Wells Fargo Showcases Historical 160-Year Relationship with the Bay Area Asian American Community

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SAN FRANCISCO - Wells Fargo hosted an afternoon reception with 15 local Bay Area Asian media outlets on Feb. 9, to showcase the company’s 160-year relationship with the Bay Area’s Asian American community.

The reception was held at the Wells Fargo Museum located at 420 Montgomery St., a symbolic site where Wells Fargo first opened for business in 1852 and where they served Chinese customers—who were among its first customers—in their native language.

From left to right: Marianne Babal, Wells Fargo Historian, Sue Lee, Chinese Historical Society of America Executive Director, Maggie Mui, Regional Director of Diverse Segments at Wells Fargo, and Tracy Curtis, President of Wells Fargo's SF Market.

In celebration of Wells Fargo’s long-standing relationship with the Asian American community, and because its customers—both individuals and merchants—are very active on weekends in Chinatown, the company announced the opening of Chinatown branches on Sundays.

Stores located at: 1015 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108 and 1160 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 will now be open on Sundays from 9:00am-1:00pm.

“Chinatown is bustling with economic activity seven days a week,” said Tracy Curtis, president of Wells Fargo’s San Francisco market. “We are glad to respond to the needs of the community, and open our Chinatown stores on Sundays to provide increased banking services for our customers and merchants.”

Marianne Babal, Wells Fargo’s historian shared with attendees a photo gallery of historical images of Wells Fargo’s Express Directory of Chinese Businesses from 1878 and a Chinese calendar from 1945.

Wells Fargo also shared a timeline highlighting their historical relationship with the Bay Area’s Chinese American community. Here is a look at some key dates:

  • 1849: More than 20,000 Chinese, mostly miners and merchants, eager to improve their lives, had sailed from Canton to join the gold rush in California, a land they called Gum Shan, or Golden Mountain.
  • 1852: Wells Fargo has had a proud history of serving the Asian American community in the Bay Area as one of the first California companies to serve Chinese customers in their native language. In 1852, the Chinese entrusted their wealth to the new banking and express company and were among the bank’s first customers.
  • 1855: Respect was one reason why Wells Fargo became the favorite of Chinese immigrants. The young bank offered them a fair price for gold and the means for safeguarding and investing it. In the Financial Panic of 1855, when other banks suffered major losses on deposits, Wells Fargo’s Chinese customers held fast. The bank came through – integrity unscathed.
  • 1860s: On January 1, 1867 the PMSS Colorado inaugurated direct monthly steamship service with China and Japan and Wells Fargo was aboard. Wells Fargo also employed a number of interpreters to better serve our Chinese customers throughout the West.
  • 1871: Wells Fargo publishes the first directory of Chinese-owned businesses on the West Coast in 1871. By the 1870s, the Chinese made up one-fourth of the customers of some offices.
  • 1916 to 1918: Wells Fargo & Company Express had offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong to facilitate communication and aid Pacific Rim trade.
  • 1949: The practice of printing and distributing Chinese New Year calendars started in the early 1900s. In 1949, the Ming Sing Printing Company produced a Wells Fargo calendar that the Chinese Pacific Weekly described as the best printed in the United States. Wells Fargo printed two thousand yearly and the Wells Fargo Messenger remarked, “They hang in homes and business houses in Chinese communities throughout the West. Chinese families, who take their banking seriously, look forward to receiving one each year.” Before and after World War II, the managers of Wells Fargo Bank’s Foreign Department regularly visited China.
  • 1989: Later in the 20th century, Wells Fargo Bank allied with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Ltd. in 1989 to establish “a model for how global banking will be done in the 1990s.” Such a partnership was “the first of its kind between a major U.S.-owned and a major foreign-owned financial institution” and then-CEO, Carl Reichardt declared it, “a forerunner of how global banking will be done in the 1990s.”
  • 2012: Wells Fargo continues to be an active supporter of the Asian American community through financial education, in-language services and support of Bay Area Asian American nonprofits and organizations. The Asian community is important to Wells Fargo and we believe that when the community prospers, so do we; when our communities are successful, we are successful as a company. We are vested in their success because we live, work and raise our families in these same local communities.

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