As part of an effort to expand its retail presence in the New York metropolitan area, Marine Midland Bank is seeking regulatory approval to acquire two Chinatown branches from Hang Seng Bank.

Marine Midland is the U.S. operating unit of London-based HSBC Holdings PLC. Hang Seng Bank is an affiliate of the same group.

Jim Cleave, president and chief executive of Marine Midland, said the acquisition "will enable Marine to expand its share of the Asian banking market in New York City, while giving Hang Seng's customers in the U.S. greater access to a broader range of banking and investment services."

Marine Midland, with $19.1 billion in assets and 320 branches across New York, has been steadily absorbing retail banking operations from other units of HSBC and is also looking to acquire small independent banks.

"We are seeking opportunities for expansion through acquisitions in New York and in contiguous states," said a Marine Midlandspokeswoman.

Last year the bank acquired six New York City branches of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. More recently, the bank acquired the $85 million- asset United Northern Federal Savings Bank in Watertown, N.Y.

Under a strategy launched several years ago, HSBC and its principal operating subsidiary, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp., have in turn been absorbing Marine's wholesale banking and trading activities.

The two Chinatown branches of Hang Seng - involved in the latest Marine Midland acquisition move - employ 90 people and had combined assets of $310 million. Hong Kong-based Hang Seng, a $40 billion-asset retail bank based with 138 branches, said the plan to transfer the two branches to Marine Midland followed a decision to concentrate on developing business in Hong Kong and China.

Money-center banks, foreign banks, and ethnic Asian community banks have targeted New York's Chinatown and other fast-growing Asian communities in the United States because of their high savings rates and growing demand for commercial and consumer banking services.

To help in the transition and avoid losing customers, Marine Midland is asking the Federal Reserve Board for approval to keep the Hang Seng name on the two branches. Marine Midland renamed the six branches Last Year.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.