Korean Banks Looking to Transform and Diversify



Korean banks across the United States are gearing up to kick start 2017. Through their New Year messages, presidents of Korean-American banks presented both short and long-term plans as the respective institutions began their operations this year.

Every bank shared one commonality as they started the New Year. As President-elect Donald Trump announced plans to give the financial sector a makeover, the U.S.-based Korean banks are preparing for some major changes to adjust to the shifting trends.

◇ Transformation
Bank of Hope, which transformed itself to the first ever Korean-American financial institution to become a super regional bank, is prioritizing transformation before anything else in 2017. After the merger and acquisition deal between BBCN and Wilshire Bank, Bank of Hope president Kevin Kim emphasized that changes from within is crucial for further growth.

“We are the 11th largest bank in California and 82nd in the entire country,” said Kim. “For a successful transformation, we need to restructure our organization from within.” Kim then added that laying out the foundation to build on will be an important task.

◇ Diversification
Hanmi Bank president Chong-guk Kum announced a five-year plan which he said is intended to be delivered to all of his employees in the coming weeks. The plan proposes Hanmi Bank to go beyond its traditional financial products to distinguish itself from other banks in Koreatown. Kum added that Hanmi Bank plans to utilize technology to improve communication with its customers.

“We are going to make an effort to make Hanmi Bank better,” Kum said. “That will eventually be a contribution towards making the Korean community better.”

◇ Preparation
Pacific City Bank expects 2017 to be a period of major changes. With that in mind, the bank’s president Hae-young Cho said preparation is the key to success in 2017 as prompt response to changes within the industry will be crucially important. Cho emphasized the notion that Pacific City Bank has grown collectively throughout the years and that the employees must continue to fulfill their respective duties.

◇ Expansion
CBB Bank is looking to expand further this year. The goal for CBB Bank is to expand its total assets to $1 billion by the end of 2017 with an aim to get it up to $2 billion by 2020. As a stepping stone, CBB Bank plans to open branches in Los Angeles Koreatown, Orange County and Dallas with an additional loan office. In 2018, CBB Bank is looking to tap into Houston as well.

“We’ve focused on establishing our brand until now,” said CBB Bank president Joanne Kim. “From now, we’re going to be more flexible and friendly when dealing with our customers for further growth of our bank.”

◇ Innovation
Uniti Bank’s key word for 2017 is innovation. Uniti Bank has been investing actively in its internet banking system. President Jack Choi announced that the bank plans to maintain its hands-on approach with further developing its online banking tools.

“We want to become a bank that enables customers to believe in every single employee at our branches,” Choi said. “We aim to continuously innovate and creative.”

By Sung Cheol Jin