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L.A. CEOs Can’t Always Bank on Big Paychecks

Los Angeles County is home to many of the highest paid bank chief executives in the country, according to a new report. But the area has one of the lowest paid bank leaders, too.

Dunson Cheng, who heads L.A.’s Cathay General Bancorp, was the fourth lowest paid CEO in the United States last year among banks with assets between $10 billion and $500 billion, according to research from data firm SNL Financial. Including his base salary and other compensation, Cheng earned just over $1.5 million in 2011.

But Cheng, who did not return calls requesting comment, was an outlier in Los Angeles.

Among large regional banks, the heads of two other local institutions ranked among the highest paid bank chief executives in the country. Dominic Ng, head of Pasadena’s East West Bancorp Inc., ranked eighth overall, with total compensation of $10.7 million; Russell Goldsmith, chief executive of downtown L.A.’s City National Corp., was the 10th biggest earner, with pay in excess of $9.5 million.

Paul Hodgson, who analyzes trends in executive pay, said corporate officers in the L.A. market tend to make more than their counterparts in most other cities due to a higher cost of living.

“There are certainly some fairly significant regional differences,” said Hodgson, senior research associate at Governance Metrics International in Portland, Maine.

In other size categories analyzed by SNL, local CEOs ranked near the top as well.

Matthew Wagner, the chief executive of PacWest Bancorp in Century City, was the fifth highest earner among banks with $1 billion to $10 billion in assets. David Rainer, head of Encino’s California United Bank, was the fourth highest paid executive at banks with assets under $1 billion.

Koreatown Turnaround

Since it incurred hefty losses during the recent economic downturn, Wilshire Bancorp Inc. has worked to improve its financial condition. Those steps are finally paying off.

The Koreatown holding company for Wilshire State Bank last week announced that it has exited the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program. In a statement, Chief Executive Jae Whan Yoo said retiring the bank’s obligations under the Treasury Department’s program “reflects the strong capital and liquidity position we have built.”

TARP was introduced in late 2008 to bolster the nation’s healthiest financial institutions during a time of market uncertainty. Wilshire received $62 million.

The bank’s TARP repayment comes just weeks after it announced that federal and state regulators had lifted a memorandum of understanding on the bank.

Early last year, Wilshire wrote down tens of millions of dollars in bad loans overseen by a former top executive. But Yoo has instituted a series of internal changes, including tightening lending standards. The bank has been in the black for the past year, including a $20 million profit in the first quarter.

C-Suite News

New York banking giant Citibank NA has appointed Lisa Deloney market president for Los Angeles, a new position in the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business. … CapitalSource Inc., parent of L.A.’s CapitalSource Bank, has hired a team of lenders and launched a division specializing in premium financing. John Dixon and Tom Yaeger will lead the group. … Union Bank, an operating subsidiary of San Francisco’s UnionBanCal Corp., has hired Robert Jones to lead the bank’s L.A.-based aerospace and defense group. … Raymond James & Associates Inc., a broker-dealer headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., has hired Lisa Detanna, former president of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, as senior vice president of investments in the firm’s L.A. office. … Koreatown’s BBCN Bancorp Inc. has appointed Kevin Kim chairman and Scott Yoon-Suk Whang vice chairman. Former Chairman Ki Suh Park and former Vice Chairman Chang Hwi Kim will remain on the board. … Mission Valley Bancorp, headquartered in Sun Valley, has named John Miller to replace director John Richardson, who recently left the board.

Staff reporter Richard Clough can be reached at rclough@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 251.

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