2023 marks the 50th anniversary for East West Bank, a significant milestone for a bank with humble beginnings in 1973. Born out of a need to provide financial services for a community of minorities and immigrants, East West Bank today has since developed into the largest independent bank headquartered in Southern California, serving as an international financial bridge between the East and West.
The bank’s achievements and breakthroughs along the way would not have been possible without the hard work of many associates who were committed to serving their community and building a legacy for the bank.
In this article, we highlight four prominent associates who have been with East West for more than 40 years and share what has defined their working experience.
Having a sense of purpose
Stella Wat has worked at East West Bank for 42 years and is the first vice president and branch manager in Arcadia, California. As an immigrant from Hong Kong, she understands the cultural, financial and language barriers that immigrants often face. “My job is rewarding when I’m able to help immigrants settle in the U.S. and establish their new life here, for instance, by leveraging our home loan program to become a homeowner,” she says.
Diane Bulin, vice president and senior application support engineer of IT operations, began working at the bank 41 years ago. “I was mentored by strong women during my early days in finance and quickly became one myself,” says Bulin. Being a mentor to others who have started their career trajectories at East West Bank has been her strong source of purpose.
Being a part of change at East West Bank
For Ena Chau who marks her 46th year at the bank and is assistant vice president and business relationship manager in the Stockton-Broadway, California branch, the biggest change has been industry-wide, in the form of technology and digital banking. “From the use of ATM cards and online banking, technology has improved to provide quick access to information and speed of transaction processing,” she says.
Mak Luong, assistant vice president and assistant branch manager in the Silverlake, California branch has been with the bank for 43 years and echoes a similar sentiment. “A really big impact throughout my banking experience has been seeing how East West Bank evolved to focus on commercial banking and wealth management,” she says. “This has provided many opportunities that pushed the bank to grow at a faster pace.”
Growing alongside East West Bank
As the bank developed over the years, so did the career trajectories of these associates. “As an immigrant from Hong Kong, I was looking for a stable job with job security,” recalls Wat. Her most memorable moments include the time she was deployed to the Arcadia branch when it first opened. “Our CEO Dominic came to host the ribbon cutting ceremony and six months after the opening, my team was able to gain $10 million in deposits. It was a great success for a new branch and I remember calling Dominic with the good news. He invited me and the team out for dinner as a celebration and I still keep the pledge that I received from him that day.”
Bulin credits the bank for her fast growth in the industry. “I started my career in finance in the file room of loan servicing. Although I had been told I would need to stay in the file room for nine months before applying for a different position, I was promoted to the new loan boarding desk within three months,” she remembers. “Even though I was the youngest member of the department, I became supervisor, which then led me to expand my horizons. I transferred to investor reporting and eventually to the IT department.”
Congratulatory words and encouragement for the next generation
East West Bank was chosen as 2021’s Top 100 Most Loved Workplace in Newsweek, and the collective work culture, teamwork and positive spirit contribute to the bank’s continued success as a desirable workplace. For the new recruits joining East West Bank, the veteran associates have some words of encouragement.
“I’m inspired by my team with their great customer service, since that often distinguishes us from our peers in the financial industry,” says Wat. I thank East West Bank for the opportunity to develop my career and appreciate my team and customers who have always been supportive.”
“Work hard, work with integrity and treat others with dignity,” says Chau, “and don't be afraid to share dissenting ideas, as long as it’s done professionally.” She thanks her many clients who she refers to as friends today. “Without their genuine love and support, I could not have had a wonderful 46-year-career in banking.”
Luong has believed in excellent customer service since day one. For the newcomers, she believes they must “express career desires and continue to grow from all experiences good and bad,” she says. “Create a strong network and show support for the bank and community.”
Finally, Bulin shares two simple but important tips for the next generation. “Be open minded and be willing to learn.” This, she believes, will lead to many future opportunities and forge many friendships that will last a lifetime.
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