One of the perks of working for CPAF is getting to know our corporate donors and volunteers.
This month, I had the pleasure of being a guest at Bank of America (BofA)’s Lunar New Year festivities at the 888 Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead. CPAF received a grant of $10,000 from BofA in December 2016, and we very much value Bank of America as a community partner.
It was inspiring to see the hundreds of BofA’s employees who are a part of the Asian Leadership Network. The celebration included an eight-course meal and a lion dance performance. But for me, the main highlight of the evening was hearing the stories of two accomplished men in the world of finance- Gil Tong, a Resident Director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and Johnny Montes, Senior Vice President and Area Executive for Bank of America.
I think the reason why these men moved me is because it is rare for Asian men like Tong to speak so vulnerably about his humble beginnings. It was also endearing to hear a top executive like Montes talk about how important it is to prioritize his wife’s yoga nights and not miss important family obligations no matter how busy you may be in the corporate world.
Gil Tong spoke about different perspectives on ‘Asian integration.’ Tong shared a story about immigrating to the United States as a child and growing up in Chinatown. Back then he thought of integration as getting a shot to compete in America. Years later, when he made his way into the finance world, he began seeing integration from a different light. He noted that Chinese and Korean investors acquired much of Los Angeles’ real estate. He said there were $45 billion in acquisition from Chinese investors in America last year, which was more than twice as much as the year before. “If you have an Asia outside of Asia, it is right here,” said Tong referencing Southern California. Now, Tong said ‘Asian integration’ was no longer about fitting in. It was about getting a chance to stand out.
Johnny Montes, an area executive for Bank of America, addressed ‘work life balance’ or the lack thereof in this world. He preferred to use the phrase ‘work life harmony,’ saying it was not only helping in maintaining a successful career but also a healthy family life. Three tips I picked up from his speech are as follows:
- Plan – what is important to you? Ex. Montes’ family planned the following- him: kickboxing on Tuesdays; his wife: yoga on Wednesdays; child: family night on Fridays
- Communicate- what are your needs and wants? Don’t assume others will or should know.
- Make it count- be present. At home, put work away. Constantly re-evaluate your overall life and re-balance as needed.
Montes ended his speech with a one year rule – what will you remember one year from now? He encouraged asking this questions when deciding between a family and a work obligation.
This particular night was the first time I saw a large corporation like Bank of America dedicate so many resources and time to promote the Asian heritage. Through entertainment, food, and culturally sensitive messages, it was a time of reflection for many in attendance as we celebrated Lunar New Year.
Byline: Christine Lee, Community Engagement Manager at CPAF