FirstBank’s Multicultural Banking Center Senior Vice President Tony Oum knows the value of hard work. After all, he got his first job at the age of nine.

Tony and his family outside of their Chinese food restaurant. “Opening that restaurant was the start of their American dream,” he said.

When most kids were playing video games Tony was washing dishes, cutting carrots, and deep frying appetizers at his family’s Chinese restaurant. As a new business struggling to make a profit, it was all hands on deck.

“I did a little bit of everything in the restaurant,” said Oum.

Little by little the business grew and eventually it did make a profit, even helping to pay for Tony and his brother’s college tuitions.

And without FirstBank, it almost didn’t happen.


When Tony’s father first pursued his dream of owning a restaurant he came to FirstBank to help finance the new business. Unsure if he could get accepted, Tony remembers the excitement his family felt when they received the notice that they were approved for a $60,000 loan.

“Opening that restaurant was the start of their American dream,” he said.

More than two decades later, Tony is working at FirstBank, where he helped establish the Multicultural Banking Center. The Lakewood center opened Feb. 13 and aims to provide a central hub for various communities to be served in their native language and with an understanding of their culture. It will also enable various businesses, nonprofits, and community members to collaborate, attend networking events, financial literacy classes, and more.

“Our customers, our community members and our employees, they just want to be treated with respect and have their voices heard, regardless of their cultural background.”

Tony Oum

Tony hopes that having a place like this will be the catalyst for other families to make their own American dream come true.


Thirteen years after his parents opened their restaurant, Tony was graduating college and facing his career prospects. He had studied accounting, had done well, and was certain he would settle into a career as an accountant for the rest of his life.

FirstBank’s Multicultural Banking Center opened February 13 and serves various cultural communities in Denver.

As is often the case, life had other plans, and as he was scrolling through job postings one day he saw an ad for FirstBank’s Management Trainee Program. He was hesitant at first, but his father encouraged him to apply.

“My dad said, ‘Why don’t you just give FirstBank a shot. We’ve had accounts there a long time and they seem like nice people. If you don’t like it you’re still young and you can always change.”

So, Tony applied and was quickly invited in for several rounds of interviews, eventually landing a position at a Wheat Ridge branch. Soon after starting, Tony realized that FirstBank’s culture shattered his notions of what a bank could be. He felt supported by his staff and encouraged by leadership to develop his skills.

“I think the people that mentored me at Wheat Ridge really molded me and made me feel comfortable working with a team and with customers. As an introvert, it was hard at first but that support built up my confidence.”

He used that confidence to build new relationships — and as these relationships grew — Tony and the others began to plant the seeds of what would ultimately grow into the Multicultural Banking Center.

By 2015 a small circle of officers formed a group to promote banking for good to the Asian community. Similar groups formed soon after, each committed to diversity and inclusion in banking. It quickly became apparent to Tony that while that was a successful pursuit it needed to be organized in order to grow.

Building on the foundations set by former FirstBank President Ken Chee, Tony started drawing up plans for the Multicultural Banking Center. It was an ambitious plan that involved creating new banking processes and drastically expanding community involvement.

“It was really like starting a new bank, and I thought it would take at least five years to complete,” Oum said.

To his surprise, the MBC was completed in only two years, something Tony credits to the hard work and dedication of his coworkers.

“That’s a testament to the support of people like Amber Hills, Brian Ballard, Shannon Jones and others,” Oum said.


On opening day of the Multicultural Banking Center, Tony stood up and told his story to a packed room of spectators that included Mayor Adam Paul and a host of community leaders. And as he spoke of his family’s struggles and triumphs, as well as his vision for the MBC, it was hard not to notice how his story could be the story of so many others.

Tony Oum spoke in front of a full house at the opening of the Multicultural Banking Center.

An immigrant family seeking a better life walks into a bank asking for a loan that will jumpstart their American dream. After taking the time to listen and to truly understand, the banker says yes to their dream, in their native language.

Tony’s vision for the Multicultural Banking Center is one of a
place of mutual understanding and shared goals .

“Our customers, our community members and our employees, they just want to be treated with respect and have their voices heard, regardless of their cultural background. That’s what this project is aiming to do.”

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