East West Bank: An Interview with Mary Wei, Bellevue Downtown Branch Manager
“At East West Bank, our customers can feel ‘I am at home now. I am not with strangers.’”
~Mary Wei, Bellevue Downtown Branch Manager
Ranked in the top 10 of the 100 Best Banks in American by Forbes.com, East West Bank is one of the largest independent banks headquartered in California and is focused exclusively on the United States and Greater China markets. With $21.5 billion in assets, East West Bank operates over 125 locations worldwide, including in the United States markets of California, New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington.
In Greater China, East West’s presence includes a full service branch in Hong Kong and representative offices in Beijing, Shenzhen and Taipei. Through a wholly owned subsidiary bank, East West’s presence in Greater China also includes full service branches in Shanghai and Shantou and a representative office in Guangzhou.
The CEO and Chairman, Dominic Ng, was honored as 2012 Business Person of the Year in Los Angeles. The following video provides a clear image of East West Bank’s background, secrets of success, planning of growth for the future, emphasis on building the premier financial bridge between East and West, and its commitment to charity, cultural arts, and community in every community where it does business.
Mary Wei is the Bellevue Downtown Branch Manager. She has 30 years of commercial banking experience, Including 7 years with East West Bank and formerly as Asia Division Head for Hong Kong Shanghai Bank.
Q: What does your company do as its principal business?
A: Our principal business is retail and commercial banking, and we are focused exclusively on the United States and Greater China markets. Our goal is to be recognized as the premier financial bridge between East and West and acknowledged for delivering relationship-driven solutions to an increasingly diverse and sophisticated customer base.
Q: What does it mean to be a financial bridge?
A: We establish gateways. Our understanding of the cultural and business practices on both sides of the Pacific enables us to guide clients through complex business and financial landscapes. We have extensive networks of contacts and resources to assist clients in cross-border business with manufacturers, distributors and investors in China. We are better prepared than other big banks to deal with Chinese red tape. We also make it easier to help businesses set up accounts in the U.S. and China. We bridge customers in China to business opportunities and personal goals in the U.S.
Q: What is a key principle of your company’s culture or its success strategy?
A: Most employees speak several languages. And we understand the Chinese culture, other Asian cultures and American culture, too. This makes me feel proud. It’s a plus compared to other banks. We connect easily with customers and understand their needs. At East West Bank, our customers can feel ‘I am at home now. I am not with strangers.’”
We grow by referrals and by expanding relationships with current customers. So we want every customer to be satisfied and successful. It’s the common goal at East West Bank. We are customer centered in each of our performance measures.
That includes customized solutions for our clients and a complete range of commercial and consumer products and services. We make sure that East West Bank employees have direct access to senior managers, which help streamline communications. We also require employees to have in-depth industry expertise in healthcare, green technology, international trade, title and escrow, affordable housing finance and more.
Q: How has being located in Washington State benefited your business?
A: A big part of our business consists of people in technology fields that emigrate from China to the U.S. or who establish businesses here. That is why Bellevue is an important location to us. Bellevue is a center for technology innovation.
As China has become an economic powerhouse, Washington State has formed an important trade relationship with China. Several international corporations are headquartered in Washington State; and they can take advantage of East West Bank’s overseas branches in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
More Chinese companies are looking to establish business headquarters in Bellevue, too. This may be to take advantage of the Microsoft relationship, or be part of new technology research here, or it may be that Bellevue-Seattle, like California, is a major portal to doing business across the U.S.
Q: What opportunities do you see for your business in China or other parts of Asia?
A: Today, East West Bank is one of a very few American banks with full-service branches in Greater China, and with an exclusive focus on the United States and the Greater China markets. We use our branch networks in the United States and Greater China to open accounts in the local currency and provide deposit services to support our customers with cross-border operations.
There are cultural gaps between U.S and China, and there is a lack of understanding from both U.S. companies and their counterparts in China about the financing opportunities.
East West Bank’s strength is in serving as the financial bridge to both sides, promoting understanding and facilitating the growth of such financial opportunities. The bridge provides our customers with superior access to unique opportunities, supported by specialized skills, expertise, and banking infrastructure. It also provides them with the cultural, geographic and financial insight of a trusted advisor.
Q: Is there any new effort or project that you plan to start that will help further these opportunities?
A: As we grow, we will expand customer relationships and establish new branches in more locations. For example, we will identify Chinese investors for American business owners seeking capital; we will identify partners, customers and resources in Greater China for American companies; and we will open dialogues with Chinese companies seeking to place operations in the U.S.
In Bellevue, we are an active advisor and partner to the City of Bellevue. Mayor Conrad Lee, who was also born in China, is a good friend and business colleague. We are proud to facilitate the City in helping Chinese businesses establish offices here, and to assist in the City’s relationships with cities in China, such as Dalian. To that end, we look forward to our partnership with the BellevueCN Web site and wish it great success in the years to come.