Look for the lei.

For the last two months Bank of Hawaii has been instructing its customers to do just that, through a radio and print advertising campaign highlighting a new service offered at 80 of its branches.

The Honolulu-based bank has placed representatives called "BranchConcierges" near the doors of its branches. These employees direct customers who ask for special services, like home loans, and they help with simple requests, such as for account information. On a particularly Hawaiian note, the concierges can be identified by a lei - the traditional necklace associated with the island state.

Bank of Hawaii is almost one year into a restructuring program at the heart of which is a strategy to make sure that individual branches meet the needs of their micro-communities. The BranchConcierge campaign started as one of those branch initiatives.

Bank of Hawaii, the flagship operation of $14 billion Pacific Century Financial Corp., is certainly not the first to introduce a concierge role to its branches. In one of the latest examples, Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc. this year made room for a special concierge desk and staff to meet customers at its newly designed "Occasio" branches in Nevada and Arizona.

And for the last few years, New York-based Citgroup Inc. has been placing employees at the front of its U.S. branches to greet and direct customers.

Bank of Hawaii's embracing the branch concierge function is just one more sign that financial institutions, after years of emphasizing other, often electronic, services over branches, are again trying to make the most out of their brick-and-mortar.

"We've gone through a decade-long period of people saying how awful the branches were, how expensive they were," remarked Peter Carroll, a managing director in the consumer financial services group at Oliver, Wyman & Co. "Now there's something of a wave of banks saying that [branches] didn't go away, and looking at how we can go back to what we did before."

Originally, employees were simply designated as greeters at the door of the branches. Lori McCarney, Bank of Hawaii's director of marketing, said she suggested the bank elevate the role to one that includes some transaction work, as well as teaching incoming customers about some of the automated services provided by the bank, such as online banking.

The staff member who takes the concierge role typically is one of the more senior branch workers and has some operational and sales experience.

And to draw customers' attention to the service, the bank decided to brand it. Hence, the leis.

"We wanted something that was gender-neutral," Ms. McCarney said. The bank was "struggling to pick some kind of shirt or jacket."

The lei seemed most suitable. Bank of Hawaii didn't choose the typical flower ornaments sported by both tourists and natives in the islands. Instead its concierges wear a lei made out of polished kukui-nuts, which once provided fuel for lighting.

The bank has regularly used references to "light" in marketing its New Era design program to customers and employees, so it took up the kukui-nut's origins as a central theme in the BranchConcierge campaign.

Both radio and print campaigns describe the kukui-nut's previous place in Hawaiian culture and how that ties into the concierge role. The word "kukui" meant leader or guide, the bank explains.

Eager to emphasize its local connection, Bank of Hawaii found a local manufacturer of leis on the big island of Hawaii, rather than using Asian manufacturers, to supply roughly roughly 100 leis.

While other banks have used concierges in the past, "I don't think it has been embraced by industry and been supported - no one has really focused on it," Ms. McCarney said.

Part of the draw of the gimmick, she acknowledged, was durability - unlike flowers, kukui-nuts don't wilt at the end of the day.

Of course, not everyone is buying it.

On a message board for would-be investors to talk about Bank of Hawaii's stock, one person claiming to be a customer wrote that "when customers are standing in line they look at the BranchConcierge wishing the extra person was behind the teller line."

Hearing the radio commercial, "the frustration just increases."

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