By Kai Curry
Northwest Asian Weekly
With four branches in Washington state, and over 130 locations worldwide, East West Bank styles itself as a bridge connecting people in diverse parts of the world, but especially Asia and the United States, with opportunities for its customers to thrive financially and personally.
John Rindlaub, senior managing director here in Washington, and head of the Pacific Northwest market, is proud to be part of a banking team that invests in community, the future, and diversity.
Rindlaub has been in his position for about six months. Rindlaub returned to banking after a small hiatus during which he had invested in several startup companies and had become chairman of the Board of the National Bureau of Asian Research, which is headquartered in Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Formerly with Wells Fargo, Rindlaub says, “I greatly missed banking and the special role that a bank can play in supporting commercial businesses, taking care of retail customers and helping out in the community…Given my background in Asia, when the Northwest leadership role at East West became available, I jumped at the chance…and very happy to work for a bank with strong business ties to Asia and Greater China.”
According to the bank’s official story, East West Bank “opened for business in 1973 as the first federally-chartered savings institution focused primarily on serving the financial needs of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles.” Today, it is a Nasdaq traded company with over $41 billion in assets, full service branches in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shantou, and Shenzhen, and representative offices in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Taipei, and Xiamen. In the United States, the bank can be found in Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Washington state, with two branches in Bellevue, one in Northgate, and one in the International District.
Rindlaub’s banking story launched around the same time. He started out as a commercial banker with Bankers Trust Company of New York, then took over Bankers Trust’s Los Angeles Representative Office in 1974. He was also CEO of Seafirst Bank. More specifically to banking in Asia, Rindlaub has been the head of Bank of America’s and Wells Fargo’s Asian operations, both of which are headquartered in Hong Kong. He welcomes the opportunity to return to banking in a way that supports diversity.
“Championing diversity has been a hallmark of my experience as a leader and banker, and my beliefs are welcomed and supported by both East West Bank associates and our customers.”
While East West Bank started with a focus on serving Chinese and Chinese American customers, and that segment of the clientele base remains very important, East West Bank is in the business of serving a much broader community today.
Says Rindlaub, “East West Bank started as a bank for immigrants. Those are our roots. With that being said, over the past 46 years, our customer base has broadened beyond the Chinese American community on both sides of the Pacific.”
Due to its focus on Asian and U.S. relations over the years, East West Bank is uniquely situated with the expertise to cater to the specific demands of the U.S. and Asian markets.
“Our experience serving multicultural customers enables us to offer the most appropriate products and is also reflected in the investment that the bank makes for the future,” explains Rindlaub.
East West Bank offers all of the services one might expect from a bank, but with the know-how to navigate the ins and outs of banking rules and regulations in Asia, as well as the United States.
“Our roots in serving immigrants provide us with a keen understanding of the local business environment, regulations, and culture nuances that contribute to our customers’ success in both countries,” said Rindlaub. The bank has a focus on small business, including Asian small business.
“East West Bank believes that small businesses are a critical component of the American economy, and we’re committed to supporting their growth. We offer all the products and services you expect from a big bank, with the high level of personal attention you expect from a local bank…In 2018 alone, we originated $569 million in small business lending.”
For Asian-owned businesses and for individuals, Rindlaub says that the bank provides “international trade financing and currency exchange for remittances as we saw that many of our customers had started import-export businesses between the U.S. and Greater China over the years. We also have a comprehensive suite of lending, deposit, and fee-based products and services to create a seamless banking experience for our cross-border customers. We know our customers, we understand our customers, and we value our customers.”
East West Bank demonstrates this attention to its customers by community outreach in the form of seminars and workshops, which Rindlaub explains are designed to keep clients up-to-date “with business policy changes and provide knowledge on how to tackle business issues.” Topics include “project management, buying or selling CRE, etc. Our relationship managers are here to help identify the business needs of each small business and to craft customized solutions.” These workshops and seminars are available at the Seattle and Bellevue branches.
While large in overall size — one of the top 30 largest banks in the United States based on asset size and market capitalization, according to Rindlaub — East West Bank, which remains headquartered in California, is in Rindlaub’s words, “large enough to take care of the needs of local individuals and companies of all sizes, yet small enough to get decisions made relatively quickly.”
For Rindlaub, the return to banking in the form of East West Bank has been a good fit so far. “Our Bridge Banking strategy with Greater China, our relationship focus and entrepreneurial approach, and our acknowledged expertise in commercial real estate lending have made my joining the bank very gratifying and a perfect fit with my background.” He adds that “it is also very special to work for a bank that prizes diversity.”
Kai can be reached at email@example.com.