By Juliet Fang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
As the current branch manager for Chase Bank in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID), Leslie Holland can be found overseeing the growth of the bank, ensuring her team provides equitable services to the district’s diverse clientele, or grabbing boba from nearby tea shops with her co-workers.
“It’s a very exciting but busy job,” she says, laughing.
But long before she ended up in Seattle, Holland attended first and secondary school in the Philippines, the country where she grew up. She and her family migrated to Los Angeles when she was 16, which proved to be a difficult adjustment for Holland.
“In the Philippines, I grew up quite sheltered,” she says. “I went to an all-girls Catholic school and had a group of close, tight-knit friends. My worldview was definitely very small, so when I moved to the United States and faced so many things that I was unfamiliar with, it was a huge culture shock.
“My only real impression of the United States was the movie 16 Candles, so I was pretty naïve when I moved. All of the sudden, I was different. My world was no longer the same. I remember this being the time in my life that I had my first experience with racism, too. I just had to start from scratch and navigate the high school scene on my own.”
After high school, Holland attended college for Business Management at University of Phoenix. To help pay off school tuition, she worked part-time as a bank teller at Citibank, her first brush with the financial industry, which she would be involved in for the next 25 years.
“I felt it was important for me to work for a company like Citibank that was recognized both in the Philippines and the United States. That really began the rest of my career.”
Holland has since worked at Merrill Lynch, Rainer Investment Management, and, for the past 14 years, JP Morgan Chase. Along with being the manager of Chase’s CID branch, she is heavily involved in a swath of JP Morgan’s Business Resource Groups, such as Asian Pacific Islanders Reaching for Excellence (ASPIRE), of which she is the former co-chair, Adelante, and Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), amongst others. Her involvement in these advocacy organizations is reflective of her passion for equitable employee and client engagement.
“We live in a diverse city with a very diverse community. So, something we’re really focused on tackling is the ‘bamboo ceiling,’ which basically describes the challenges Asian Americans face breaking through to upper management. When different backgrounds and different perspectives converge in a workplace, that’s when, I think, problems are best solved.
“ASPIRE has been especially important to me as a member of the Asian community.
Of course, we are all aware of the increase in Asian hate since 2020. One of the projects I put together as co-chair of ASPIRE were town halls to address questions about Chase’s bank leadership and how we could better support our community.”
Another ASPIRE project Holland has worked on is a community cookbook, which showcases recipes and stories from ASPIRE’s members.
“We asked our members to really think about what food means to them, and we realized that, for all of us, food is how we connect with others. It’s the recipes handed down that make us remember our grandmother’s cooking, or the family gatherings we couldn’t have because of the pandemic. Food is so much more than nourishment.”
The cookbook features dishes from across Asian culture, including Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Each recipe includes not only detailed instructions and a picture of the dish, but also a description of what that food means to the author of the recipe. Other groups, such as Adelante, JP Morgan’s business group dedicated to “[promoting] professional development and leadership opportunities for Hispanic and Latinx employees,” have done similar community cookbook projects.
All the business groups (Women on the Move, ASPIRE, Adelante, BOLD, to name a few) that Holland has been a part of share a common theme of diversity, inclusion, and promoting career development for individuals underrepresented in upper-level management, such as women, Asian Americans, Blacks, and Hispanic/Latinx individuals. According to JP Morgan, the goal of their 70+ business resource groups is to help the company’s “employees reach their greatest potential.”
“Though the programs are targeted towards different groups, all these groups have the same struggles. We all know what it’s like to be different, which makes us great resources to learn from and support each other.”
Holland has recently stepped down as co-chair of ASPIRE to focus on her duties as branch manager, but she continues to be involved as a member and dedicated ally of many of JP Morgan’s business resource groups.
“I think being an ally means to seek to understand people and experiences you’re not familiar with, to really truly show support and learn from other people, even when you may disagree with them. We all want the same things, and we must be supportive of each other to achieve our goals.”
Juliet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.