Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Apr 28, 2022

5 financial role models from the AAPI community

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we’re honoring financial leaders who have made an impact in the U.S. — and around the world. The AAPI community is the 3rd largest demographic in America. So, keep in mind that these inspiring stories only scratch the surface of the 40+ countries in the AAPI umbrella — though we’d love to highlight each and every one.

This month, let’s learn about AAPI leaders in finance who are paving the way for future generations.

Ellen Pao

Former CEO of Reddit and co-founder of Project Include

Ellen Kangru Pao is a tech investor, author and non-profit co-founder with degrees from Princeton and Harvard. She learned to code when she was just 10 years old (Woah!). Throughout her career in engineering, law and business, Ellen has advocated for inclusion and equality in the workplace — and she’s not afraid to ruffle feathers along the way. During her time as CEO of Reddit, she used her position of power for good, from encouraging women to negotiate equal pay to updating Reddit’s privacy policy. As a result of her experiences, Ellen wrote the book "Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change". A film adaptation was announced for Netflix, courtesy of the one and only Shonda Rhimes. Ellen also is the founder of Project Include, a non-profit organization on a mission to give everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech.

Money advice from Ellen Pao: “Invest in experiences and interactions over possessions. You’ll regret wasting money on inanimate objects or ego purchases, but you won’t regret your friendships or family.”

Eric Yuan

CEO and founder of Zoom

Raise your hand if you’ve recently hopped on a Zoom call ✋ You can thank Eric Yuan for that. Eric is a businessman, engineer and the CEO and founder of Zoom. Born and raised in China, Eric showed a business mindset early on when he gathered copper construction scraps to exchange for cash. The basic framework of Zoom’s software started when Eric was in his first year at university. He wanted a way to see his long-distance girlfriend — without the 10-hour train ride (Can you blame him?). Inspired by the U.S. tech boom, Eric applied nine times for a visa before making his way to California and becoming a founding engineer on WebEx, the online conferencing platform later purchased by Cisco. He pitched his idea for a mobile-friendly platform to Cisco, but they turned him down. Instead, Eric started Zoom on his own in 2011. In 2019, the company went public, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Zoom keeps us connected — and has changed the corporate dress code forever (read: pajamas).

Ida Liu

Global Head of Citi Private Bank

Ida Liu sets the bar high in banking. She currently serves as the Global Head of Citi Private Bank. Before this position, Ida also launched and led the Fashion, Retail and Entertainment Group at Citi and founded Citi Private Bank’s North America Asian Clients Group. When she’s not delivering record results, Ida is an advocate for diversity, inclusion and gender equality in the workplace, serving as the co-lead for Citi’s Asian Heritage Affinity. Other claims to fame: In 2020 and 2021, Ida was named one of the 25 most powerful women in finance by American Banker and she made Barron's list of 10 most influential women in wealth management in 2021. 

So what’s next for Ida?: “There aren’t that many female Asian CEOs. One of the things that I’m striving for every day is not only to break the glass ceiling — but to break the bamboo ceiling — and it’s one step at a time.”

Jerry Yang

Founder of AME Cloud Ventures and co-founder of Yahoo!

When Yang Chih-Yuan (now known as Jerry Yang) came to the U.S., he only knew one English word: shoe. Ironically, Jerry later created a website where you can search just about any word in the English language — and beyond. In 1994, Jerry and his Stanford University peer, David Filo, co-created Yahoo! Two years later, the company went public with 49 employees. (Fun fact: Yahoo stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.) Jerry also founded AME Cloud Ventures, focusing on impact investing for data-driven startups. In 2017, Jerry and his wife donated $25 million to San Francisco's Asian Art Museum — the largest gift in the museum's history. And in 2021, he co-founded The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), a non-profit that provides funding and resources to improve AAPI advocacy, power and representation.

Tony Xu

Co-founder and CEO of DoorDash

Our final Asian-American leader is also a Stanford alum. Xu Xun (now known as Tony Xu) was born in China and moved to the U.S. when he was 5 years old. Tony’s mother, Julie Cao, had a Chinese medical license — but it wasn’t recognized here. So she worked 3 jobs a day for 12 years to put herself back through med school. Spoiler alert: She eventually opened her own clinic. His mother’s journey inspired Tony to co-found DoorDash in 2013. Tony met his fellow co-founders during a group project for a business class (proof that group projects can sometimes go well). In the company’s early days, Tony and the other co-founders made the deliveries themselves, going to classes by day and fulfilling orders by night. What started from humble beginnings is now one of America’s largest food delivery services, empowering Dashers and restaurant owners to make a living. The company's 2020 IPO made Tony a billionaire at the age of 36 (!!!) — and made Julie a VERY proud mom.

The next generation of AAPI finance leaders

It’s more important than ever to talk about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month as a family. These stories are just a few examples of the AAPI community’s impact on finance — and there’s so much more to learn. Continue the convo about AAPI heritage at home with more resources below.

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