Richard Wacker will also be president of the local company, leaving his job with a Korean bank
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 26, 2010
Richard Wacker, chairman of the fifth-largest Korean commercial bank, has been commuting to work 7,000 miles round trip between Honolulu and Seoul for the last three years.
Now the new president and chief executive officer of American Savings Bank can count his travel time in terms of minutes.
Wacker, 48, was named to lead the state's third-largest bank in terms of assets, replacing CEO Connie Lau, who will remain president and CEO of parent company Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., and former bank president Timothy Schools, who left last month to pursue other business interests in South Carolina.
"While we conducted a nationwide search, the best part was that Rich and his family were already living right here in Hawaii," said Lau, chairwoman of the bank.
Wacker, who moved with his wife and four children to Hawaii in 2007, will officially relinquish his position as chairman of Korea Exchange Bank at a Nov. 9 board meeting. He takes over at American Savings on Nov. 15.
"The team at American Savings Bank has done a lot of improvements in terms of restructuring, and now's a good time to come because there's a solid platform to build on," Wacker said yesterday. "The market environment is challenging, but I think the board and the parent company understand that pretty clearly. Really, the challenge is to find the best ways to grow in the current environment and take advantage of a market upturn when it comes."
PROFILE | Richard Wacker
» New title: President and CEO, American Savings Bank
» Outgoing title: Chairman, Korea Exchange Bank
» Age: 48. Born: St. Louis
» Family: Wife, Eileen. Children: Olivia, 12; Christian, 12; Ethan, 8; Natalie, 7
» Education: University of Missouri, B.S. in mechanical engineering
» Previous experience: 20 years with General Electric in both industrial and capital areas
"I went over there to do a turnaround after it got into trouble during the Asia crisis," Wacker said. "Since 2006 I've been in the process of finding new shareholders. We were in the process of a deal with (London-based) HSBC, and when that deal would close I would come here (to Hawaii). But that deal fell through when the crisis hit."
Wacker said he had a choice to move his family to Hawaii, which is where they wanted to settle, or to bring in another CEO.
"I didn't want to be a commuting CEO during the darkness of the financial crisis," Wacker said. "We found Larry (Klane), and he seemed like a great fit (as CEO). I stayed on as chairman to help with the transition and to maintain continuity. Primarily during that time, my focus was to work on the next phase with the bank."
Lone Star Funds, which is Korea Exchange Bank's largest shareholder, has been holding sales discussions for the bank with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, as well as another company whose name hasn't been disclosed, Wacker said. Korea Exchange Bank operates in 22 countries with about $90 billion in assets.
American Savings has assets of $4.9 billion and 57 branches.
"Rich's extensive global banking, financial and operating experience in Asia, Europe and the U.S. will enhance American's capability to help its customers grow and prosper," Lau said.
Wacker said the three years he's been in Hawaii has given him the chance to study the local banking landscape.
"Every market has its unique characteristics, and every market has its challenges," he said. "My experience has been understanding the dynamics of the market the bank is operating in and finding the best ways to grow and operate in that environment."