Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh No You Didn't!

Before I get hot and heavy in this post, let me make one thing clear - I have nothing but respect for Wells Fargo Bank. I admire its leadership and I have many friends within its ranks that I consider best in breed.

I was recently paging through an industry magazine that featured an interview with a top ranking officer at Wells Fargo. This article was essentially a profile of a very accomplished Wells Fargo banker. As I read the article I was feeling good about this person and Wells Fargo Bank. Then it happened...

"Leading the COMMUNITY BANK [emphasis added]...blah blah blah."  What?! Community bank?  Wells Fargo?  At that point I let out a loud "are you kidding me!?" (I figured it was loud because everyone outside my office was staring at me and wondering if I was upset with someone on the phone).  "Nothing to see here folks.  Get back to work."

Again, I have no problem with Wells Fargo. In fact, thoughout this whole mess I think they have managed their affairs better than most of the big guys. I love their marketing, their strategy and they seem to train well (two of my top performers are Wells Fargo alumni). I do, however, have a problem with a bank that calls itself a community bank that has total assets of $548 billion, $325 billion in deposits and 3,429 branches in 24 states (as of 9-30-09).

Unfortunately for me there is no clear cut definition of what "community bank" means. And as such, I can't call out Wells on it.  And I'm pretty sure they know that.  In a twisted way, I suppose I appreciate that.

Back in October 1997, Steve Cocheo tried nailing down a definition in his ABA Banking Journal article, "Musing toward a definition of community banking." According to Steve, "community banking" can include mega-banks as well as local home-grown institutions. It all depends on your point of view and interpretation.  As a small bank operator that is deeply vested in its community, I find that fact very disappointing.

In my perfect world community banks are not titles bestowed simply for doing good deeds in a community.  To me and many of my community banker friends (as defined by me of course), community banks are just that, banks that serve a particular community. In my opinion, if your footprint spans the western United States you are not a "community bank." I don't care how you divide the empire. You're not a community bank. Plain and simple.

Over the past year and a half the banking industry has taken it on the chin. Surveys conducted during this period have shown a steady reduction in consumer trust of banks. With billions in bailouts, foreclosures at record levels and the whole regulatory reform mess, it is clear why consumers are not happy. While I will agree that some bankers took a few liberties with consumers, for the most part bankers and their banks were also brought along for the ride. In particular, community banks, who generally stayed away from the practices that created the whole mess.

The media and others are starting to recognize the role that community banks played or did not play. Not only did community banks generally not play a role in creating the banking debacle, they have generally been the only group lending during all the chaos. So when some regional bank comes along and calls itself a "community bank," I'm sorry, but I take offense.  I respect you, but I take offense.

My problem is that community banking cannot be easily defined.  For me, community banking means a bank that is focused on a particular "community."  For example, I have three branches - two in East Los Angeles and one in Santa Ana.  Those two communities are my focus.  Nice and tight.  When I can call the entire state of California my community I think I've gone beyond community banking.  Perhaps a better guide is how much time your bank management spends on Wall Street versus Main Street. 

I will be the first to admit that I don't know the right definition of what makes a community bank.  But something I've learned as a banker is that your gut is usually right.  And on this one my gut tells me that if you run a bank with branches in nearly half of all U.S. states, you're not a community bank.

What do you think?  What does community bank mean?  Let me know.  I'm interested in hearing your opinion.  Maybe I'm all wrong on this.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stop Acting Like A Bank. You're Embarrassing Me!

As I was paging through the November 2009 issue of Bank Technology News I came across the following news blurb:

"A poll of 18 to 29 year olds in the U.S. funded by Microsoft found that about half feel the banking industry is in touch with their generation; and about 60 percent say their level of trust in financial services has decreased over the past year. When asked how banks can improve trust, 27 percent said blogs would be very important, while 42 percent said it would be somewhat important. And 75 percent were in favor of monthly email updates."

As you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised to know that we were on the right track when we decided to launch this blog.

