“Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.”
Davina Samuel, started with Union Bank in 1997, shortly after moving from New York City. At the time, she didn’t know the impact the move would have on her or her Orange County community. Ms. Samuel proudly states, “I kind of grew up with Union Bank.” She started in retail and evolved to a sales and service officer, and at one point she was managing two branches at the same time. Coming from the big city where it was a melting pot of cultures and nationalities everywhere, being in Irvine, CA was a culture shock. The lack of diversity was noticeable, but being a part of PULSE ERG, the African American Enterprise Resource Group at Union Bank provided opportunities to meet people and build relationships throughout the company.
Davina always gets excited about this time of the year. Growing up in New York there was always something going on during Black History Month. Now, she helps coordinate the banks' efforts. Whether it’s working with the Orange County Heritage Council, signing up employees to be a part of festivities, or putting luncheons together as a chair of Orange County Black Chamber of Commerce, she finds a way to “let people see how we shine.”
In her 23 years of being a part of Union Bank, Davina has had many accomplishments: winning Top Producer in 2019, being chosen as a combined branch manager to lead and manage two locations are just a couple. But the one she holds above all of those is her recruitment of more African Americans over the years. “I think diversity is important for the African American community to be able to see faces that look like theirs in an industry responsible for so many bad experiences. I’ve had many clients encouraged by our diversity because it makes them feel welcome so much so that they even consider banking as a career path.”
Her involvement with Golden West College and other local schools is another effort she heads up to change the perception of banking for African Americans. “It’s just a good forum to discuss financial literacy. It creates a safe space to talk about issues from the past and address opportunities that exist now. These are conversations that need to be happening in our communities because they’ve been underserved for generations. I want to remind them that we want to help them break habits and break the cycle." In the words of CT Vivian, 'You are made by the struggles you choose. But don’t let it define you.' Davina encourages people to "focus on their goals, don’t give up, and don’t get sidetracked. Stay true and continue rising to be the best.”
“When tapped by a regional manager to be a division sales and service officer, I was hesitant.’’ Until he said, “It'll give you a different opportunity and a different perspective.” The position led me to do training with different teams and put me in a more visible role. So, my career advice is don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Any opportunity is a chance to do something different and learn many new skills.