View Full Version : OKC Banking in Mandarin and Farsi

07-22-2004, 08:26 PM
You've sensed it while walking through Cao Nguyen and enjoying the panaderias in Capitol Hill...OKC is an international city. Now we have multilingual banking...

First Commercial Bank plans Asian branch
by Janice Francis-Smith
The Journal Record

First Commercial Bank will open a new branch in Oklahoma City's Asian District early next year, providing service in at least five different languages.
"Our employees speak Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, French, English, and have access to Hindi and Farsi translation as well," reads an information sheet distributed at a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday at 2523 N. Classen Blvd.

Signage at the bank will be written in English, Vietnamese, Chinese and Spanish, in an effort to reach out to all of the communities in which those languages are spoken.

"We are totally committed to both the Asian and the Hispanic communities," said Jim Canton, president and CEO of First Commercial Bank. "We're not just a part of the Asian and Hispanic communities - they're a part of us. They've helped shape our culture."

First Commercial Bank is a locally owned, nationally chartered bank founded in 1996. The bank prides itself on the relationships the institution has developed within the communities it serves, particularly with various ethnic and cultural groups which have been traditionally underserved in the Oklahoma City market.

Canton, a banker in the Oklahoma City metro area, and Gary McClanahan, a former bank examiner and a bond portfolio manager for a brokerage firm, founded the bank in response to a number of mergers and acquisitions that placed control over many of Oklahoma's banks with out-of-state entities. Seven other local business people helped Canton and McClanahan organize and open First Commercial Bank's first location, in Edmond.

Today, First Commercial Bank has $135 million in assets and four branches: one in Edmond, two in north Oklahoma City, and one in the predominately Hispanic Capitol Hill neighborhood in south Oklahoma City.

The new branch will be located in the heart of the area city planners recognize as the Asian District, bounded by NW 30th and NW 23rd streets on the north and south, Oklahoma City University (just west of Blackwelder Avenue) on the east and Western Avenue on the west. Oklahoma City has the highest Asian population in the state, thanks in part to the high concentration of Asian people who live in the area or work at one of the many Asian-owned retail stores, groceries and restaurants located within the district.

The Asian District branch is scheduled to open during the first quarter of 2005, said Tucker McHugh, senior vice president of commercial lending for First Commercial Bank. The opening will correspond with the Chinese new year, around late January or mid February.

This summer, First Commercial will also open a branch on the campus of Oklahoma City University, serving the the school's students, faculty and employees. The bank plans to recruit part-time employees from among the student population.

About five employees will work at the Asian District branch, and will speak a variety of languages, said Joey Tu, assistant vice president of First Commercial Bank and manager of the branch. While offering a full suite of banking services, the branch will keep longer hours than many of its competitors in the area, operating from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturday.

"The bank has about 80 local business people as stockholders," according to an information sheet provided. "Ownership comes from a very diverse cross-section of the community, including entrepreneurs from the real estate and energy industries, medical professionals, manufacturers, wholesalers, import-export businesses, legal and accounting professions and the restaurant industry. Investors also come from very diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Chinese, Hispanic, Native American, African American and Anglo."

In working with the bank's investors, Canton said it was brought to his attention that several ethnic and cultural groups in the community were "very much underbanked." Other banks, looking for high-traffic locations and high-income demographics, have overlooked the potential market in these communities, he said.

"We discovered a real need in the community for banks who will actually reach out to the community, not just in terms of donations and things of that nature, but who really approach their business development activities from a standpoint that this is something that people in the community need. They don't always understand the American way of doing things.

"There is an educational process," Canton continued. "People from other countries that have not had the luxury of banking in an environment where they can trust banks and trust bankers need to understand that they can trust us." First Commercial Bank has provided a number of educational programs to help customers understand how to build assets, file taxes, and more.

"As part of our commitment to excellent service, it is important to understand the background of our customers and make it easy for them to understand and transact their business," reads the information sheet. "Most important, however, is the fact that our management team is part of the community. We understand the community and its needs. All of our policies are made locally, for the benefit of our local customers. All loan decisions are made locally by the bankers you know and trust."

Wednesday's groundbreaking event was attended by leaders in each of the targeted communities, including Vinh Nguyen, chairman of the Vietnamese Community; Kyle Wang, chairman of the Asian Society of Oklahoma and David Castillo, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Newspapers serving the Vietnamese, Chinese, Latino and English-speaking communities were also invited to attend.

"The process of us reaching out the community, educating people, doing what's right for people helping people obtain a better way of life for themselves benefits not only the community, but in the end it will benefit the bank as well," said Canton.

07-22-2004, 09:32 PM
You know, I read this article in the Journal Record this morning! I was extremely impressed. It's great to see businesses in our city, especially in the Asian District, reaching out to people's of all ethnicity and culture! I'm personally glad to see the Asian District alive and thriving! And I praise Ms. Lam for saving the gold Dome. Renovations just started on it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it will look after the work is complete. I was sad to hear that the plates on te gold dome won't be reglazed, but I completely understand why she's not pursuing that option considering it was going to cost somewhere around $200,000 to do, and Sherwin Williams was only giving her a 2 year guarantee.

Anyways, last I heard, the building is 70% leased already! That's great news!

The Asian district is coming along!

I'm amazed to see the developing cultural districts around town, namely the Asian District at NW 23rd and Classen, and the Hispanic District in Capitol Hill.