I have been a banker for most of my adult life. When I wasn't a banker I was a bank examiner or a bank consultant. As such, banking has been at the center of my professional life for nearly 20 years. During this time I have focused almost entirely on community banking.

Based on my experience, what I can tell you is that community bankers are Main Street, not Wall Street. We coach the local AYSO team, we shop at the local Walmart, we eat hot dogs at the local little league games, we hang out at the local pub and we drive our own cars. And most importantly, we do not single-handedly threaten the viability of the American banking system. Unforunately, the everyday bank customer does not know the difference between a community bank and a big bank

When I started this blog a couple months ago I wanted to share a little bit of the Bank in an informal setting. Along the way I hoped to give readers a glimpse into the "personal" side of the Bank. I hope I am doing that. But more importantly, I hope that readers are starting to see that community banks are more like the corner drugstore than the trillion dollar bank. We TRULY stand behind the community. But more importantly, we thrive only if the local community thrives. So we are fully vested and all in.

Through this blog, therefore, I hope to accomplish a couple things. First, I wish to reach out to the millenials who feel we have no clue. We get it. We know you demand more than what your dad's bank gave you. And community banks are here to let you know we get it. Some of us move faster than others, but we get it.

Second, I hope to show you that community banks make a REAL difference in the community. We may not have the budgets that big banks have but you can always count on us to support the community and its various efforts. We are built around the community, through good times and bad. We don't just close the doors and move to the next town when things get tough. We stay and struggle with everyone else to get things back on track.

So, the next time you need a loan or need to open a new deposit account, ask yourself if having a branch on every corner in every state is better than supporting the local bank that is a part of the local fabric.  And if you're a millenial, feel free to send out a tweet about it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take Credit Where Credit Is Due

The end of December 2009 (27th) marks my six month anniversary as the CEO of Pan American Bank. In my original draft to this post I used the term "leader" instead of CEO. But I have very specific criteria for what makes a "leader" and as such, I will hold off on calling myself this organization's leader...for now.

As the CEO of a community bank it is not only a "good idea" to get out into the community - it is ESSENTIAL for our survival. I need to be out there for reasons such as business development, needs assessment, etc. But I am learning that the most important reason for me to represent Pan American Bank is because we are so reflective of the Latino communities that that we serve.

It did not take me long to figure out how this 45 year-old organization assumed some of the traits of its Latino customers. We are a small, feisty and proud bank. We are loyal to our customers and our community. We are full of energy and the will to do great things. But unfortunately, we are the last to let others know about our accomplishments.

Back in November 2009, CNN ran a series of video essays called Latino in America. According to CNN, by 2050, the U.S. Latino population is expected to nearly triple. CNN explored how Latinos are reshaping U.S. communities and culture and forcing a nation of immigrants to rediscover what it means to be an American.

The research conducted by CNN highlighted some great achievements by Latinos. But despite the strides made by Latinos, we continue to struggle with tooting our horn. As a result, many great people and efforts go unrecognized. People and efforts that can significantly enrich the fabric of our incredible nation.

Over the weekend I was asked to sit on a panel for a California Assembly Town Hall meeting. The portion of the meeting I sat in on had to do with the housing crisis, foreclosures and loan modifications. I could tell from the onset that this meeting had the potential to sting, as the seats were filled with consumers, consumer advocates and others looking to let me know how horrible a person I am for being a banker.

The session was started by Speaker of the California Assembly Karen Bass. The Speaker then passed the floor to me for an introduction. As I began my introduction I could hear the clicking of bic lighters getting ready to ignite the torches. But within minutes the crowd quieted down and began nodding their head in support. At the end of the meeting, as I exited the stage, I was approached by many people - consumers, advocates, political representatives and others. All seemed amazed at what they had heard. Many almost could not believe their ears. And why would they, we have not tooted our horns to let anyone know.

So what was it that was so amazing? Well, without going into too much detail, here's a quick rundown. You tell me if this is something the world should know about.

