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A Look Inside

Comptroller Dugan on Minority-Owned Banks

OCC Affirms Support for Minority-Owned Banks

OCC List of Minority- and Women-Owned Banks

Minority Bank Deposit Program

MinBank Foundation Scholarships

National Bankers Association – The NBA Journey

NBA Promotes Business Partnerships

Canyon National Bank

OCC Resources on Native American Banking

Commonwealth National Bank

United Americas Bank, N.A.

Omni Bank, N.A.

Supervising Minority- Owned Banks: A Two-Way Street

Compliance Corner: Encouraging Investments in Minority-Owned Banks

How Majority and Minority-Owned Institutions Can Work Together

Benefits of CDFI Certification

List of Minority- Owned CDFI Banks

OCC's News from the Districts

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OCC's Community Affairs Department

(202) 874-5556


Articles by non-OCC authors represent their own views and are not necessarily the views of the OCC.

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Omni Bank Shines in a Niche Market

by Cary Ching, President and CEO, Omni Bank, NA

A photo of Customer service at Monterey Park, CA, branch of Omni Bank.

Customer service at Monterey Park, CA, branch of Omni Bank, N.A. 

A combination of private-banking-style attention and personalized service delivered in the home country languages spoken by Asian-American immigrants got Omni Bank off to a solid start when it opened its doors in 1979.  Low service fees and the bank’s willingness to follow its customers as they moved to nearby California communities are what have kept those customers loyal in today’s competitive community banking market.

Headquartered in Alhambra, CA, Omni Bank, with assets of $202 million, has branches in Monterey Park, Rowland Heights, and San Jose. These are areas in the San Gabriel Valley near downtown Los Angeles, areas that have long attracted Chinese and other Asian immigrants.

Today, over half the bank’s loans are made to Asian customers and 80 to 90 percent of its deposits are from the Asian community that traditionally favors gold, cash,, and bank deposits over equity investments such as stocks.  Omni’s typical depositor has a five-figure account. In fact, 50 percent of Omni’s CDs are jumbos, above the deposit insurance limit, and 80 percent of those CDs are for a term greater than a year. They may carry terms of 90 days or 180 days, but customers tend to continue to roll over their CDs for years.

Building trust is also important when dealing with Asian-Americans. In the United States, banking is a highly regulated industry and its operations are vastly different from those in the countries from which Omni’s customers have emigrated. In Asia, many banks are large and mostly government owned or controlled.  With corruption not uncommon, the concept of trustworthy private bank ownership is new to, and embraced by, most immigrants.  Asians trust United States banks.

In Their Own Words

Omni’s staff of 62 employees pays special attention to the bank’s customers. The bank’s multilingual employees speak the Chinese dialects of Mandarin, Taiwanese and Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalog (a Filipino language), Spanish, and Japanese. Employees will speak whatever language is required to make the customer feel comfortable.  

If newly arrived immigrants need help with more than just banking, employees will pass along information on topics ranging from American schools to U.S. accounting practices, as well as referrals to lawyers and other professionals.

When customers are treated well, they will open new accounts when they start businesses or purchase homes. In our branches, we try to call existing customers and market through word of mouth. If you treat new immigrants with respect and dignity and help them, they will spread the word to their friends and relatives.

Bank Secrecy Act Issues

With a large volume of high-risk products and services (i.e., non-resident alien accounts and funds transfers activities to and from Asia), Omni has adopted and adhered to a risk-based approach in detecting, identifying, monitoring, and managing Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) risk. At the same time, we have effectively controlled the high cost of complying with anti-money laundering and BSA regulations.  Compliance with the requirements of BSA has become part of the daily routine in each department of the bank. While other small banks’ BSA departments employ three or four full-time staff members, we only have one BSA officer who, with the help of two assistants (who also have other job duties), oversee the activities of five branches. Periodically, I personally conduct spot checks on the management information reporting system on large cash aggregations and risk concentrations to ensure the effectiveness of our BSA program. 

While many banks shy away from dealing with nonresident aliens, Omni prides itself in prudently servicing and developing this customer base while adhering to the enhanced due diligence requirements of the BSA.  We work with our nonresident alien customers, treat them with respect, and turn them into valued account relationships.

Public Service Focus

Providing a high level of customer service can be costly, and Omni’s success is in controlling expenses through employee efficiency.  We have a unique and seasoned management team that is not seeking competitive market compensation.  Rather, team members value personal achievement and job satisfaction over monetary significance.  They prefer to work in an Asian-focused environment serving a predominately-Asian customer base.  They value this job opportunity as a way to serve and give back to the community.

Focus on Immigrant Customers

Several Omni products target recent immigrants, especially those without a U.S. credit history. Quite a few customers work for traditionally small businesses, such as restaurants, and some may not have a well-established income record.  For these customers, Omni may consider a small credit limit if our experiences with their depository accounts are satisfactory.

For an unsecured credit card, the customer must have an acceptable credit history, with no late payment records.  Currently, Omni has about 1,000 credit card customers.

Omni also makes car loans. It is the first loan our customers really need since they have to drive to work because California lacks a mass public transit system and places of employment are widely spread out throughout each county.   We start with a car loan and if the customer is qualified for a car loan, the customer is automatically granted a credit card.

Commercial Products

Omni Bank’s commercial lending unit finances income-producing commercial real estate, such as apartments, office buildings, warehouses, shopping centers, and mixed-use properties. The typical Omni Bank commercial real estate loan carries a maximum 75 percent loan-to-value ratio over a 15-year term (amortized over 30 years) and is available as a fixed or variable interest rate.

Our commercial loan offerings include asset-based loans, equipment and capital lines of credit, trade financing, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and the California Capital Access Program (CalCAP), the state’s version of the SBA program.

Omni Bank’s construction loans provide developers with financing for single-family residences, tracts, condominiums, apartments, and other planned unit developments as well as commercial income-producing properties.

Filling the Need

Omni Bank shows that it is possible to not only survive, but to prosper as a community bank operating in a niche market. Its formula for success – combining special products targeted to the community it serves with a working culture of responsiveness, speed, flexibility, reliability, and shared accountability  – is one that any bank seeking to tap into an emerging market would do well to emulate.

For additional information, contact Cary Ching at (626) 284-5555 x101.