Of all the of minority depository institutions (MDI) in the United States, the largest single group is composed of the 72 Asian or Pacific Islander American-owned banks. Collectively, these commercial banks and savings institutions amount to just one fewer than all the other MDIs combined.
The size and success of these banks say a lot about the growth of the Asian American community. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. and are expected to be the largest immigrant group in 50 years time.
- The nation’s 72 Asian or Pacific Islander American-owned banks are the largest single group of minority depository institutions (MDIs) by race.
- Six of the the top 10 banks have 51% or more of their voting stock owned by Asian and/or Pacific Islander American individuals;
- Four of the largest banks have a majority of Asian and/or Pacific Islander American directors on their boards and serve communities that are predominantly Asian and/or Pacific Islander American.
- For the 72 banks as a whole, the division is similar but more extreme: 61 in the voting-stock group and 11 in the majority-of-directors group.
- East West Bank is the largest Asian American-owned bank in the U.S., with $50.40 billion in total assets.
What Is a Minority Depository Institution?
As of 2020, there are 5,033 commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the United States. For the FDIC to classify one of them as an MDI, it must be “…a federal insured depository institution for which (1) 51 percent or more of the voting stock is owned by minority individuals; or (2) a majority of the board of directors is minority and the community that the institution serves is predominantly minority. Ownership must be by U.S. citizens or permanent legal U.S. residents to be counted in determining minority ownership.”
Of the 72 Asian or Pacific Islander American-owned banks, 61 fall into the first category and 11 into the second. Among the top 10 banks, six are category one institutions; Bank of Hope, Hanmi Bank, CTBC Bank Corp. (USA), and Royal Business Bank are category two.
For the purposes of this article—due to the already significant number of active banks—Asian American-owned and managed credit unions that serve the community have been excluded. Our list focuses on the 10 most successful Asian American-owned banks currently operating. The article uses the term “Asian American-owned” in a broad sense, recognizing that stockholders own for-profit banks.
Why Asian American-Owned Banks Are Important
Banks play a crucial role in most people’s financial lives. They offer checking and savings accounts for safely storing money, loans for both individual and business purposes, mortgages for real estate purchases, and credit cards. In short, banks provide essential tools for pursuing a career or just being able to function.
As already noted, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group. Financial institutions that work with, are operated by, and understand the unique economic situations of both native and foreign-born Asian Americans will naturally grow with them.
The Asian American population is diverse, with a range of personal and business needs. Asian workers have a higher weekly median income than White, Black, and Latinx individuals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Q3 of 2020.
But at the same time, income inequality is actually greatest among Asian American groups. According to the Pew Research Center, while income increased the most for higher-income Asian Americans between 1970–2016, it also increased the least for lower-income Asian Americans. All this provides a wide range of opportunities to serve banking requirements across the economic spectrum.
Top 10 Asian American-Owned Banks
The 10 biggest Asian American-owned banks have one thing in common: Each institution has at least one branch based in the state of California. The list below is organized according to total assets.
East West Bank
East West Bancorp is the publicly traded holding company of East West Bank, which is one of the biggest independent financial institutions based in Southern California. Founded in 1973, East West Bank was the first federally chartered savings institution to meet the financial needs of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles.
In addition to several branches throughout the United States, East West Bank also operates in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shantou, Shenzhen, and Xiamen. For the past 40 years, East West Bank has established partnerships with multiple nonprofit and community-based organizations in order to better aid underserved local communities.
- Branches of East West Bank: 125 locations worldwide
- ATMs of East West Bank: Any ATMs in the East West Bank, Allpoint, and MoneyPass networks
- States: California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Washington
- Services of East West Bank : Personal (checking, savings, etc.), business (collections and deposits, SBA loans, etc.), commercial (loans and lines of credit, commercial real estate, and industry expertise), and international banking (personal international banking, business international trade, and business international banking), in addition to wealth management services (investment services, future planning, and business planning)
- Assets of East West Bank: $50.40 billion
- Availability of East West Bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
Originally formed in 1962, Cathay Bank is the oldest operating U.S. bank founded by Chinese Americans. A subsidiary of Cathay General Bancorp, Cathay Bank first stepped outside of California with a representative office in Hong Kong in 1985 (which later became a branch) and a New York branch in 1990. Cathay Bank has since further expand to seven other states as well as Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei. Cathay Bank has been named one of the top 20 “Best Banks in America” by Forbes since 2016, was among the 100 biggest financial companies listed on the Nasdaq (based on market capitalization) in 2000, and the Cathay Bank Annual Charity Golf Tournament has raised over $1.7 million for nonprofits in Southern California since 1977.
