After the economic crash in 2008, lots of banks suffered from the financial crisis – in particular, facing challenges with the deterioration of credit. While I was in a better condition at Nara Bank compared to other banks, the financial turmoil triggered internal politics that led me to quit my position as the President and CEO. I felt that God was telling me, “Your time is up.” Without any hesitation and without planning, I resigned. The minute I did, I felt so relieved, and peace and joy came into my heart. I knew it was God’s call. For two years, in fact, I had been praying to God to show me how to serve God after my time in the banking business.
The minute I resigned, I received numerous calls from other Korean American banks, wanting to recruit me as their CEO. By that time, however, I had had enough of banking. I felt that I was done and that I was now going to do God’s work. I left for Guatemala and saw many poverty-stricken children who tugged at my heart. Nevertheless, there was one persistent bank that kept on calling me even after I refused to call them back, time after time. They even contacted my ex-colleagues to contact me. One of my ex-colleagues said, “Don’t avoid it and just face them.” Upon numerous phone calls and my ex-colleague’s urging, I finally decided to have lunch with them in March 2010.
Initially, I was little offended because the board chairman’s bank was about to close down. It was too small to be known in the Korean American community — even smaller than the branch of my previous bank! I thought, My God, how dare they even approach me to join as CEO. The bank had nothing and yet they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
As soon as I sat down, the chairman Brian asked, “May I pray?” His prayer was filled with blessing for me. As a result, my heart opened up to hear what he had to say. Our dialogue went like this:
Brian: I know you are a good Christian and I heard so many good things about you. I checked around and people said that you are such a faithful Christian and that you want to do God’s work. I have a great deal of respect for you. You want to be a person to please God, and that’s what I want to do too. Banking is not my agenda.
Min: (thinking to myself, He’s on the right track.)
Brian: How do you want to please God?
Min: I want to do compassion ministry, if not church ministry.
Brian: Have you ever thought that God may have a different plan? You can glorify God through other means.
Min: That’s true.
Brian: Don’t you think God might have trained you these 28 years to use you at the right moment to glorify God?
Min: What are you talking about?
Brian: This is your time to use your knowledge and talents to please the Lord. You can be a Christian leader to give positive impact upon the Korean American community.
It turns out that Brian and I shared the same vision for a bank to glorify God, but neither of us ever had a chance to implement that vision. Brian stressed,
You and I share the same vision. Haven’t you ever thought that God was calling you to do this? You had all these dreams and visions. This is your chance to implement your vision. As you know, we have nothing. If you don’t come to our bank, we will have to close and we will lose all of our investment. Our only hope is you. You can save the bank and the employee’s and shareholder’s investment. You can reestablish the bank. God prepared you for 28 years to do this work.
All these years, I was so blessed in many ways. I had a good life. However, there was a nagging question within me, “What’s the true purpose of my life?” I wanted to live my life to glorify God, and yet at that moment, I wasn’t quite confident that this was it. Despite my uncertainty, we shared the details of our respective visions. I laid out all my conditions except my compensation. The conditions I outlined included the board’s guarantee that I was to run the bank to be a Christian bank. The purpose of the bank was to glorify the Lord through positive impact on the Korean community by tithing the gross income, not the net income. I said, “If these conditions are acceptable to you and the board, I will think about it.” Brian said that he had full authority from the rest of the board to negotiate with me, and on behalf of the board, he accepted all the conditions I requested. He handed over the bank license to me and asked me to reestablish the bank according to my vision. Continue reading “Manna in the Wilderness” Part 2–>
Min J. Kim is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Open Bank and a member of the Board of Directors of Open Bank. With over 30 years of banking experience, she was named one of the “Most Powerful Women in Banking” by US Banker in October 2007. Min also has strong ties to the local community, serving as a board member for Koreatown Youth and Community Center and for the Open Stewardship Foundation.
Interviewed by Young Lee Hertig