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DAY 2 - BANK

Asian American Bank's banking on success of new supermarket

Sees itself in right place at right time
as demand for local services grows

GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger
Raymond K. Tung, left, president and CEO of the Asian American Bank on Quincy Avenue, and Henry Li, the bank’s vice president, took a chance opening some distance from the heart of Quincy’s Asian-American community.

By KAREN ESCHBACHER
The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY

When Asian American Bank decided to open a branch in the city, officials from the company knew exactly where to look: North Quincy, the heart of a burgeoning Asian-American population.

But buildings just weren’t big enough, or parking wasn’t plentiful, or locations weren’t visible from the road. The search proved fruitless.

Those problems, however, turned out to be a blessing, said Raymond K. Tung, president and chief executive officer of Asian American Bank.

Owners of the New York-based Kam Man Food chain had set their sights on Quincy as the location for their next Asian supermarket and mall. Tung knew right away that he wanted a branch there.

“I knew they are going to be successful,” he said. “If I know they are going to be successful, the best approach is to team up with them.”

Asian American Bank will anchor a mall with between 60 and 70 retail stores located in the same building as the Kam Man supermarket on Quincy Avenue near the Fore River shipyard. The supermarket, open for just a few months, is already drawing customers from the South Shore and beyond.

Tung said the project is poised to become a “second Chinatown.”

“There will be a lot of people coming here, not just from Quincy, but from surrounding towns in the South Shore area,” he said. “So, this will not just be a Quincy bank, but a South Shore bank.”

Alternatives to traditional downtown Chinatowns have sprung up across the country, from California to New York City. Tung said the reason is simple: After years of living in a community, residents get tired of doing business and socializing elsewhere, and look for services locally. That includes banking.

In Flushing, N.Y., along with dozens of Chinese restaurants and other businesses, there is a bevy of banks that cater to Asian-American customers, including Hong Kong Bank, Asia Bank, Cathay Bank, Amerasia Bank and China Trust Bank, to name just a few.

“In the Flushing area, almost all the small businesses or retail stores put their money in the Asian bank,” said Fred Fu, president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association. “It is more convenient. All the staff in the bank is Chinese, so it looks like the same group, the same community, people speak the same language.”

As recently as 1998, more than 36 percent of Quincy’s Asian-American residents still did banking in Chinatown, according to “One Step Closer to the Mainstream,” a report for which hundreds of residents were surveyed and interviewed.

Tung said between 20 and 25 percent of Asian American Bank’s 34,000 accounts are from Quincy. The bank currently has locations in Chinatown and Allston.

“We know that people do want to bank locally and, for the Asian population, the only reason to go to Chinatown was because there was not an Asian bank here,” he said.

Realtor Dan Flynn said he thinks the opening of Asian American Bank is significant for Quincy.

“I guess despite the fact that the Asian community has been growing for a number of years now, it hasn’t been until literally the past few years that you see more and more Asian-owned businesses,” he said. “I think the benchmark, quite frankly, is the Asian American Bank locating in Quincy. I think it’s a segment of ownership that’s going to grow.”

Karen Eschbacher may be reached at keschbacher@ledger.com.

© 2003 The Patriot Ledger ~ All Rights Reserved