1) Pan American Bank was founded in 1964, making it California's OLDEST Latino-owned Bank and the Country's second oldest. In 2010 the Bank will enter its 46th year of operation. We've been around longer than most California banks, period.

2) Pan American Bank was founded by Romana Acosta Banuelos, a woman born in Arizona in 1925, who was "invited" by the U.S. Government to relocate to Mexico in 1933 during the Great Depression, only to return in the 1940's to launch one of California's most successful food companies, Ramona's Mexican Food Products, Inc.

3) Mrs. Banuelos, founder of Pan American Bank and Ramona's Mexican Food Products, was appointed in 1971 to the post of U.S. Treasurer - the first Latina to hold that prestigious position. At the time, Mrs. Banuelos was the Country's highest ranking Latino.

4) Pan American Bank is headquartered in East Los Angeles - an example of the Bank's commitment to its mission of serving the Latino community. No other bank is headquartered in East Los Angeles.

5) Eighty-five (85) percent of Pan American Bank's loans are 1-4 family mortgages. Pan American Bank has foreclosed on only one (1) borrower during the past two years, showing the banking industry that minority lending can be done prudently. Pan American Bank has not originated a single subprime loan.

So there it is. My top five reasons why Pan American Bank is worthy of praise. It is my mission to ensure that Pan American Bank is no longer the Latino community's best kept secret. The secret is out! Let the world know. Hear me toot our horn! Let me hear you toot our horn!

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Well Do You Know East L.A.?

If you have been a reader of this blog you know a few things about Pan American Bank. You know that Pan American Bank is the only bank headquartered in East Los Angeles. You know that Pan American Bank has been in East Los Angeles since 1964. You know that Pan American Bank was founded by Romana Acosta Banuelos, the first Latino Treasurer of the United States. And you know that Pan American Bank's mission is to serve the Latino communities of East Los Angeles and Santa Ana. What you may not know is where East Los Angeles is located and what it is all about. So this post today is about sharing a little something about the East L.A. community.

East Los Angeles or East L.A. or East Los, is an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, California that spans a total area of 7.4 square miles. East Los Angeles is bounded by the city of Los Angeles to the west, the unincorporated area of City Terrace to the northwest, the city of Monterey Park to the northeast, the city of Montebello to the east, and the city of Commerce to the south. The unincorporated area of East Los Angeles was once known as "Maravilla" and also "Belvedere Gardens".

According to the 2000 census, the area had a total population of 124,283 with 29,844 households, and 25,068 families residing in the community. There were 31,096 housing units and a whopping 96.8% of the population was Latino.

Of the 29,844 households, 51.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 21.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 16.0% were non-families. Only 12.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.15 and the average family size was 4.42.

The age distribution of the community was as follows: 34.6% under the age of 18, 12.6% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 14.2% from 45 to 64, and 7.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females there were 101.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.2 males.

According to the 2000 census, the median income for a household in the community was $28,544, and the median income for a family was $29,755. Males had a median income of $21,065 versus $18,475 for females. The per capita income for the community was $9,543. About 24.7% of families and 27.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.0% of those under age 18 and 13.5% of those age 65 or over. East Los Angeles has a very large Latino population that consists of Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans.

As East Los Angeles is an unincorporated community, it does not have a local government, and relies on the County of Los Angeles for local services. Despite multiple failed attempts in the past, residents are currently campaigning for cityhood for East Los Angeles.

The East Los Angeles Latino Walk of Fame was inaugurated in April 30, 1997 to honor outstanding leaders who have made historical and social contributions. East L.A. was both the origin and destination of Cheech Marin in both the song and the movie Born in East L.A.

Famous people born in East Los Angeles are many including Constance Marie, Edward Olmos, Lee Baca, Oscar De La Hoya, and Paul Renteria.

Over the course of the next couple months I will discuss initiatives that the Bank has undertaken. Many of the initiatives are driven by the 2000 census as well as current events such as the Cityhood for East Los Angeles.

