The fact that Taiwan and China have been less economically impacted than Korea and Thailand also works in favor of the local banks.

"The business we do is mostly importers of goods from Asia, mostly from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong," said Dunson Cheng, president of Cathay Bancorp.

The resilience is also rooted in strong ties to the local Chinese-American community. "We are financing immigrants," said Wu. "We are not financing foreign companies or the citizens of foreign countries."

For example, property prices in the San Gabriel Valley remain strong, in part due to money coming in from Taiwan and China. That's good news for the Chinese-American banks, which typically demand commercial property as collateral for the loans they make.

A strong property market not only improves the quality of outstanding loans, it helps support the bank's bottom line in case of default.

"You inevitably are going to have situations where you are going to have to foreclose," said Didion. "And when that happens, it's nice to have a strong property market to unload the real estate."

GBC's share price fell steeply last week after an L.A.-based high-tech firm to which it had loaned $12 million filed for bankruptcy. But the filing is not likely to have a "significant impact" on earnings, because the loan was guaranteed by commercial property worth $8 million and equipment with a book value exceeding $10 million.

Financing commercial real estate is a growing business for the Chinese-American Banks.

Cheng said his bank is in the midst of a promotional campaign aimed at securing more commercial mortgage business, which has become more plentiful following the retreat of so-called "conduit lenders" such as brokerages and insurance companies in recent months.

Meanwhile, the Chinese-American banks are attempting to diversify by moving into the general banking industry. This year, East West Bank has made a push into low-income housing developments that receive government tax credits.

And following the theory that entrepreneurial immigrants typically follow a similar business model, GBC is lending to immigrants from non-Asian countries.

"We no longer rely on our Asian connections," said Wu. "Our niche is to finance immigrants in general, because immigrants from Iran or Armenia have the same characteristics as immigrants from China and Taiwan."


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