Calli Chinen – TransPecos Banks
In her new role at TransPecos Banks, Calli Chinen enjoys the best of both worlds by putting her law degree and MBA to good use as senior vice president, compliance, and BSA officer.
“It’s exciting,” she said, adding that since she joined TransPecos Banks in March, she’s been busy drafting new policies and guidelines, among other duties, based on rules the bank is required to follow. “I always enjoy learning new things and applying the knowledge and skills I’ve gained from one job to another. I now make sure the guardrails are in operation at TransPecos Banks and that we are compliant as required by federal and state laws and regulations.”
Banking is big business, as we know. But many people don’t often think about the compliance aspect and how important it is for financial institutions to make sure they are operating in accordance with rules and regulations.
“Banks are subject to various federal and state laws. In my role, I make sure the right programs are in place to mitigate any risks to our organization and impacts to customers,” Chinen explained. “We are frequently examined by regulators and auditors to ensure we have appropriate controls in place.”
Although she now calls the Lone Star State her home, Chinen’s family has deep roots in Hawaii, where she was born. Her great-grandparents came from Japan and Okinawa to the islands and worked on a sugar cane plantation field. “I grew up in a small town, Wahiawa, where the Dole pineapple industry started,” she said. (As a side note, she shares that her great-grandmother lived to be 106 years old.)
After graduating from high school, Chinen decided to leave the sunny beaches and tropical environment of her home for the mainland to further her education. She spent her freshman year at New York University and then transferred to the University of San Francisco, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2007.
While working in commercial property management in San Francisco, she decided to go to law school in Hawaii and returned home in 2011.
“I wanted to be involved with what I was doing at a higher level,” Chinen said. “I was the building services coordinator dealing with tenant requests. Sometimes I’d have to look at tenant leases. I thought it would be great to learn to write contracts to include provisions that would be helpful when we needed to enforce them.”
Chinen wasn’t sure, however, that she wanted to practice law exclusively, so she enrolled in a joint degree program at the University of Hawaii and pursued her MBA and JD at the same time.
During graduate school, Chinen worked in various positions, including as a summer law clerk for a firm focused on real estate, as a legislative intern for a United States senator in Washington D.C., as an intern for the commercial real estate department at Central Pacific Bank, and then ultimately an intern in their compliance department where she found it to be the perfect merger of business and law.
“This started my career in bank compliance. Each position I’ve had has enabled me to continuously learn and understand how the changing regulatory environment affects the operations of financial institutions,” she said.
Chinen worked for the Bank of Hawaii before applying for a job with a Texas bank. “They brought me to Austin in 2019,” she said. “They were launching a new product and digital brand. They liked the experience I had and that I had a legal background.”
Now at TransPecos Banks, Chinen is ready for a new challenge, considering that the banking industry is always evolving. “There are so many different areas to learn and grow,” she said. “I look forward to expanding my banking experience while continuing to use the skills I’ve honed from law school.”
Although she frequented the beaches and enjoyed the waters of Hawaii, don’t expect to find her on a surfboard. She prefers paddleboarding as she does at LBJ Lake in Austin, where she lives but travels to San Antonio often for work. While in the Alamo City, she is having fun finding new restaurants to savor.
“While my roots will always be in Hawaii, I love exploring new cities,” Chinen said.