I hope that this information gives you a better understanding of our community. It should also explain why our mission is so important. I am excited to share these developments with our readers and look forward to the feedback received as we continue on this journey together.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Toy Drive Organizers Did What?! Are You Kidding Me!

I don't have to tell anyone that this year has been a tough year for everyone. The news on a daily basis goes on and on about unemployment rates, foreclosures, recession, depression, etc. What very few of these reports do is touch on how the current economic disaster has affected the lives of the children of those families.

Beginning in October of this year the Bank began to get approached by community groups asking for donations to cover the toy drives they were running for which they expected a record number of kids. Given our mission of assisting the local Latino community we serve, we signed up for several local toy drives. In one case we hosted an after-hours toy drive fundraiser that saw over 300 people come through with toy and financial donations. With others we made financial donations to ensure that kids in our communities of East Los Angeles and Santa Ana received at least a little cheer during a year that saw their family's finances decimated, their home lost or worse. All in we've supported around six toy drives that run in various segments of our community.

So I wake up this morning and see the following headline in my morning news update: "Some Toy Drives Check Immigration Status." To say I was sickened is an understatement.

Obviously I understand that there are two very distinct camps in this country regarding immigration and immigration status. This post is not about who is right or who is wrong. This post is about being humane.

What I am about to say is a generalization so please treat it as such. Toy drives are originated by people with warmth in their hearts and the desire to do what is humanely right. Toy drives are USUALLY not started by people with agendas. Sometimes, however, people with agendas do start toy drives or the warm people who started a toy drive are replaced over time by people who have been given the responsibility to keep a toy drive going. These people treat the toy drive as a task. They do it not for a particular mission but because they have to. To those people I say, please examine why you are doing what you are doing and consider if what you are doing is consistent with the Christmas (or holiday) Spirit.

As I noted above, there exists a major battle over immigration. But I remind everyone that even battles and wars have rules. Even in the heat of major wars we have rules such as the Geneva Convention which protect those providing aid to those in trouble. Our children, regardless of their origin or their parents origin, are victims of an economic war. To inflict pain and suffering upon them by not letting them participate in a toy drive is an inhumane act and should be a violation of some kind of law of political war.

Again, I'm not telling anyone who is right or wrong in this battle over immigration. What I am telling those who are in charge of toy drives this year is to invoke your own form of Geneva Convention and protect the children that are the victims in a war they played no part in.

So screen you families and make sure they are truly needy. But please, do not base your decision on immigration status. These kids have no choice. They are non-combatant prisoners of war, or more appropriately, innocent bystanders. Please treat them as such and let them feel the love and kindness that your toy drives are intended to deliver.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What This Country Needs

Los Angeles County has a population of roughly 11 million people. Not all of these people are natives. Many have come from other places. It is a true melting pot of people with different cultures, religions, languages, shapes, sizes, etc. It is one of the things I love the most about this town. It's why I have never moved away and why I never bad mouth my City of Angels.

For the most part, the citizens of this great city tend to get along. Sure, like every big city, we have our share of problems. But given our population of 11 million, we do pretty great. With one exception....

That's right, the Big Game.

Now I understand the other parts of the country have their version of the Big Game. But none of these compare in scale with ours here on the Left Coast. No offense, of course.

Regardless of the college you attended or did not attend, for one week each year, you're either a Bruin or a Trojan. But what does this have to do with the Country? Well, absolutely nothing! Sorry, but I had to take a moment to say GO BRUINS!!!

Ok, now on to the regularly scheduled program...

As a community banker I attend many local functions. Some of these functions are industry related and some are hosted by community groups. As you can imagine, the tone at many of these functions lately has been fairly depressed. With the economy the way it is, so many are disappointed with the state of the economy and many are struggling to find jobs.

