South Korean-born Chong Guk Kum has been a banker for four decades, but he’d never worked for a Korean-American bank until he joined Hanmi Bank three years ago.
Chong Guk “C.G.” Kum, 61
Title: Chief Executive of Hanmi Financial and Hanmi Bank
Rank, Local Deposit Market Share*: 22, 0.57 percent
Family: Wife, Vikki, and children, Ryan, Courtney and Anni.
Activities: Running, golf.
Years in L.A. area: 16
*As of Oct. 30, 2015
Kum’s family immigrated to the United States in 1963 when he was 9 years old so that his father, a professor of medicine and biochemistry, could work at the University of Michigan.
At that time, there were not a lot of immigrants – let alone Asians – in the Midwest. Kum’s father forbade him from speaking Korean at home to help him assimilate into American culture as soon aws possible.
Kum attended UC Berkeley and then received an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University. He started his banking career in the Bay Area at Bank of California’s corporate lending program, which was later bought by MUFG Union Bank.
Kum left for Fort Collins, Colo., in 1984 to head up the credit administration department for United Banks of Colorado and then left for Colorado National Bank in 1987.
He returned to California in 1993 to join City Commerce Bank in Santa Barbara as chief credit officer. When it sold to Mid-State Bank & Trust (now part of Rabobank) in 1999, Kum said one of its large shareholders, who also had a significant stake in Camarillo Community Bank, convinced Kum to head the small institution. As chief executive, Kum said he grew Camarillo Community from about $98 million and two branches to about $2 billion in assets and more than 20 branches at its peak. Renamed First California Bank, it sold to Pacific Western Bank in 2013.
Kum said several Korean-American banks courted his services for senior level positions at the time but he ultimately chose to become chief executive of Hanmi.
Question: How have your upbringing and your dad’s decision not to allow you to speak Korean at home impacted your job?
Answer: I wish he wasn’t as strict about that, because I speak the language but at a very basic level. I’ve always been on the outside of the Korean-American society in the United States up until I came to Hanmi. It’s almost like coming home in some respects. Coming to Hanmi has been a tremendous situation for me not only professionally but personally.
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