There is nothing quite like the excitement surrounding a ribbon-cutting day. It signifies the launch of a new Cathay Bank branch, ready to open to the public and bring our services to a new community. We view every opening as the opportunity to create a positive force in new customers’ lives.
When we open a new branch, we don’t just choose any available building. Cathay Bank is committed to supporting local businesses, so we are thrilled to open branches where we can provide convenient, top-tier service directly in our communities.
It all goes back to the first Cathay Bank building in Los Angeles’ Chinatown in the 1960s. Founder George T.M. Ching wanted to build a building that stood out and reflected the heritage of the Cathay brand. He worked with architect Eugene Choy to design the bank’s first building where it is headquartered, which incorporated traditional architectural styles of colorful tile cladding, curved eaves, and symbolic colors (bright red and traditional gold) with modern American design elements.
At the time, the building was one of the tallest in Chinatown, which helped communicate the strength of the company’s heritage and brand. Choy also incorporated elements of New Formalism, a popular American architectural style at the time, that mixed clean lines with strict proportions and scale.
Ching and Choy found creative ways to weave together traditional Chinese ornaments and decor with contemporary pieces as they designed the interior of the office. Inside the branch, they hung a clock with the Chinese Zodiac on the wall, as well as paintings of Chinese inventions. The goal was to highlight what the Chinese people had contributed to the world.
Barton Choy, architect and son of Eugene Choy, designed the second Monterey Park branch. In the 2010s, Cathay Bank has undergone a modernizing transformation to adapt to local communities.
This original bank architecture design informed and inspired many of our early branches, which reflect the bank’s heritage, as well as the culture and growth of the communities we serve.
Today we make a concerted effort around “branch transformation,” the process of ensuring our bank architecture maintains our cultural background while meeting the needs of the modern customer.
For example, our El Monte corporate building underwent a significant transformation to become the modern-meets-traditional icon it is today. The seven-story, 100,000 square-foot behemoth required an extensive bank architecture makeover.
Fortunately, global architecture firm Gensler was up for the challenge. The firm pulled together a multidisciplinary team to design the project, aiming to maintain Cathay’s Chinese American heritage at the heart of the renovation. The architecture team added structural elements for earthquake protection, extended a mechanical screen wall to make the bank building appear even taller than it already was, and made changes to the windows’ structure and material to help the building seemingly “exude” light. Finally, Gensler’s brand design studio added a multicolored mural of fish, a traditional Chinese symbol for abundance and wealth, to be visible from the curtain-style walls as a billboard of sorts. This final addition represents the bank’s Chinese American heritage while at the same time fostering a connection between the building interior and the nearby parallel freeway.
Cathay continues to optimize and expand our service network, and we look forward to continuing to serve customers’ financial needs while growing with them. As we’ve evolved, we have replaced teller lines with open-concept reception areas, where customers can relax, feel more comfortable, and receive a more personalized experience. We are focused on providing our customers with the best possible service.
In the 1960s, Eugene Choy created for Cathay Bank a unique design vocabulary that perfectly melded the old and new. His son, Barton Choy, continued the legacy with additional branches. Today, our Chinatown office still stands as a formidable building that personifies the dynamics of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles. Now, it is Cathay’s goal to uphold that vision of a modern-meets-classic bank architecture style with every new branch launch. Every time a ribbon is cut to signify a new bank building opening, we are reminded of our first Los Angeles building that so appropriately honored our Chinese heritage.