I was asked to attend a local Rotary luncheon this week which featured former standout players from UCLA and USC. Being a proud UCLA alumni, I jumped at the chance. When I got there I saw what I expected. Half the room was decked out in blue and gold and the other in cardinal and gold. As I mingled I heard a lot of the same about the economy. But something was different. Attitudes were different. The people were more positive.

At the end of the luncheon, as I rode the elevator down, I starting thinking about how different this event was compared to the others lately. How positive and happy people appeared, including the unemployed. Then it struck me. Hope!

Those present at the meeting were hopeful about something. They were hopeful that their team would win the Big Game on Saturday. The fact that the economy stunk or that things we not good, for a moment became irrelevant. They smiled, laughed, cheered and were generally optimistic and hopeful.

Now, by saying this please do not attribute my comments to any recent political campaign using a similar slogan. What I am merely trying to say is that as we all struggle through this difficult economic period, be sure to find something that gives you hope. Something that keeps you going. Whether its coaching your kids soccer game or learning a new skill. Whatever it is, find something to keep you occupied and moving forward.

The interesting thing about this whole economic mess is the role that we all play in either improving it or keeping it down. If we all believe that the sky is falling, it certainly will fall. However, if we feel good about our prospects, we'll likely spend a little more, oiling the wheels of economic improvement.

The government can throw all the money it wants at the problem. But if you and I don't believe that things will get better or if we don't at least feel better about ourselves, then no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, it will not be enough.

Today it is Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is a day to give thanks for all that we have. Take time today to spend with your family and let them know how much you appreciate them. Don't just think it, say it.

Many years ago, shortly after graduating from college, I read a book by a motivational speaker named Denis Waitley. Something I read in one of his books really had an effect on me, my career and family life. Denis said (I am recalling so it may not be precise but you'll get the point), "It's not what happens to you that matters, it's how you take it."

So as we move forward in this continuing mess of an economy, first, give thanks for what you can. Afterwards, remember, it's not what happens to you but how you take it. Or, in other words, if you're holding a bag of lemons, make lemonade and then invite people over to share with you.

We will come out of this. It may take longer than we would like but it will happen. Hang in there and make the best of it. Try not to get too down, and by all means, don't do anything crazy. The holidays are some of the toughest times for many people. If that's you, stop and reach out to someone. Find a way to cope and let the moment pass.

Well, I can smell the pies baking so it means its time to go. Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I'll see you back here soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It Can Be A Cruel World

Earlier today I sent off a press release to the world proudly announcing that Pan American Bank had taken a big step in bringing social media to its mix. The effort had taken some planning - though not a tremendous amount, given the small size of our shop. But, still, some effort and thought had gone into it.

Floating on air and proud of our little Latino bank, I kissed my daughters and wife goodbye and got into my car and headed off to work. I was ready to take on the world, clear clutter and projects off my desk and ease into my holiday vacation. That's when it happened...

Just as I got on the freeway onramp, my Blackberry began to blow up. Alerts, emails and frantic phone calls. "The blog is creating chaos!!! We're a B-I-G FAIL!!! We and YOU are becoming the laughing stock of the social media community!!!" What?!!

Fortunately there was a line at the freeway onramp that allowed me to read the messages and answer the calls before putting my life at risk on the Los Angeles freeway system.

So what was all the hubbub. Well, a couple things.

First, if you look at this blog, along the right side and below you'll see ads displayed by Google. When I created this blog I was provided the option of adding them onto the blog.

While some people (spammers selling their wares) would like you to believe there is money to be made displaying these links, they are mistaken (have you clicked on one of these links while reading this? Didn't think so). In other words, the Bank is not going to swap lending for Google Ads any time soon.

My only rationale for having the Google Ads is that Google makes its fortune off of these things (they sell the advertising) and I suspect that all things being equal, a bank blog with Google Ads displays higher than blogs without (though I would imagine Google would deny my assertion). I could be wrong but I am entitled to my opinion.

