Korean community bank wins key approval
The Ohana Pacific Bank is one of two new Hawaii financial institutions that plan to open this spring
Ohana Pacific Bank, a planned Hawaii bank that will cater to the growing Korean-American community, has been granted approval to proceed from the state Division of Financial Institutions.
Led by Woon Seok Hyun, a banking executive with about 35 years of experience in Korea, Japan and the United States, investors for Ohana Pacific Bank submitted an application with the state agency in July.
"This approval is a really significant milestone for our bank and its eventual opening and prosperity," said Hyun, who most recently served as president and chief executive of Pacific Union Bank in Los Angeles, where there is a large concentration of Korean community banks.
The approval, granted Dec. 13, comes less than six months after regulators approved the startup of Pacific Rim Bank, the state's first new banking institution since 1959. Pacific Rim, whose application was approved in August, is building its Waterfront Plaza office and will have former City Bank executive Austin Imamura at the helm.
There are currently four commercial banks, two savings institutions and one depository financial-services loan company headquartered in Hawaii. The addition of Ohana Pacific Bank and Pacific Rim, both of which will likely open in spring, will bring the number of banks to six.
Ohana Pacific Bank still must receive regulatory approval for its articles and bylaws as well as its capital stock solicitation plan, which is expected to net $12 million.
"We are very confident that we can raise the required capital," Hyun said. He anticipates a public offering of stock via the Over the Counter Bulletin Board sometime in February.
Once approvals are obtained and capital is raised, Ohana Pacific Bank must file and receive approval of its state charter application and acquire federal deposit insurance.
Ohana Pacific Bank plans to open a single branch in March at 1357 Kapiolani Blvd. in the heart of the Korean business community. It will be the first bank in Hawaii to concentrate on this ethnicity.
While the bank will be open to all customers, it will concentrate on offering "prompt and kind" service to the Korean community, which is 35,000 strong in Hawaii, said Hyun.
"Our target is to capture 5 percent of this population per year until we have captured 15 percent of this market," Hyun said. "After that, we will expand our services to other ethnic communities such as the Filipino and Vietnamese communities."
The new company will offer bilingual service and Korean décor.
"Korean immigrants to America often have a certain language barrier. We want to provide them with an atmosphere where they can feel comfortable and obtain the most current information," Hyun said.
As Ohana Pacific Bank is able to help the Korean business community grow, so too, will the bank grow, Hyun said, adding that he saw this concept work in Los Angeles, where there are as many as 12 Korean community banks.
Hyun left his position in California and moved to Hawaii to pursue opening a Korean community bank in Honolulu shortly after he attended the 2003 centennial celebration of Korean immigrants in Hawaii.
Members of Korean communities in places such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle attended the celebration, Hyun said. All of these places have their own Korean community banks, he said.
"Honolulu is the origin of the Korean immigrant community, yet there has never been a Korean bank here," he said.
Hyun spent nearly a year studying the Honolulu market and meeting with organizers before deciding that the climate in Hawaii was very favorable for a Korean bank.
"There's a strong Korean population here -- just look at the popularity of the Korean soap operas," he said.
The recent merger between Central Pacific Bank and City Bank created further opportunity for Ohana Pacific Bank, he said.
"City Bank had many Korean small business owners who weren't comfortable after the company's merger into Central Pacific Bank -- this created a certain niche," Hyun said.
In addition to Hyun, the proposed directors and executive officers of Ohana Pacific Bank include experienced bankers, business professionals and a finance professor.
Woon Ik Chung, the former coach of the South Korean women's ice hockey team, will serve as chairman, James Ewing will be chief credit officer and Lou Ellen Ficke will serve as chief financial officer. Other directors include: Hyung Kwon Cha, a Hawaii insurance executive; Nicole Inja Choi, a local real estate agent; David Hyunin Jung, a real estate executive; Donald Bum Sik Kang, a local businessman; attorney Rex Kee Chul Kim; finance professor Sangghon Rhee; former City Bank executive Wayne Miyao; and local accountant Michael Tanaka.