Anyone who has made a career-related move to a new community knows that transition is a part of the job as families adjust to new work, educational and recreational environments. But what if the move also means learning or enhancing skills in another language?
Given the increasing presence of global manufacturing entities in the region, two North Mississippi-based banking companies have added relationship managers to assist Japanese-speaking executives and their families moving into the area.
Mieko Kikuchi, relationship manager and Japanese liaison for Renasant Bank, and Kumiko Richardson, premier banking specialist at BancorpSouth, have focused their attention on matters ranging from banking to school and community as they’ve assisted executives and their families making the transition to North Mississippi.
Kikuchi is a former executive assistant with an automotive supplier in the Jackson area, and Richardson is a former university instructor who also has corporate experience. Both work from Tupelo offices of their financial institutions. Executives from both banking organizations state that the hiring of these individuals underscores a corporate commitment to market dynamics, while reflecting a comprehension of client and community needs.
Following Toyota’s initial announcement to locate a manufacturing facility in the region, various members of the North Mississippi banking community spoke with peers in other states with an automotive manufacturing/supplier presence in an effort to understand how to best serve the needs of that base. Executives aimed to learn how to they could facilitate a smooth transition for executives’ families, particularly as it related to schools.
“Out of these conversations, Renasant decided that it would not only benefit the bank, but also the entire community to have a Japanese liaison on staff to help meet any need that our Japanese businesses and families may have,” Kikuchi said.
Kikuchi noted that management deemed it important to have a Japanese-speaking staff member who also understood the business culture.
Kikuchi said that Renasant’s community-oriented focus underscored the bank’s commitment in helping new businesspeople feel comfortable in a new environment.
“As Renasant’s Japanese liaison, I am heavily involved in being an ambassador for the community, the bank and the state in making sure our new Japanese friends feel welcome and right at home in Mississippi.”
Kikuchi’s many responsibilities include managing banking relationships with Renasant clients, making product presentations to potential clients, providing interpretive and cultural guidance and serving as a public relations link on various community activities.
Randy Burchfield, BancorpSouth director of corporate marketing, and Mark Burleson, president of BancorpSouth’s Tupelo Banking Division, noted that Richardson’s background reinforces the company’s emphasis on clients. They stated that she has been instrumental in assisting clients and their families on communication matters as they relate to banking and community life.
Burchfield added that BancorpSouth also has a Spanish-speaking manager in its corporate marketing department and that the presence of both of these managers is consistent in “keeping with our approach of meeting the needs of specific market segments.”
Burchfield and Burleson noted that beyond banking communication matters, Richardson has also helped with student enrollment in the Tupelo Public Schools, in park and recreation activities and in other community endeavors.
Richardson said that before the start of the new school year and during various open house events at the schools, she met with teachers and principals who have Japanese-speaking students in their classes.
Noted Richardson, “While some students have spent time here in other states, other students have not. Everyone was enthusiastic about being able to learn from one another.”
Administrators with the Tupelo Public School District (TPSD) stated that they have been appreciative of Richardson’s and Kikuchi’s efforts.
“The banking officers at BancorpSouth and Renasant have been an invaluable resource to the Tupelo Public School District,” said Dr. Randy McCoy, TPSD superintendent. “They have assisted us as we have registered new Japanese students, translated registration packets, worked with teachers translating newsletters and established relationships with our new Japanese families.”
Diana Ezell, TPSD assistant superintendent, added that both banking representatives have also attended training along with TPSD teachers on teaching English Language Learners.
Burchfield and BancorpSouth premier banker Brent Waldrop stated that Richardson’s emphasis is primarily in the North Mississippi region. However, they added that Richardson would be a logical resource person for BancorpSouth managers in other markets with similar needs.
Executives from both BancorpSouth and Renasant observed that the hiring of these individuals evolved from listening to and learning from their customers and potential clients. They noted that being able to articulate banking specifics in a way that is familiar to clients is consistent with their respective corporate branding philosophies.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at firstname.lastname@example.org.