Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Emmanuel Olivas, Compliance Officer says he and his sister are the product of immigration laws. In the 1970s, traveling back and forth between the United States and Mexico was as simple as a walk across the border. Everything soon changed, though, and his parents decided to make their permanent residence in the United States.
“I’m an American out of circumstance,” says Emmanuel. His parents, although born and raised in Mexico, always had large American influence due to their frequent visits to the States.
Growing up, he’d visit his grandparents in Mexico in the summer and would eat traditional Mexican cuisine regularly. It was on these visits that he learned to read, write, and speak Spanish fluently – a skill that he now credits to his grandmother’s persistence.
Like most children, Emmanuel didn’t understand the impact of these teachings at the time. Today, he is extremely grateful for having family that wanted to keep is heritage alive and creating a well-rounded skillset for his career and personal life.
“Being bi-racial or bi-lingual doesn’t give a leg up until you really immerse yourself in that world. You can’t just say I have a Mexican background – you have to live those experiences,” he says.
Now one year into his role at Penn Community Bank, Emmanuel is thankful to work at an institution that sees his value from both a professional and personal lens. As a Compliance Officer, he is responsible for the oversight of the Bank’s consumer compliance regulations and is involved in disclosures for primarily retail and lending.
“No one says they’re going to school to be a Compliance Officer,” he says. Compliance is not something you can be taught traditionally – it’s practical, it’s not black and white.
Emmanuel says it’s not a glamourous job, but it’s an important job. We couldn’t agree more.
Although he’s been in this field for over 20 years, he didn’t plan on this career path. Since landing a customer service co-op position at a credit union in high school, Emmanuel has been in the banking industry. Early on, he knew he had a passion for investigative and research work and was good at it, too. He’d soon land a job working in anti-money laundering (AML), a different type of compliance.
“If it wasn’t for the high school co-op, I don’t know where I’d be,” he reflects.
Having taken jobs from coast to coast in his career, Emmanuel discovered that American really is built on immigration and diverse individuals. And with that, he’s learned that it’s impossible to truly serve a community if you don’t know who is in that community.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) not about making yourself or your organization look good. It’s about it being the right thing to do,” he says. “You can’t apply the same brush to every canvas; you need different colors to paint the picture.”
Emmanuel says that he tries to treat Hispanic Heritage Month like Valentine’s Day – by celebrating it each day, not just once a year. He plans to indulge himself and his family in the local Mexican community and educate others on the contributions of Hispanic people. While most of the family traditions, like eating a certain type of meal of Sunday, are carried out by his family back home, Emmanuel plans to incorporate this tradition into his own family.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!