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New path for First Utah Bank

West Valley City branch will serve needs of state’s broad Asian community

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They speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Hindi, Bengali, Vietnamese, Spanish ... and money.

First Utah Bank this week will celebrate the opening of its international branch, thought to be the first bank branch in Utah catering to a broad Asian community. The grand opening celebration will be Friday at the newly completed branch, 3123 S. Redwood Road.

"In looking for a market niche, we realized that the Asian community in the Salt Lake area was growing drastically," said First Utah vice president Jean John. "We felt that this was a good target market for us and brought the proper people on to support that."

Market research has shown that Utah's Asian community is composed of industrious, entrepreneurial people, according to First Utah executive vice president George Redd. It's also, in the bank's view, a community that has been painfully underserved.

"They are, as a group, a group that invests in the community," Redd said. "They put people to work. They are very entrepreneurial in their spirit. It's just an area we felt was very underserved, ... and we feel like this is a community where we can really make a difference."

The branch will be staffed by six people, according to branch manager Solhee Hong Shelley. The majority are native speakers who also speak English — and the language of financial services.

"They understand the thought processes behind financial products and services of the various countries, how people feel about the safety and security of their money," John said. "They not only speak the language, they understand the culture."

In addition, Redd said First Utah has assembled a 14-member advisory board whose members represent the Asian Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Pacific islander and Hispanic communities. The board meets on a quarterly basis, Redd said, and will provide input on issues important to their respective groups — from financial education to tax help to legal matters.

The branch hasn't yet officially opened, but it's already getting good response, Redd said. More than 50 accounts were opened in March, ahead of the branch opening, he said.

The branch also will offer a "community room," which it will make available for groups, Redd said. The room accommodates about 50 people.

"It really is about building trust," Redd said. "If you come from another country, and you're wanting to be involved in the community where you live, building trust with someone who speaks your language and is from your culture, we think is huge. It's huge in building that respect and giving proper respect to people."

The international branch will offer First Utah's complete portfolio of services. Friday's grand opening will include music and dance performances by artists from India, China, the Philippines, Korea, Mexico and the Pacific islands.

Founded in 1978, First Utah Bank has seven branches in Utah and $300 million in assets.

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com