When Benjamin Hong took over Nara Bank in 1994, the small institution that caters to the Korean community in California was drowning in debt and battling to stay afloat.

Today, $161 million-asset Nara Bank ranks among the state's most profitable community banks, with a 22% return on equity and a return on assets above 2%. It recently opened its first branch outside Los Angeles-in fast-growing San Jose-and, within weeks, Nara is expected to be listed on the Nasdaq exchange.

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