Sanwa Bank California has joined the rush by California banks to boost international operations.
Aiming to cash in on the booming trade between California and Pacific Rim countries, the San Francisco-based bank has hired Henry J. Jurgens from Union Bank of California with a mandate to expand international activities.
"California is a market in which exports and imports are growing at a phenomenal rate," said Mr. Jurgens, whose new title is senior vice president of Sanwa's international banking group. "We see more and more people entering this market and an excellent opportunity for us."
Sanwa Bank California, with around $8 billion of assets, is the state's fourth-largest bank. The bank has 110 branches, caters mostly to small and midsize companies, and is one of the largest agricultural lenders in the United States.
Mr. Jurgens said he sees ample opportunities to expand the bank's business dealings with agricultural and small and midsize companies.
"We think we can cross-sell into the agricultural market pretty well," he said. "Trade services are never there by themselves, and when you get trade you also get foreign exchange, as well as a family of banking services like deposits and cash management."
Mr. Jurgens, 56, spent 26 years at Union Bank; most recently he was senior vice president and division manager for its international banking group.
Sanwa is attracted to trade finance and other international activities because of fee income, Mr. Jurgens said. He added that although Sanwa is competing against bigger players like BankAmerica Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and Union Bank of California, opportunities lie in Sanwa's smaller size and in growth in trade-related services.
"The difference between large and small banks is in the quality of service," the banker said. "Large banks can't provide that kind of service."
Sanwa is not the only bank in California expanding trade finance and other international services. Wells Fargo has set up a joint trade-finance venture with London-based HSBC Holdings PLC. Imperial Bancorp, a $4 billion-asset bank in Los Angeles, recently announced a program of its own to expand international activities.
Mr. Jurgens emphasized that Sanwa's links to its parent company, Sanwa Bank Ltd., give it an advantage. One of Japan's biggest banks, Sanwa Bank Ltd. has an extensive network of offices in Asian countries with which California companies do business.