Banker Henry Yu has returned to Atlanta after more than three years in Shanghai to work with a California-based bank providing a financial bridge between the U.S. and China.

Mr. Yu has been hired as a senior vice president, director and head of the Southeast region for East West Bank, which entered Georgia in 2010 via its acquisition of United Commercial Bank from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2009.  

A longtime Atlantan active in the local Chinese community, Mr. Yu left in 2008 to join Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai. He set up branches, worked with state-owned firms and advanced the British bank’s effort to provide settlement of international trade transactions in Chinese currency, called the yuan or renminbi.

About 7 percent of China’s foreign trade – totaling $55.2 billion – was settled in renminbi during the first quarter of 2011, up from virtually nothing last year after additional measures to liberalize the currency.

Though China maintains tight controls on capital flows, it has slowly allowed the renminbi to be used in cross-border transactions. Exasperated with the dollar and concerned about its slow, steady decline in value against the renminbi, China hopes to establish its currency as a major trading currency. Mr. Yu believes that could happen in 10 years, a much shorter timeframe than the Japanese yen, which took about 17 years to reach that goal, he said.

East West has a particular focus on the Chinese-American market and cross-border investment in both directions. Mr. Yu will help build the bank’s presence in the Southeast and help companies with their China business activities.

The bulk of East West’s 130 branches are on the West Coast. The bank currently has five branches in Georgia, with its only other southern branch in Texas.

Its China presence includes a full-service branch in Hong Kong and two in mainland China.

It also has representative offices in major financial centers like Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. A Taipei, Taiwan, office is being upgraded to a branch.

Mr. Yu said having branches in China allows East West to provide on-the-ground knowledge to smooth out complications with import/export financing in China. 

East West manages $21.9 billion in assets. Visit www.eastwestbank.com for more information.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...