The president and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Hanmi Bank abruptly resigned last week to take a similar post at a rival bank.
Soo Bong Min takes over today as president and CEO of Wilshire State Bank in Los Angeles, succeeding William B. Im, who resigned in May.
Mr. Min, who had been CEO of $690 million-asset Hanmi for more than five years, had nine months left on his contract. Sources familiar with Hanmi said that its board of directors did not plan to renew the contract.
But Yong Ku Choe, chief financial officer at Hanmi, dismissed the rumor, saying Mr. Min's resignation caught the board by surprise. "It is a big loss for the bank," said Mr. Choe. "He did an excellent job. The competition had their eyes on him."
Both Hanmi and Wilshire focus on Korean-American business customers in downtown Los Angeles. Hanmi has nine branches, and Wilshire has five, with $239 million of assets.
Wilshire also operates loan production offices in San Jose, Calif.; Seattle; Chicago; and Dallas.
Joel Ziskind, vice chairman and chief operating officer at Wilshire, said the bank had sought a professional banker to run daily operations. Steven Koh, Wilshire's chairman and largest shareholder, had been running the bank day to day since Mr. Im stepped down.
"Mr. Min has been successful at Hanmi, and we think he can bring some of those things to us," said Mr. Ziskind.
Steve Didion, a bank analyst at Hoefer & Arnett in San Francisco, who tracks both companies, said Mr. Min's move would benefit both Hanmi and Wilshire.
Mr. Didion said Mr. Min's wealth of contacts in the Korean community helped Hanmi prosper but his limited English speaking skills had hurt relations with outsiders.
"Hanmi needs someone who can better communicate the bank's plan to the investment community and the regulators," said Mr. Didion. "And Wilshire needs someone with an operations background."
Hanmi has formed an executive search committee to find a successor for Mr. Min. This is expected to take several months. Hanmi's five-member executive team plans to share Mr. Min's responsibilities in the meantime.