Birthplace: Changhwa, Taiwan
Position: Chairman and CEO, GBC Bancorp
In 1982, LA-based General Bank needed someone to turn around its severe financial difficulties. The Taiwanese investors who own the bank heard that a Taiwanese American was president of Alaska National Bank. They quickly snatched Li-Pei Wu who not only turned General Bank around, but put it on top. By 1990, Wu won the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from the National Association of Investment Companies and General Bank was handed a number of accolades. In 1994, California Research Corp. ranked General Bank the top-performing California bank in the $500- to $999-million asset range.
Wu was born in Changhwa, Taiwan in September, 1934. His family owned land and leased it to others who farmed it. Though Changhwa was one of the poorest communities in Taiwan, the political oppression left the most indelible mark on Wu. The Nationalists jailed his brother, and Wu determined to leave Taiwan. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from National Taiwan University, he headed to Fort Hays State University in Kansas where he earned his MBA. After much searching and frustration (language hardship kept employers at bay) Wu was offered a good-paying job at the National Bank of Alaska. Wu rose from staff accountant to chief financial officer before landing the job as president at Alaska National Bank. Wu lives in Glendale, California with his wife and has two sons.