Aloha Pacific Federal Credit Union mourns the passing of Wallace Watanabe

on "September 04, 2020 10:03 am"

Longtime former President and CEO of APFCU died Wednesday, September 2.

Wallace Watanabe: Four decades of accomplishments

  • Was the second CEO of the credit union, having been mentored by CEO Masami Oishi
  • Instrumental in promoting shared branching to Hawaii’s credit unions
  • Introduced Kalabash ATM network, an affordable option to offer more ATMs to their members 
  • Introduced remote teller system, biometric safe deposit boxes, financial planning, and auto dealer center
  • Promoted financial education and thrift for younger members with Keiki Kala
  • Instrumental in building the credit union’s main branch at 832 S Hotel Street and 10 branches that followed over the years, including one in Las Vegas
  • Help smaller CUs with win-win arrangements offering both technical and financial services. Created CUSO of Hawaii to help credit unions process and service mortgage loans.
  • Created the City Credit Union Center in Kalihi which at one time housed many small credit unions.
  • Assisted with small credit unions with mergers and welcomed their members – Inter Island FCU, First Insurance FCU, Media Hawaii FCU, Word of Life FCU, and Hawaii Stevedores Castle and Cooke FCU.

Wallace Watanabe photo
The credit union movement in Hawaii lost a true leader with the death of Wallace Watanabe. Starting off as a loan officer at what was known as Honolulu City & County Employees FCU in 1972, Watanabe became President and CEO in 1992 after the retirement of Masami Oishi. He was just the second CEO to lead the credit union, which became known as Aloha Pacific FCU. Watanabe retired in April 2013, having served for more than 40 years. He was a friend and mentor to many current and former employees – and credit union members – who were inspired by his generosity and commitment to the credit union movement and the community.

Under his leadership, APFCU experienced record growth, adding branches in Oahu neighborhoods including Kailua, Kaimuki, Kapolei, Waikele, Waimalu, and the business district on Fort Street.

In 2010 he and APFCU boldly reached out to Las Vegas, “the ninth island,” with a branch in the Summerlin neighborhood. In 2016 the branch moved to Henderson and continues to be the only Las Vegas branch of a Hawaii-based financial institution. He was also instrumental in the building of APFCU’s Main branch on South Hotel Street.

“His legacy lives on,” said Vince Otsuka, who became APFCU’s President & CEO in 2013 after Watanabe’s retirement. “In addition to leading our credit union, he was a leader in the credit union movement in Hawaii.”

Among his achievements, Watanabe was one of the founders of the shared branching system and introduced the Kalabash ATM network (now renamed Aloha Pacific) as a less costly ATM option for credit union members. He created CUSO of Hawaii Services LLC to help credit unions process and service mortgage loans; and APFCU realty and financial planning divisions. In addition, he helped smaller credit unions by offering technical and financial services and created the City Credit Union Center in Kalihi, which housed a number of smaller credit unions.

In 1975 Watanabe graduated from Western CUNA Management School, a three-year college-level credit union management program. He served on the Hawaii Credit Union League board of directors from May 2004 to April 2011 and as chairman from April 2009 to April 2011. He was named Hawaii Credit Union League Professional of the Year in 2001 and was described as a “defender of credit union ideals” and a “best friend to all who know him.”