Native Son

Banker Peter Ho finds business, personal success

Peter Ho likes to joke about the circumstances surrounding his coming back to Hawaii. “I had just gotten my MBA from Southern Cal and I was debating about going back to New York City (where he had worked for four years) or returning to Hawaii,” Ho says. “Wall Street was not doing all that great and Hawaii was doing real well.”

So Ho chose to return to Hawaii, which was about to start a decade-long recession. Not that he’s complaining about the decision. But now he chuckles at the thought.

“I took a big loop from Hawaii to USC to New York to USC to Hawaii,” says Ho, 42, vice chairman and chief banking officer for Bank of Hawaii. “It was one of those weird things. It’s not what they thought it would be. But it’s turned out well for me.”

Has it ever. Hired as assistant vice president of Bank of Hawaii’s National Banking Group in 1993, Ho now manages the commercial banking operation that dispenses $2.5 billion in loans annually and an investment services area that has $10 billion in assets.

Bank of Hawaii is the largest independent bank in the state. Because it doesn’t have branches on the mainland, Ho and its other officers are committed to building the economy in Hawaii.

“We have a commitment to this marketplace because it’s our only marketplace,” says Ho, who has a four-month-old son with wife, Michelle. “What we’re all about is helping people build the state.

“The 21st century has been pretty good for us. We have the lowest unemployment (around 3 percent). We have a lot of construction. The residential market is robust. The commercial side is as hot as it has ever been.”

Ho is more than an executive with Bank of Hawaii. His commitment to the island goes deeper than his position at a bank that is quite active in charitable activities.

Ho is a member of Hawaii Community Foundation, the largest foundation in the state. HCF administers charitable contributions of private individuals and gives away millions of dollars a year. It “helps make a difference by inspiring the spirit of giving and by investing in people and solutions to benefit every island community,” according to HCF’s mission statement.

Additionally, Ho provides free financial oversight and expertise to Food Bank and the American Red Cross.

“I do a lot of fund-raising, get to know a lot of people and ask people to help out,” Ho says. “It’s a nice thing.”

He is a trustee for Hawaii Pacific University, active as a fund-raiser. Ho is treasurer of the Oceanic Institute, which is affiliated with HPU.

He is a board member at Hanahauoli School, a private elementary school he and his wife both attended. He also helps raise funds for Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, the only acute care medical rehabilitation hospital serving both Hawaii and the Pacific.

Peter and Michelle Ho are board members of the GIFT Foundation of Hawaii, founded locally several years ago by young business people who are their contemporaries. The GIFT Foundation raises money for smaller charitable organizations and also helps to promote philanthropy to younger adults. Last year’s GIFT Foundation Halloween party raised $150,000.

“Sense of community,” is Peter Ho’s answer when asked how he is able to juggle work and his extracurricular activities. “We’re a pretty small island community. What comes along with that is a sense of we’re-all-in-this-together. We have to take care of each other. It’s the only way we can prosper.”

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