CHICAGO - This city's first Hispanic-owned bank is expected to receive its charter today and open next week.

Pan American Bank is set to serve the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods southwest of downtown, home to about 300,000 Hispanics - mainly of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Central American origin. Similar ventures have been attempted over the years, but organizers had trouble raising capital.

"It's something that the community's wanted for a long time," said chairman Ernest J. Ojeda.

His company, Pan American Bancshares, assembled $4.5 million in a private placement and is to capitalize the bank with $3.5 million.

All of the funding came from local investors, about 65% of it from Hispanics of various origins, said Ronald M. Pikus, president and chief executive.

"What makes me feel very proud is we've been able to bridge our communities," Mr. Ojeda said. "There's always been this kind of feeling that our community is very divided."

Mr. Ojeda, 47, owns Tupals Management Co., which manages four McDonald's in Chicago. He has tried to open a Hispanic-owned bank since 1992. He previously bid on two existing banks in Chicago and one in California, but was outbid by existing institutions.

"Several of us in this community have always felt that other groups were represented by financial institutions and ours was lacking," he said.

The Pilsen-Little Village area is not underbanked, but did lack a community bank, Mr. Pikus said. The area is marked by working-class families - first or second generation Americans and recent Mexican immigrants.

"All those institutions represented in Pilsen and Little Village are branches of larger entities," Mr. Pikus said. "As a result, the product mix and underwriting process and practices have to be governed to the entire Chicago and state market rather than focused on the local needs of the community."

Searching for bank management, Mr. Ojeda initially sought a Hispanic president. But, "We could not find one in our marketplace that would pass muster for our regulators," he said.

Instead, he settled on Mr. Pikus, 47, who came "highly recommended," grew up in the area, and has some 25 years of experience at Chicago-area financial institutions, most recently as president and chief executive of River Valley Savings Bank in Joliet.

Further, Mr. Pikus' year in the Peace Corps in Venezuela boosted his knowledge of Spanish.

Someone like Mr. Pikus is just what the bank needs, said Richard A. Soukup, a Grant Thornton consultant who worked with Pan American.

"Having a veteran banker at the helm who may not necessarily be part of the minority community that they are seeking to serve has been a very important ingredient to success to minority banks in the past," he said.

Some minority-owned banks have faltered in part because they have not had a strong veteran banker leading the effort, he said, and they tend to start with less capital.

Most of Pan American's eight employees are Hispanic, and all are bilingual. Signs and advertising also are to be in English and Spanish.

The state-chartered bank is to be open on a limited basis until its official public opening next Friday. It's to operate from a trailer until its building opens in March.

Pan American's business plan calls for $33 million in deposits by the end of three years, Mr. Pikus said. He said the bank is projected to be profitable in the third quarter of its second year of operation, in line with other start-ups.

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