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Wells Fargo adds another Burmese banker

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 12:01 am

After many twists and turns in Chit Chit Thinzar's career, she is starting over again as a banker at Wells Fargo.

She brings her native language to the Rudisill branch staff that already has four employees who speak Burmese. Located on Fort Wayne's south side, the bank provides services for many Burmese in the area.

Thinzar has a degree in architecture and had worked in her field in Asia, before coming to America in 2010 from Singapore. Once she go to the United States she found it hard to find a job in her field because of the slow economy. Since her arrival she has worked in many different areas including as a tutor for Abacus In-Home Tutoring, for the Red Cross as a volunteer at the Burmese Advocacy Center as an instructor in its Job Readiness program.

On top of all that she is a jewelry designer. Through a connection at the Catherine Kasper Center she met a Burmese employee at the Rudisill Branch of the bank, and when she learned he was leaving the bank to start his own business, he encouraged her to apply for the job.

Now after two weeks and some training at the branch office she is continuing her training downtown at the main office. The job will allow her to assist clients with everything except home mortgages. Andy Veenstra, Wells Fargo's Fort Wayne president, said she will open new accounts and take care of existing customers.

“If things go pretty well, promotions can come pretty quick,” Veenstra said.

Chit Chit Thinzar said she had never imagined herself as a banker, but she is looking forward to the challenge. After four and half weeks of classroom training, she will be back at the Rudisill branch, 3902 S Clinton St.

Because of the diverse nature of the community in that area, the bank does a lot of outreach into the community. They work with Catholic Charities and Work Force One to instruct the Burmese community in banking. Once Thinzar has been trained, she will be a part of this program too.

“She will be involved in outreach beyond our four walls,” Veenstra said.

Veenstra said Wells Fargo as a company is involved in working with emerging communities and diverse populations. As a company they have been engaged in outreach to these communities for a long time and this means employing people who can work with these clients and reflect their customer base both through their culture and language. Several years ago they did a major remodel at the Clinton Rudisill branch. They hired team members who could reach these customers and also updated the inside of the bank both with artwork and color.

By doing this, Veenstra said, they hoped to make the customers feel welcome. They have also posted their signage in three different languages: Spanish, Burmese and English.

“We want to be able to serve anybody who walks through our door effectively; hiring team-members like Chit Chit are a big part of this,” Veenstra said.

Before they had Burmese team members, immigrants would come in with their own translators to set up accounts. Veenstra and the branch manager decided it would be a great idea to hire Burmese to ease the translation and make their new customers feel more comfortable doing business there. They worked with Catholic Charities to find some employees and over time they began hiring

“Now we have five Burmese team members, two bankers and three tellers,” Veenstra said.

Thirty-five percent of their customer base at that branch is Burmese. Fifty percent is Hispanic; they have three Spanish-speaking bankers and four tellers.

“On a Friday afternoon you can stand in the lobby and hear five or six different languages,” Veenstra said.

Veenstra said he took a tip in doing this from what the company has done on the West Coast. Training new team members can sometimes be an issue with the language barriers.

“It's not a computer-literacy problem; it's a language barrier,” Veenstra said.

The solution is to have people in the classroom who can translate and they will often go through a concept a couple of times.

“As a company we have benefited from this. Our workplace is culturally richer,” Veenstra said.