- Branches of Cathay Bank: 65 locations worldwide
- ATMs of Cathay Bank: 53 ATMs, in addition to any ATMs in the PULSE Select and MoneyPass networks
- States: California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington
- Services of Cathay Bank: Personal (checking, savings, etc.), business (lending, credit cards, etc.), and international banking (foreign exchange services, foreign exchange market update, etc.), in addition to wealth management services (insurance, annuities, etc.)
- Assets of Cathay Bank: $19 billion
- Availability of Cathay Bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
Bank of Hope
A subsidiary of Hope Bancorp, Bank of Hope is both the first and currently the only super regional Korean American bank in the U.S. Bank of Hope was originally founded more than 37 years ago in Los Angeles, enabling it to provide financial services to the largest Korean American community in the nation. Additionally, Bank of Hope has distributed millions of dollars to students through its Hope Scholarship Foundation.
- Branches of Bank OF Hope: 66 locations across the U.S., in addition to a representative office in Seoul
- ATMs of Bank OF Hope: Any ATMs in the Bank of Hope, MoneyPass, and Allpoint networks
- States: Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington
- Services of Bank OF Hope: Personal (checking, savings and money market accounts, etc.) and business banking (certificates of deposits, business lending, etc.), in addition to wealth management services (financial planning, retirement planning, etc.)
- Assets of Bank OF Hope: $16.73 billion
- Availability of Bank OF Hope: Online and brick-and-mortar
Formed in Los Angeles in 1982, granting it the distinction of being the first Korean American bank, Hanmi Bank was founded to help Koreatown’s underserved immigrant community. Hanmi Bank offers a first-of-its-kind corporate social responsibility (CSR) program for its employees, known as the Hanmi Neighbor Volunteer Service Program, which is driven by individual work participation instead of corporate-organized events. Additionally, the bank’s Hanmi Dream Scholarship for At-Risk Youth Program offers educational support to students; primarily foster children and those from homes affected by domestic violence (though it is available for other at-risk youths, as well).
- Branches of hanmi bank: 36 locations across the U.S.
- ATMs of hanmi bank: Any ATM in the MoneyPass network
- States: California, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia
- Services of hanmi bank: Personal (checking, money market, and savings, etc.) and business banking (certificate of deposit, treasury management, etc.), in addition to loans (home loans, commercial lending, etc.)
- Assets of hanmi bank: $6.10 billion
- Availability of hanmi bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
Preferred Bank was founded in 1991; the bank’s initial offering was oversubscribed at $20.18 million, which was likely the largest formation of a state-chartered bank in California’s history. What distinguishes Preferred Bank from much of its competition is its specialization in servicing multiple market niches, such as middle market businesses (manufacturing, service, and distribution companies) and international market businesses (importers and exporters).
- Branches of Preferred Bank: San Gabriel Valley Regional Office (Alhambra, Calif.), Arcadia Branch (Arcadia, Calif.), City of Industry Branch (City of Industry, Calif.), Diamond Bar Branch (Diamond Bar, Calif.), Irvine Branch (Irvine, Calif.), Los Angeles Main Office (Los Angeles, Calif.), Pico Rivera Branch (Pico Rivera, Calif.), West Los Angeles (Los Angeles, Calif.), Richmond Branch (San Francisco, Calif.), San Francisco Regional Office (San Francisco, Calif.), San Fernando Valley Regional Office (Tarzana, Calif.), South Bay Regional Office (Torrance, Calif.), and Flushing Office (Flushing, N.Y.)
- ATMs of Preferred Bank: N/A
- States: California and New York
- Services of Preferred Bank: Personal (checking, savings, and CDs, etc.), business (real estate and construction loans, trade finance loans and services), and commercial banking (cash vault services, ACH origination, etc.)
