AFSA Highlights AAPI Members | Kelvin Chen & Marguerite Watanabe
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), commemorating the emigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. in May of 1843 and to honor the memory of the many Chinese immigrants who built the transcontinental railroad, which was completed in May of 1869. AFSA marks AAPI Heritage Month because the history of Asian Americans is America’s history. We are highlighting our AAPI colleagues who have continued to shape the financial services industry.
VP Regulatory Advocacy
Capital One Auto Finance, Inc
How has your Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage shaped the person you are today? Has being an Asian American and Pacific Islander affected your experience within the financial services industry?
Growing up the child of new immigrants in Mississippi, I was consistently reminded of the important ways that law and policy can protect individuals and lift up communities.
I think that heritage taught me to keep an eye out for the little guy.
For instance, when I was in government, we were doggedly focused on protecting little guys from overpowered actors. But my background also helped me be conscientious of how we, the government, were always the biggest guy in the room. So it helped me try to be vigilant about the ways we could inadvertently hurt individuals or create other unexpected outcomes if we weren’t careful with how we used our might.
Those lessons also show up interpersonally. For instance, I try to be mindful of the countless ways people of all kinds of backgrounds can be made to feel that they are different or don’t belong.
And I’m thankful that all of this has helped shape my career in the financial services industry. I’m lucky to work at a technology company that’s committed to “changing banking for good.” We strive to broaden individual access to financial services and improve consumers’ financial lives. When we get it right, we fuel economic and social opportunities for the broader communities where we operate. On good days, I think back to the hopes my parents had when they came to America with little more than a few suitcases of old clothes. I like to imagine that every day at work we’re helping other people build the lives their parents dreamed of for them when they started their own families’ American journeys.
My story, like most, needs context. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with an American father and a Japanese mother. She was a post-war Issei (i.e., she was born and raised in Japan and came to the U.S. after WWII), and was considered Japanese versus Japanese-American among Japanese, a distinction known and understood by most immigrants or children of immigrants. My parents encouraged my siblings and me to be proud of our Japanese heritage, which I am to this day. At the same time, there was an unwritten rule to follow: Assimilate. Living and working in Japan as an adult allowed me to learn even more about my “roots.” And, marrying a Japanese man and learning to speak Japanese took that learning to another level.
From a professional experience, following the Japanese work ethic was somewhat like assimilating during my childhood. Most Japanese can relate well to the term Ganbaru, which means much more than its direct translation of “work hard.” It also means to do your best, persevere, and never give up. I have always focused on the positives of assimilation and hard work – the creation of opportunities for success, a sense of loyalty and harmony. These are the goals that I sincerely hope Americans can embrace as we find ourselves in an escalating “culture war” at so many levels in the U.S.
May 31st, 2022 by firstname.lastname@example.org