Donald W. Hance used to view Union Bank of California as a small, sleepy competitor.

That was more than two years ago, when the banker worked for Well Fargo & Co. But now Mr. Hance is at Union, a unit of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. And for the past 16 months he's been trying to shape his new employer into a force in small-business lending even Wells will have to reckon with.

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