Koreatown lender Hanmi Bank recently opened a loan production office in Dallas, its second location outside of Southern California.

That makes Hanmi the latest local Korean-American lender to look for growth in the Lone Star State. Rivals BBCN Bank and Wilshire State Bank, the two other largest Korean-American lenders in the nation, already have operations there.

Mark Yoon, chief financial officer of Hanmi parent Hanmi Financial Corp., said there’s still opportunity in Texas even so.

“There’s enough market for us,” he said. “The market there is growing.”

What’s more, Yoon said Hanmi will seek to do business with customers beyond just Korean-Americans. The bank hired Pervez Bhojani, a Pakistan-born banker, to run the loan production office. Yoon said Bhojani has a Rolodex of customers from Pakistan, India and elsewhere.

“We’re competing across the Asian market,” he said.

Expanding outside of Southern California is a priority for Hanmi, BBCN and Wilshire as the local Korean-American banking market is saturated and highly competitive, driving down potential yields. The banks are looking to expand into metro areas with large or growing Korean-American populations, including Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and New York.

Hanmi, which opened the Texas office in August, already has a loan production office in Seattle and Yoon said the bank wants to expand to the New York area.

Apple Seedling

Century City investment firm Adherence Capital Management doesn’t have any clients yet, but the firm boasts a couple of big names.

The firm, which launched last month, was co-founded by Mark Lewis, a former managing director of Santa Monica investment consulting and services firm Wilshire Associates Inc., and Steve Johnson, previously the chief investment officer of Braeburn Capital Inc. – the finance arm of Cupertino tech giant Apple Inc.

Before leaving Braeburn last year, Johnson oversaw a portfolio of about $113 billion. The money was invested in everything from treasuries and mortgage-backed securities to commercial paper and municipal bonds, according to Apple filings.

Johnson said he always saw Braeburn, based near Reno, Nev., as a temporary gig. Around the time he was leaving the firm, he met Lewis through one of Lewis’ employees, who was dating Johnson’s daughter.

For now, Johnson and Lewis are managing their own funds but hope to get business from high-net-worth individuals, family offices and institutional investors. They are offering three investment products: multiasset portfolios for high-net-worth clients, and fixed-income and municipal bond portfolios geared toward institutional investors.

Lewis, who headed Wilshire’s business development team, said his experience will help him attract institutional investors, while Johnson brings experience investing in all manner of asset classes.

While Johnson’s time at Braeburn is clearly a selling point for the firm, the Apple subsidiary’s activities are little known and Johnson said he can’t talk much about them due to a confidentiality agreement.

Still, he said that won’t get in the way of discussing his background and strategies with clients.

“It’s true that Braeburn isn’t well understood,” he said. “But once I get in front of people, I can talk about our backgrounds and the way Apple and other larger institutions manage money.”

CoBank vs. GoBank

Just a few months after rolling out GoBank, its new online-only bank account offering, Pasadena’s Green Dot Corp. is facing a legal challenge over the product’s name.

CoBank, an agricultural bank in Greenwood Village, Colo., last month filed a notice of opposition to Green Dot’s trademark application for GoBank, saying the similarity between CoBank and GoBank would lead to consumer confusion.

The case is pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Executives at both companies referred the Business Journal to prepared statements. Green Dot said it has been granted approval for a GoBank logo – in which the center of the “o” is a right-pointing triangle – and that CoBank’s challenge relates only to the application to trademark the term “GoBank.”

“In no way will Green Dot be impeded from using the brand ‘GoBank’ in the marketplace regardless of the outcome of CoBank’s objection filing,” according to the Green Dot statement.

Green Dot has until Sept. 23 to respond to CoBank’s opposition.

C-Suite News

Koreatown banking veteran Bonita Lee has joined bank holding company Hanmi Financial Corp. as chief operating officer. Lee previously held the same title with Hanmi rival BBCN Bancorp. … Chicago accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP has promoted two new partners, Beatrix Bernauer and Jill Van, in its downtown L.A. office. Bernauer had been a director; Van had been a senior manager.

Staff reporter James Rufus Koren can be reached at jrkoren@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 225.

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