As Bank of Guam® celebrates its 50th
anniversary in 2022, the determination and motivation of founder Jesus Sablan Leon Guerrero take on renewed significance. It is the tale of one man’s commitment to rise above the discriminatory environment that he faced and how he built a bank that has achieved assets of nearly $3 billion without compromising its identity or its core principles.
Told by executives at the Bank of America in 1971, that because his skin was brown that he had reached the end of career advancement opportunities, he refused to accept the decision. What did he do? First, he quit the bank. Then, he literally went door-to-door among his friends and business colleagues and raised $1.5 million from 900 people in 60 days, providing him with the capital required for creating Bank of Guam.
In his book “Jesus in Little America,” he recounted what he had to accomplish with few resources other than his determination to succeed and to provide the people of Guam with their own bank. When all the approvals were obtained, he wrote, “our commitment was to provide services to the community…all benefits, including dividends, ownership, taxes, and employment would accrue to the people of Guam. There was no expatriation of capital, dividends, or employment.”
Leon Guerrero also provided what has turned out to be an enduring commitment to technology that makes it possible for customers to work with the Bank even from remote locations. In his book, published in 1998, he wrote: “During our heavy growth period, we instituted a number of innovations principally to computerize the bank in every way possible. We made certain that we kept abreast with current, state-of-the-art technology.”
TASI® Bank has leveraged his thoughts and his strategic leadership, incorporating them into how it operates. When he took on the challenge to establish a Guam-based bank for the territory, he was met by skeptical regulators but, as with all mavericks, he was determined to succeed. Now, 50 years later, Bank of Guam ® and TASI® Bank customers are still reaping the rewards of his efforts and vision.