Hanmi’s acquisition is more than a geographic expansion, though. Along with United Central’s branch network, Hanmi hopes to retain the bank’s diverse clientele of Korean-, Chinese-, Indian- and Pakistani-American customers.
Kum, like other Korean-American bank executives, said his bank needs to serve new types of customers because the bank’s core customer base of first-generation Korean-American entrepreneurs is not expanding.
“We have to find new ways to grow,” he said. “This gives us significant momentum in our plan to grow in the Korean-American space as well as outside of that space.”
While United Central is considered a Korean-American bank, only about one-third of its customers are Korean-American, Kum said. Another third hails from India or Pakistan while about 20 percent are Chinese-American. The rest are so-called mainstream or nonethnic customers. At Hanmi, about 75 percent of customers are Korean-American.
While Kum said Hanmi would likely always serve mostly Korean-American clients, he expects that number will fall to more like 50 percent or 60 percent over the next several years as the bank grows its business in other communities.
Already, he said the bank is recruiting a team of Pakistani-American bankers for its Houston branches, and will look to recruit more Indian-American bankers for its Dallas branches.
“Our vision is to be the leading nationwide community bank,” Kum said. “In L.A., we’re a leading Korean-American community bank. In some other markets, we might be the leading Indian-American community bank.”
Korean banks have long tried to expand into other ethnic markets, and Hanmi’s competitors are also reaching into other Asian-American communities, Coffey said.
“Those are demographic markets all the Korean-American banks are chasing,” he said. “This is affecting all Korean-American banks. Hanmi is just the latest to do something
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