The problem with the ads is not the ads so much as the fact that Google placed ads for Bank of America on the blog and given that we ARE a bank, that seems somewhat contradictory. In fact, by the time I got into the office, the Twittersphere was burning up with this story.

The second problem was that in a past life (before becoming a bank CEO), I had written the most popular ebook for bankers on social media, The Community Bankers Guide to Social Network Marketing. It was featured in many industry magazines and is still a tremendous hit - though it is nearly a year old (a lifetime in social media time). As such, my experience and own advice should have prevented this.

Truth is, the criticism is accurate. While I did input a few domains to block, I did not test the blog to make sure my blocks took. Now I realize that to readers of this blog, that really does not matter. I did not create this blog to "market" products or services. Regardless, many will argue, "why give the competition an open door on your blog." So in that case, my bad and FAIL.

So what now? Well, I still do believe there is value in keeping the Google Ads on the site. Who knows, maybe we'll suddenly start earning some real income as a result of this blog posting! Ok, probably not.

I'll go back and tweak my settings again (and again and again, if necessary). I'll have to walk with my head down at the next social media conference I attend and take endless ribbing from my friends. But in the end, I think this was a good lesson and a great outcome.

Just as no one can look away from the car pulled over by the highway patrol on the side of the road, much attention was brought to my little Latino bank blog. Sure it cost me some personal capital but did it really? Social media is about transparent and honest communication.

At the end of the day, mistakes will be made. What matters is how you handle the mistake and prevent future mistakes.

Thanks for visiting. I look forward (sort of) to hearing your feedback.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Community Banks and the 2010 Census

Recently I was asked by the representative of a local elected official to participate in a grass roots effort directed at promoting awareness and participation in the upcoming 2010 U.S. Census. The Committee that was formed includes members of East Los Angeles' most influential...well...influencers. The committee name...the East Los Angeles Complete Count Committee.

After reviewing the data presented to me by members of the Committee, joining the group was a no brainer. While I always knew there was an important use for the Census data other than determining low- and moderate-income communities for Community Reinvestment Act purposes (the CRA is a bank law that encourages lending, investment and services in certain areas based on Census data), I never realized how important the Census process was for the communities served by the Bank.

The U.S. government utilizes census information relative to population density, levels of income, age, and other factors to determine how to allocate funds across the Country. Studies have found that Los Angeles County - particularly those areas (census tracts) that are heavily Latino-based, lose federal investment monies due to undercounts of residents that take place during the census counting process.

The reasons for the undercounts are many, ranging from lack of understanding to fear (many Latino immigrants, whether documented or not, are skeptical of government officials coming to their doors due to events common in their countries of origin).

East Los Angeles has historically been considered a "hard-to-count" community. What residents need to understand is that the census figures determine how nearly $400 billion in federal funds are disbursed each year.

As the only community bank headquartered in East Los Angeles, it is our responsibility to support efforts that ensure that the local community gets its fair share of federal investment. Such investments include monies related to education, infrastructure, social services and other critical projects.

So, over the course of the past couple weeks the East Los Angeles Complete Count Committee has worked frantically to set up a December 12, 2009, press conference and Latino Census Summit. The event is aimed at reaching out to hard-to-count populations in Los Angeles County. The event will feature television and radio personalities, Latino advocates, and local elected officials. Following the press conference the East Los Angeles Complete Count Committee will host the first annual Latino Census Summit where expert panelists will deliver important information regarding the 2010 census.

As a local corporate citizen it is in our best interest to maximize investment dollars in our community. Investments boost the standard of living of our customers, attract additional investments into the community and generate the need for financial products and services provided by community banks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Make Yourself Comfortable

I am a member of the Rotary Club of East Los Angeles. We are a small club but a dynamic club.

At today's meeting we had the pleasure of being visited by a team of leaders from our district, including District Governor Tom Novotny from Las Vegas. Tom gave a very moving presentation that included sharing a couple of very personal experiences. These experiences he described as taking him from a member of Rotary to being a Rotarian.