- Assets of Preferred Bank: $5.09 billion
- Availability of Preferred Bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
CTBC Bank Corp. (USA)
CTBC Bank was founded as China Trust Bank of New York (CTBNY) in 1989. The parent company, China Trust Holdings Corp. (now CTBC Financial Holding), acquired the Californian Trans National Bank in 1995 and renamed it the China Trust Bank of California (CTBCA), making it one of the first Asian American banks to operate on both the east and west coasts. Just two years later, CTBNY and CTBCA merged to become the Chinatrust Bank (U.S.A.). Then in 2001, Chinatrust Commercial Bank, Taiwan acquired Chinatrust Bank (U.S.A.). Finally, after becoming the first Chinese bank in the U.S. to launch a mobile banking app in 2012, the bank changed its name in 2013 to the current CTBC Bank. Additionally, in 2014, CTBC Bank merged with Tokyo Star Bank, marking the first merger of a Japanese bank with a foreign-owned one.
- Branches of CTBC Bank: “150 domestic branches and 110 overseas outlets”
- ATMs of CTBC Bank: Any ATMs in the CTBC Bank and Allpoint networks
- States: California and New York
- Services of CTBC Bank: Personal (deposits, consumer loans & lines, and wealth management) and business banking (commercial real estate financing, small business financing, etc.)
- Assets of CTBC Bank: $4.18 billion
- Availability of CTBC Bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
Royal Business Bank
Having first opened in Los Angeles in 2008, Royal Business Bank is the youngest financial institution on this list. Over the years, Royal Business Bank has acquired multiple additional branches and earned several accolades, including a “Super Premier” status from Findley Reports in 2014, the Giraffe award from the National Asian American Coalition, as well as placing third in S&P Global Market Intelligence’s ranking of top-performing community banks with assets between $1 billion–$10 billion in 2016, and placing second in the same S&P Global Market Intelligence ranking the following year. Also in 2016, parent company RBB Bancorp listed its common stock on the NASDAQ.
- Branches of Royal Business Bank: Arcadia Branch (Arcadia, Calif.), Buena Park – Operation Center (Buena Park, Calif.), Cerritos Branch (Cerritos, Calif.), Diamond Bar Branch (Diamond Bar, Calif.), Irvine (Irvine, Calif.), Los Angeles Downtown Headquarters (Los Angeles, Calif.), Silverlake (Los Angeles, Calif.), Monterey Park Branch (Monterey Park, Calif.), Oxnard Branch (Oxnard, Calif.), Rowland Heights (Rowland Heights, Calif.), San Gabriel Branch (San Gabriel, Calif.), Westlake Village Branch (Thousand Oaks, Calif), Torrance Branch (Torrance, Calif.), Bridgeport (Chicago, Ill.), Chicago Main (Chicago, Ill.), Chinatown Square (Chicago, Ill.), Spring Mountain Branch (Las Vegas, Nev.), 59th Street Branch (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Brooklyn Main/Management Group (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Elmhurst Branch (Elmhurst, N.Y.), Flushing Center Branch (Flushing, N.Y.), Flushing South Branch (Flushing, N.Y.), Roosevelt (Flushing, N.Y.), and Bowery Branch (New York, N.Y.)
- ATMs: “Available at most branches”
- States: California, Illinois, Nevada, and New York
- Services of Royal Business Bank: Personal (personal loans and deposits), business (business loans and deposits), and international banking, in addition to cash management services
- Assets of Royal Business Bank: $3.36 billion
- Availability of Royal Business Bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
Bank of Guam
Founded in 1972, the history of “The People’s Bank” is filled with humanitarian work; in the earliest example of which, when Typhoon Pamela hit in 1976, the bank provided emergency loans for home repairs, more than $5 million in disaster food stamps, and a $5 million loan to the Government of Guam to assist in typhoon relief. By 1980, Bank of Guam had grown into one of the major financial institutions in the Western Pacific. In 2000, Bank of Guam became the first local company to be listed on the Pacific Stock Exchange. Bank of Guam has also earned several awards; most notably, between 2006–08, it was inducted into the Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame and received three American Bankers Association Financial Marketing Awards. BankGuam Holding, the parent company, was formed in 2011.
