideas and leadership to support our focus areas.”     

These areas are improving education, strengthening communities and underserved families, promoting economic vitality by fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and increasing access to affordable housing. In recent years, another major goal of the community bank has been the revitalization of ‘A’ala Park in Kalihi-Palama, the neighborhood that’s home to the ASB Campus, an 11-story office space that has served as the bank’s homebase since 2019.

Supporting the underserved

To fund these goals, ASB initiated the Kahiau Giving Campaign in 2011, an employee workplace giving program named after that concept of selfless generosity. As Teranishi explains, “We decided we wanted to support more organizations in a meaningful way and get teammates more engaged in bringing real impact to our community. Rather than holding a handful of small fundraisers throughout the year, we decided to do one big splash effort.”     

The program helps underserved communities through five nonprofit partners: Child & Family Service, Kapiolani Health Foundation, Kupu, Partners in Development Foundation, and United Way Chapters throughout Hawaii. “We specifically selected these five Kahiau partners because their mission and values are aligned with our own,” Teranishi says, “and because the support they provide to our community is critical to improving the health and well-being of our state.”     

Each year, ASB invites all 1,100 of its employees to donate, and it matches those donations up to $150,000. Since it was first set up, the program has collected nearly $3 million in donations for the community. In 2021 alone, it raised more than $360,000.

“We begin each annual campaign with a fun celebration,” says Teranishi, “starting with our executive leadership team decked out in costumes greeting teammates as they arrive to work, followed by silly videos and posters of our leaders, snacks, photo booths, a virtual donor’s wall of fame and certificates for participants.     

“Our teammates love a bit of friendly competition, so we turn our Kahiau Giving Campaign into a fun challenge by dividing teammates into four teams to see who will be the first to reach 100% participation,” she adds. “By engaging everyone in fun and meaningful ways and having our leadership team be the champions of this program, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in participation, from 46% to 97%.”     

Throughout the year, employees are encouraged to support the same partners through the bank’s Seeds of Service program, which is where the sweat equity comes in. The ASB team has clocked up nearly 100,000 volunteer hours to date on projects that include landscaping, painting, meal preparation and teaching financial literacy at schools.

The community bank’s Community Advancement team keeps up with its partners to make sure it’s aware of new programs and initiatives—a fact that helped ASB scale up its efforts when the pandemic hit. In 2020, it donated $25,000 to local food banks, partnered with Child & Family Service to give out PPE supplies, groceries and hot meals to more than 400 families in Chinatown, and collaborated with Pint Size Hawaii and Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts to distribute ice cream to healthcare workers. The following year, the community bank gave out cash prizes as part of Hawaii’s vaccination drive and partnered with a local healthcare provider to host free vaccination clinics for the underserved.

ASB Banker

ASB team members contributed to the bank’s Seeds of Service program, tallying nearly 100,000 volunteer hours.

A focus on conservation

One of ASB’s key partners is Kupu, a nonprofit founded in 2007 to empower local youth to serve their communities and conserve the environment. Since its inception, Kupu has worked with more than 5,000 young adults, planted a million native plants and removed more than 100,000 acres of invasive species. It also set up a culinary program, teaching food preparation using sustainable resources.     

ASB has worked with Kupu for a decade. In 2021, it helped the nonprofit secure a Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines’ Strong Communities Award for $15,000 to address the effects of the pandemic on the local economy. ASB also partnered with Kupu to set up a food truck in Honolulu from which culinary students serve healthy food using locally grown produce. The bank most recently donated $5,000 to Kupu’s 2022 Environmental Fair, an annual event that promotes community engagement and career opportunities for youth and young adults.     

Kepa Barrett, a Kupu alumnus who now serves as its external affairs officer, remembers sitting on Moa’ula Iki, the second highest peak on the island of Kaho’olawe, during Kupu’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps summer program in 2011. “I’ll never forget what I saw that day: a 180-degree view of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai and Hawaii Island scattered across a 200-mile expanse of the Pacific,” Barrett says.     

“I could feel my kupuna speaking over me that day,” he says, referring to the spirit of an honored elder, “telling me it was my kuleana [responsibility or privilege] to protect and preserve our land—our ‘āina. The support that American Savings Bank gives to Kupu provides opportunities like this for other youth and young adults to gain a different perspective on how they can give back to their community here in Hawaii. We could not serve Hawaii’s community the way we do without the support of ASB, and we are deeply honored to partner with them.”

Teranishi believes that involvement with nonprofits like Kupu also empowers the bank’s employees, giving them leadership opportunities, encouraging teamwork and allowing them to forge connections at work and within the community.     

“As much as we are grateful for the opportunities to support our community in various ways,” she says, “we gain just as much in return. Giving is truly a win-win situation for everyone, and we are so proud of our teammates’ commitment to take care of our customers, community and each other.”

Reference: https://www.independentbanker.org/article/2023/08/31/icba's-2022-national-community-bank-service-award-winners

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