SAN FRANCISCO - The California unit of Sumitomo Bank Ltd. has taken the unusual step of hiring an American who is not of Asian descent to run its retail branches.

The bank's new executive vice president, 50-year-old Ole B. Larsen, was born in Denmark but moved to California with his family when he was 10. He subsequently became a U.S. citizen and served in the Army before starting a 20-year career at the former Security Pacific National Bank, where he managed a substantial portion of its branch network.

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