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Bank of Guam founder

Jesus Sablan Leon Guerrero (1927 – 2002) founded the Bank of Guam, Guam’s first locally chartered full-service banking institution. He served as the bank’s president and Chairman of the Board, leading it to become one of Guam’s most successful businesses in the last thirty years. The founding of the bank was considered a landmark for Chamorros entering the world of big business in the 1970s. Leon Guerrero was inducted into the Guam Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame in 1992.

Leon Guerrero went to work for the Naval Government’s Bank of Guam after graduating from George Washington High School in 1947. The bank had been established by the Naval Government long before World War II, and after the war, it re-opened under the re-established Naval Government. When the Organic Act of Guam was passed in 1950, it established civil government on Guam, and the Bank of Guam was then taken over by Bank of America. Leon Guerrero worked for both banks, beginning as a bookkeeper and working his way through the ranks.

Began with 13 employees

He later attended the American Institute of Banking and was eventually named assistant vice president of the Bank of America. He worked for Bank of America from 1950 until 1972, when he quit his job. Leon Guerrero realized his dream of starting his own bank by soliciting capital from local business men, the majority from the Calvo family, and founded the Bank of Guam with capitalization of slightly over one million dollars. The bank started in a modular building in Hagåtña with thirteen employees.

The opening of the Bank of Guam coincided with the economic boom on Guam that resulted from the removal of the naval security clearance in 1962 that had been required of anyone entering Guam. New businesses were opening, new homes were being built, and the tourism industry was just in its infancy. The bank became an instant success, earning a small profit in just its first year, as Guam residents by the hundreds opened checking and savings accounts.

Under Leon Guerrero’s leadership as president and chairman, the Bank of Guam expanded its branches to Dededo, Tamuning, and Tumon. The bank went on to buy out Bank of America branches in Chuuk, Palau and Saipan and opened new branches in Pohnpei and in Ebye and Majuro in the Marshall Islands. The bank continued to expand internationally, opening offices in San Francisco in 1983 and Tokyo in 1985. It was during the 1980s that Leon Guerrero served as the first civilian aide to the Army Secretary General.

By 1985, only 13 years after opening, the bank had become one of the top banks on Guam. As of the end of 2001, the Bank of Guam had total declared assets of $669 million and almost 400 employees. The bank made history in August 2000 when it became the first Guam-established business to be listed on a national stock exchange.

Leon Guerrero was succeeded as president and chief executive officer by his son, Anthony Leon Guerrero, although he continued to be involved in the bank’s affairs until his death in 2002. His daughter, Lourdes “Lou” Leon Guerrero, took over as President and CEO after Anthony passed away in 2005. She stepped down to run for Governor in 2018 and Joaquin Cook, Lou Leon Guerrero and Jeff Cook’s son, is now the president of the Bank of Guam.

Leon Guerrero was also one of the first chairmen of the Guam Economic Development Authority board of directors. He was on the Board of Regents of the University of Guam and the board of directors of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, and he was an officer of the Guam Rotary Club.

He was married to Eugenia Leon Guerrero and had three children: Jesse, Anthony, and Lourdes.

By Leo Babauta

For further reading

I Manfåyi: Who’s Who in Chamorro History. Vol. 1. The Hale’-ta Series. Hagåtña: Political Status Education and Coordinating Commission, 1995.

Sanchez, Pedro C. Guahan Guam: The History of Our Island. Hagåtña: Sanchez Publishing House, 1987.