By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor in Chief
Ken Kasamatsu, founder of Pacific Commerce Bank, will be retiring on April 1 after 12 years leading the bank, and 45 years in the banking industry.
Speaking at his office in Little Tokyo, he said his legacy is found in the bank’s commitment to support the Japanese American community.
“The reason why I started the bank was to provide financial services to our community. It includes more than just checking and savings; it included support, visibility and actual working with community organizations. That’s what I feel best about,” said Kasamatsu in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo. “Although limited because of our size, we have been involved and supported the community.”
Along with several local community leaders, including current board member Henry Ota, Kasamatsu founded Pacific Commerce Bank in Little Tokyo on Oct. 20, 2002. Kasamatsu, 67, served as the bank’s first president and chief executive officer and has been instrumental in its active leadership role in the local Japanese American community.
“Ken was the driving force behind the establishment of Pacific Commerce Bank, and on behalf of the Board of Directors, we want to thank Ken and commend him for all of his many accomplishments,” commented Chairman Thomas Iino.
“Ken has been an outstanding ambassador for Pacific Commerce Bank within the local community and his leadership and guidance have been invaluable to all of us here at the bank,” said President and CEO Scott Andrews. “We wish Ken the best in his retirement, as he pursues his passion for teaching and sharing of his experiences over a long and distinguished 45-year banking career.”
The Little Tokyo branch held an all-day open house on Thursday to celebrate Kasamatsu’s retirement.
Pacific Commerce Bank has three branches, including a new one in San Diego. Last year the bank reported an annual net income after taxes of $4.9 million along with solid growth in loans and deposits. The bank had total assets of $173.1 million in 2013, an increase of $17.3 million over 2012. Kasamatsu said the bank has come a long way since the recession of 2008.
“It was a really lousy time to start a bank,” he wryly noted. “But just like Little Tokyo has improved so much, the bank has come to the point that I feel comfortable that we are on the right track.”
Kasamatsu, who had knee replacement surgery last year, plans to work on his golf game after his retirement, but he will also remain active in community service. He is chairman of Asian American Drug Abuse Program (AADP) and serves on the boards of Keiro Senior HealthCare, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, and Loyola High School Asian Pacific Alumni Society.
One of his passions is sharing his knowledge of finance with students at South Hills High School in West Covina.
“I talk about real-life banks and how we started. I enjoy interacting with the kids; some are really bright and have insightful questions,” said Kasamatsu.
He said among the most important lessons he teaches the students is to never give up and never become too complacent — advice that Kasamatsu takes to heart.
“I feel that it’s time for a different challenge. I probably will be very busy.”