- Branches of Gaum Bank: Chuuk Branch (Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia), Kosrae Branch (Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia), Pohnpei Branch (Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia), Yap Branch (Yap, Federated States of Micronesia), Andersen AFB Branch (AAFB Yigo, Guam), Dededo Branch (Dededo, Guam), Harmon Branch (Dededo, Guam), Hagatna Branch (Hagatna, Guam), Mangilao Branch (Mangilao, Guam), Tamuning (Tamuning, Guam), Upper Tumon Branch (Upper Tumon, Guam), U.S. Naval Base Branch (Santa Rita, Guam), Yigo Branch (Yigo, Guam), Rota Branch (Rota, Northern Mariana Islands), Chalan Piao Branch (Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands), Garapan Branch (Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands), Tinian Facility (Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands), Palau Branch (Palau), Majuro Branch (Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands), and San Francisco Branch (San Francisco, Calif.)
- ATMs: 78 locations worldwide
- States: California
- Services: Personal (checking, savings, and CDs, etc.) and business (loans and credit cards, merchant services, etc.) banking, in addition to insurance and investments services
- Assets: $2.37 billion
- Availability: Online and brick-and-mortar
Originally founded in 2005, primarily by first generation immigrants, First Choice Bank had become a leading provider of financial services to smaller, ethnic communities by 2010. First Choice Bank is also actively engaged in community service, including hosting an Annual Charity Golf Tournament; in 2019, the bank made a record high donation to 18 local nonprofits as part of the tournament. During that same year, the bank was ranked as the 43rd largest one in California, fourth in the nation in SBA International Trade Loans, and 42nd in S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Top 100 Community Banks under $3 billion.
- Branches of First Choice Bank: Alhambra Branch (Alhambra, Calif.), Anaheim Branch (Anaheim, Calif.), Carlsbad Branch (Carlsbad, Calif.), Cerritos Branch (Cerritos, Calif.), Cerritos Headquarters Office (Cerritos, Calif.), Chula Vista Branch (Chula Vista, Calif.), Manhattan Beach Office LPO (El Segundo, Calif.), 6th and Figueroa Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), West Los Angeles Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Pasadena Branch (Pasadena, Calif.), Rowland Heights Branch (Rowland Heights, Calif.), and San Diego Office LPO (San Diego, Calif.)
- ATMs of First Choice Bank: N/A
- States: California
- Services of First Choice Bank : Personal (CDs, personal deposit accounts, Zelle mobile payment service) and business (property management accounts, merchant services, etc.) banking, in addition to loans (commercial loans, (SBA) guarantee loans, etc.)
- Assets of First Choice Bank : $2.26 billion
- Availability of First Choice Bank: Online and brick-and-mortar
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Pacific City Bank
Pacific City Bank was founded in 2003 as a California state chartered bank to serve as a community financial organization focused on Korean Americans in the greater Los Angeles area. Its founders were a group with substantial community banking experience and ties to the local business communities. Four years later, PCB Bancorp became the new parent company of Pacific City Bank. Pacific Bank also employs local business leaders to work with local community leaders on financial services and diversified business models.
- Branches: Cerritos Branch (Artesia, Calif.), Buena Park Branch (Buena Park, Calif.), Fullerton (Buena Park, Calif.), Irvine Branch (Irvine, Calif.), Downtown Fashion District Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Headquarters (Los Angeles, Calif.), Little Tokyo Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Olympic Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Rowland Heights Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Western Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Wilshire Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Torrance Branch (Torrance, Calif.), Englewood Cliffs Branch (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), and Bayside Branch (Bayside, N.Y.)
- ATMs: Cerritos Branch (Artesia, Calif.), Buena Park Branch (Buena Park, Calif.), Fullerton (Buena Park, Calif.), Irvine Branch (Irvine, Calif.), Downtown Fashion District Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Headquarters (Los Angeles, Calif.), Little Tokyo Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Olympic Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Rowland Heights Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Western Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Wilshire Branch (Los Angeles, Calif.), Torrance Branch (Torrance, Calif.), Englewood Cliffs Branch (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), and Bayside Branch (Bayside, N.Y.), in addition to any ATMs in the MoneyPass network
- States: California, New Jersey, and New York
- Services: Personal (checking, savings, etc.) and business (cash management, debit cards, etc.) banking, in addition to loans (commercial loans, trade finance, etc.)
- Assets: $2.02 billion
- Availability: Online and brick-and-mortar