Tom's central theme was how important it is for us as humans to roam outside our comfort zone. The couple stories he shared demonstrated how when he was placed into situations that were very uncomfortable and uncertain, he forced himself outside of his comfort zone and found himself incredibly enriched from the struggles that came with going into the unknown. While I do not have the time to go into the details, let's just say that there was not a single dry eye in the place after his presentation.

As I drove to my next meeting I was replaying his stories and wondering what I would have done if placed in his shoes. And over and over I came up short. I repeatedly rationalized and came up with reasons why I would not have ventured outside MY comfort zone. While I don't think my decision would have made me a bad person, I see in hindsight how I would not have benefitted from the life experiences that the opportunities presented.

One reason why I love Rotary is because it is good people coming together to do good things. Belonging to Rotary makes me feel good about myself. But today I realized that despite my contributions to Rotary, as of today I am only a member of Rotary. What I am not is a Rotarian as I have not had that "Rotarian Moment."

Every now and then I experience something that has a long term effect on my perspective. Today I am happy to say that learned an important lesson. In a sense, my eyes have been opened and I now know that being a Rotarian is much more than being a member of the Rotary. I also know that in order for me to become a true Rotarian I will have to make that leap outside of my comfort zone. Something for me to work on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Importance of Art

As with most cultures, art is an integral part of everyday life. It is no different in the Latino culture. Cultures tell their story over the course of time through their art. And subsequent generations learn of their history through art.

When we headquarted our bank in East Los Angeles over 45 years ago, our founders wanted for the community to learn and be proud of community's Mexican roots. The founders chose to express the history by engaging a wonderful artist by the name of Jose Reyes Meza. For over 45 years, the entrance of the Bank's headquarters has been guarded by the five murals shown below.

In September 2009, the Bank decided to recommit itself to the support of the local arts. The first effort of this initiative involved exhibiting the works of a family of local artists, the Sibaja family. The Sibaja family is comprised of two brothers and one sister. The exhibition took place on October 24, 2009, during the Bank's 45th anniversary celebration. Subsequent to the event, the Bank has dedicated a section of the main branch to displaying the art of the Sibaja family.

Recently, the local media took notice of the Bank's tie-in to the arts and chose to feature the Bank and the Sibaja family in a piece for Spanish language television.

In an effort to continue our support the arts, Pan American Bank will feature local artists in a series of MasterCard debit cards. The first card will feature the art of Calixto Sibaja. Future versions of the card will also feature talented local Latino artists. The first debit card is expected for release in January 2010.

A prototype of the cards is shown below.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

MALDEF's 35th Annual Awards Gala

On Thursday, November 12th, I attended MALDEF's 35th Annual Awards gala. It was held at the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. As usual, the event was a who's who of local and national Latino talent. The over 1,000 attendees included movers and shakers from politics, media, law, business, education and every other industry.

The event honored Eva Longoria-Parker, Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, Anthony Solana Jr. and Anheuser Busch Cos.

Longoria-Parker was awarded with MALDEF's Community Service Award. Years ago I attended a fundraiser that benefitted children with cancer. It was Eva's early days as a supporter and philanthropist. In the years since, Eva's career has continued to grow as well as her personal wealth and network of high-net worth people (she's married to an NBA player). She has taken the opportunity to become more immersed in doing good things. I applaud that.

Rudy Acuña, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, is one of a handful of people still living that are responsible for the Chicano rights movement that began in the 1960s. If you were to create an all-time panel of Chicano rights activists, Rudy would share a table with Cesar E. Chavez. Seeing him up on stage, still full of life and energy and never apologizing for his commitment to doing the right thing was insprirational to everyone in attendance...even the non-Latinos!

Anthony Solana Jr. received the Legal Service Award (MALDEF is a legal advocate). Anthony is the founder, president, and chairperson of For People of Color, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization whose mission is to diversity the legal profession. He is also the author of "A Guide to the Law School Application Process For People of Color" and "A Guide to the Bar Examination For People of Color." Anthony received the award for his commitment to helping the community in which grew up. Coincidentally, the church he attended is a block away from Pan American Bank's East Los Angeles headquarters.

