Monday, March 12, 2007

Different Communities Even in Large Cities

When I first interviewed Joe Reid last year one of the surprises he related to me is, “We have two banks within a mile and half of each other in Phoenix. They are that close together but in completely different markets.” It seemed incredible to me at the time but I decided to see for myself when I was in Phoenix delivering my regional talk on entrepreneurism to several hundred bank employees, directors and their customers.

Capitol has nine banks in Arizona with six in the Phoenix area. It also has one in Yuma on the CA border and two in Tucson. Sunrise Bank of Arizona is located at 4350 E. Camelback and Camelback Community Bank at 2777 E. Camelback. As I was driving from Sunrise Bank to the airport on 44th Street I was shocked to find a third Capitol Bank only four miles south.

Asian Bank of Arizona was started in June of last year, catering specifically to the booming Asian community in the Phoenix area. The bank is set in an Asian themed shopping center, sitting prominently on the main corner. I turned my car around and went back to investigate.

The bank’s tagline is “We speak your language!” The brochures in their lobby were in English and several other Asian languages. I picked up an Arizona Asian-Pacific Yellow Pages and several Asian language newspapers to study on the plane back home.

The phone book’s information section had important phone numbers in English, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hindi Indian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Pakistani, Thai and Vietnamese. Only the Asian Bank of Arizona and Wells Fargo (but with an 800 number) had display ads in the phone book. Other banks like Bank of America advertised with an 800 number, not exactly a real local and friendly approach.

Only the Asian Bank of Arizona advertised in any of the Asian newspapers. They obviously are closely tied into the Asian market and view it as their unique niche.

The U. S. Census showed an estimate of 97,661 Asians in Maricopa County (Phoenix), the 25th highest concentrations in the USA.

It is a different niche, in a different neighborhood. And, I’m guessing that it will be one of Joe Reid’s most successful bank start-ups. The guy has this idea of community banking figured out.

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