A strong bank serving primarily Chinese-speaking immigrants in Chicago’s Chinatown and Southside
* editor's note: Pacific Global Bank was sold to Royal Business Bank in September of 2019, after this article was originally published.
When thinking about the struggles that immigrants may face when moving to the United States, the first to come to mind would probably be the overwhelming challenge of trying to learn a new language while simultaneously getting settled in a place which is totally unfamiliar. It’s no wonder why many Chinese immigrants choose to move to Chinatowns, neighborhoods in cities which have a high-density population of Chinese, as well as many Chinese businesses including gift shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Small businesses like these provide the basic goods and services which many Chinese-speaking immigrant would be uncomfortable shopping for at establishments that don’t speak their first language. Chinatowns make it possible for many Chinese and other Asian immigrants to make the transition to American life, while still retaining their culture, language, and community.
We’ve previously published an article on Asian Bank, a small bank operating in Philadelphia’s Chinatown that focuses on small business lending, and talked about the essential services they’re providing to Chinese-speaking immigrants there. Although Pacific Global Bank focuses on housing rather than small business, they’re equally devoted to enriching the lives of those who live in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood.
Founded in 1995, Pacific Global Bank was created by the same board of directors which still operate the institution today, and who are majority Chinese, making this bank a Minority Depository Institution. They also have a larger percentage of women on their board and in their management than many banking institutions. The directors grew up in the neighborhood and wanted to invest “in the community that helped bring their dreams to life.” In their “about us” web page, they describe a deep commitment to helping their customers build something with their money, and as they provide all services in Chinese as well as English, they enable even those struggling with English to fully understand what is being done with their money. They’re a certified CDFI, and they’ve recently been able to open up two more branches, one in Chinatown and the other in Bridgeport, a neighborhood on Chicago’s southside that is known for its diversity, having significant Latinx, Asian and White populations.
Even if a bank says it is committed to improving customers’ lives, if their statistics don’t reflect that then you can be sure your money isn’t doing the good it could with another banking institution. However, Pacific Coast’s lending portfolio shows that their priority is housing, with it making up 88% of their portfolio, and with 61% of this going to low- and moderate-income households. They don’t do much small business lending, with it being only 4% of their lending, because they have committed to provide home loans. It is particularly hard for non-English speaking immigrants to receive home loans, which are essential to building wealth, because they often don’t have a US credit score and may have trouble understanding their loan officers. They’re using their assets in the community through lending, with a net-loans-to-deposits ratio of about 90%, and have a positive return on assets as well as a Satisfactory CRA rating, making them a safe and effective choice. As they offer business and mobile banking, an impressive feat for such a small bank, we would recommend them to anyone looking in invest in Asian immigrant communities in Chicago.