All in, it was a very inspiring event. No matter how much I think I've acheived and how much good I've done in this world, events like this humble you and let you know that there is always more that can be done. No matter what your cause or beliefs, get out there and make a difference!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Trip to Santa Ana

On the evening of November 2, 2009, I visited the city council in Santa Ana, California.

In an act of appreciation, the city council presented to me, on behalf of Pan American Bank, a proclamation honoring our service to the City of Santa Ana for 40 years.

If you know about our bank you know that we are focused on serving the Latino markets in Southern California. When we set up shop in 1964 we started by establishing ourselves in East Los Angeles - Los Angeles County's Latino stronghold. Five years later we established a branch in Santa Ana - Orange County's Latino hub. Since then we have opened one more branch in East Los Angeles.

Something great that evolved from our interaction with the city council was a request to establish a community-based advisory council. The city council in Santa Ana has been taking a very proactive approach to improving the standard of living of their residents. Part of that initiative is what they call Bank on Santa Ana.

Pan American Bank jumped all over the Bank on Santa Ana program. This program, which seeks to convert the unbanked and under-banked segments of the City of Santa Ana, is in perfect alignment with our mission (see my post on our mission) since roughly 80% of the City of Santa Ana is comprised of Latinos.

As I stated above, the city council requested that Pan American Bank establish a board or committee comprised of community stakeholders that would work with the Bank to ensure that the residents of the City of Santa Ana have access to needed financial services. I thought it was a fantastic idea. Since our headquarters is located in Los Angeles County, an advisory board would ensure that there is always someone in Orange County looking out for community development opportunities and ensuring that needs are consistently being addressed.

We are now in the process of working with the community development officers at the FDIC, Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to develop a framework that will be successful in achieving these goals. We look to having the framework completed by mid-December and rolling out the program in Santa Ana at the start of the new year.

We are very excited for the new program and we're looking forward to working with the City of Santa Ana at a more intimate level. Since we are a true community bank, what is good for the City of Santa Ana is good for Pan American Bank.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What's Our Mission?

Back in September I came across an opportunity to participate in a fantastic educational program at UCLA's Anderson School of Management. The program, which spanned roughly 90 hours over the course of 10 days, started with an in depth discussion on the mission of companies.

When I returned to the office I immediately began to explore our mission. According to Professor John M. De Figueiredo, mission is a broad statement of what the organization ultimately wants to become. Based on that definition, I sat down and began a formal exercise to define our formal mission statement.

The factors that I and my team evaluated in creating the mission statement included:

  • What is the vision of the Bank?

  • What will the Bank's business performance look like in the next three to five years if all we do is the same things, ONLY BETTER?

  • Where does the Bank need to head in the next five to ten years to be a strong performer?

After many revisions and discussions with staff and the Bank's Board of Directors, the following Mission Statement of Pan American Bank emerged:

"To transform and empower Latino communities through banking relationships built on trust, service, respect, communication, and guidance."

At the end of the process everyone was proud of our success and of our new mission statement.

Who Is Pan American Bank?

Pan American Bank was established in East Los Angeles in 1964. When the Bank was originally established it was named Pan American National Bank. Later, the Bank converted from a national banking charter to a state banking charter, dropping the "national" from its name.

Pan American Bank was created by its founders specifically to serve the needs of Latinos in Los Angeles. While several people were involved in the founding of the Bank, the majority shareholder and driving force behind the Bank was former U.S. Treasurer Romana Acosta Banuelos.

A couple weeks ago the Bank celebrated its 45 year anniversary. The Bank has stayed true to its mission of serving the Latino community. In the early 1970's the Bank expanded into Santa Ana with the same mission. The Bank today has three offices, two in East Los Angeles and one in Santa Ana.