James Ely, promoted to the newly created post of head of wealth management at Sanwa Bank, says the institution may be a sleeping giant in that business.
"From a commercial banking perspective we are known, but from a full financial services group, we have not pushed to expand," Mr. Ely said.
But he said Sanwa, the Los Angeles subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sanwa Bank Ltd., hopes to use its reputation in U.S. and international markets to increase assets under management and become an investment leader on the West Coast.
"Our institution is not looked at as a top-tier money management company," said Mr. Ely, the bank's newest senior vice president. "But there is one thing going for us here; we are part of a larger entity. We are going to use that name recognition as a catalyst to build."
Mr. Ely was a retail investment sales manager in the bank's wealth management division, which had been run by the chief executive officer. Mr. Ely, who joined the company in 1993, will now head the division and fill the new post of its director, in addition to being a senior vice president. He said he views the wealth management and business development group as part of a broader initiative to improve service to customers and to attract new ones.
"We have to tell our story first to our customers. Many of them don't even know of the financial services capabilities here at Sanwa," Mr. Ely said. "We have a sizable chunk of customers, and if all goes well we can easily boost our assets under management over the next few years."
The Los Angeles bank, which has $9.2 billion of assets, offers trust services and financial planning. Mr. Ely said much of the initial growth in assets under management that he is looking for will stem from telling current customers about the investment products Sanwa offers. Beyond that, the bank wants to use its international name recognition to attract a larger clientele.
"We have a lot of international customers that want to get into the American market, and we want to be able to take our California and West Coast customers overseas," Mr. Ely said.
David Ross Palmer, a consultant at Northbrook, Ill.-based Lobue Associates Inc., said Sanwa's ability to straddle the two markets is a real strength.
"With the size of this retail client base and their ability to infiltrate both markets, they are in a great position for substantial growth if they begin to focus on delivering financial services to just their own affluent and wealthy clients," Mr. Palmer said.
He said the significant population of wealthy Asian-Americans in California is familiar with the name Sanwa.
Mr. Ely said he hopes to open up other borders as well. "Because of our international clientele, we want to take advantage of existing relationships with affluent clients in Latin America and Asia and connect them with financial advisers in California," Mr. Ely said. "There is ample opportunity to help ourselves by helping them join the domestic market here."
Domestically, Mr. Ely said, he will tap professional networks to draw in wealthy accountants, lawyers, and doctors. "We are going to target specific markets," he said, and develop campaigns that explain "how we can benefit them as individuals and everyone as a group."