Some Japanese bankers bankers may be having second thoughts about expanding in the United States, but Bank of Tokyo's Kaoru Hayama isn't one of them.

"We will certainly never retreat from the U.S., our most important market" outside of Japan, says Mr. Hayama, who took over in July as senior managing director for the Americas at Bank of Tokyo in New York.

"We strongly believe in the economic potential of the U.S., and we have had more than a century of experience in riding through the business cycles."

Lending Increased Last Year

Unlike some other Japanese banks that have been reducing their U.S. lending and putting plans on hold, Bank of Tokyo increased its lending 4.6%, to $24 billion, in 1991.

And that's not all.

Since the start of the year, Bank of Tokyo has opened new offices in Dallas and Houston, and its subsidiary, Union Bank, has purchased 33 offices from Security Pacific, making it California's fourth-biggest bank, with 214 officers.

With more than $50 billion in U.S. assets, 8,650 U.S. employees, and banking relations with 2,500 of the 3,500 Japanese companies with U.S. operations, Bank of Tokyo is already the top foreign bank in the United States.

Like others with large operations in California, the bank has been hit by lower earnings in the wake of mounting problem commercial real estate loans and the severe economic downturn.

Second-quarter net income at Union Bank fell 9%, to $33.2 million, while nonperforming assets rose more than 40% over the 12 months, to $442 million.

Mr. Hayama declines to disclose total U.S. results saying only that "we came out of the year with our overall asset quality and profitability in satisfactory condition."

He adds that the bank's No. 1 goal is to improve U.S. profits and expand relations with American companies, especially those to which Bank of Tokyo can offer the benefits of its extensive Asian network.

Unfazed by Economic Setback

He remains optimistic despite the current business downturn in the United States.

"Sometimes, you have to be patient, but you don't need to be pessimistic," he says.

The 57-year-old banker previously served as head of corporate planning at the bank's headquarters in Tokyo.

Since 1958, when he joined Bank of Tokyo after graduating from Hitotsubashi University, Mr. Hayama has been assistant manager in the London office, deputy general manager in the planning division, deputy general manager at the New York agency, acting general manager in Hong Kong and Osaka, general manager of the planning division, managing director, and senior managing director of the bank.

He acknowledges having a particular fondness for New York.

"You enjoy life much more when you enjoy the place you work in," Mr. Hayama says.

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