Kathy Fujihara-Chong studied in Tokyo, London, and on the Mainland before she became
a banker, but her cosmopolitan experiences started with an intriguing job listing
at the University of Hawai‘i (UH) at Manoa.
During her freshman year at UH, “I saw a job listing that said ISO,”
recalls Fujihara-Chong, chuckling. “I thought of iso peanuts.” For the
next two-and-a-half years, she worked at the UH International Student Office, helping
students from all over the world.
Motivated by her interaction with foreign students, Fujihara-Chong applied for and
won a Japan Airlines scholarship to study at Sophia University in Tokyo. It was
an eye-opening experience for a young woman who had never before left the Islands.
Upon her return to UH, Fujihara-Chong worked at the Pacific Asian Management Institute
while earning a bachelor’s degree in finance, then studied at the London School
of Economics as a Rotary International Scholar.
While completing her MBA at Northwestern University in 1981, Bank of Hawaii contacted
her about a position to install a new cost and profitability reporting system. The
one-year project and the prospect of working with the accounting firm of Arthur
Andersen and two Mainland banks appealed to Fujihara-Chong. “I was attracted
by the one-year commitment,” she admits with a laugh, “and it ended
up being 28 years!” Since then, she has held various positions in commercial
and branch banking, lending and operations.
Despite her busy schedule as a senior executive vice president at the bank, Fujihara-Chong
has been active with several community organizations. She served as president of
the Waikïkï Community Center from 1997 to 1998, was a board member of Ronald McDonald
House Charities for nine years, and most recently was a member of the Small Business
Association advisory committee. Last April, Fujihara-Chong was elected to HMSA’s
board of directors. “I’ve been very impressed by the strong commitment
of HMSA’s leadership to serve our community,” she says. “The organization
has a long history of success in ensuring that we have access to quality health
Talk of health care prompts Fujihara-Chong to express admiration for her late aunt,
Florence (Amuro) Huntington, a manager at the Leahi Hospital pharmacy. Huntington
lobbied the Legislature to pass a law allowing pharmacists to offer consumers the
option of generic drugs. “My aunt felt that not everyone could afford brand-name
drugs,” Fujihara-Chong says, describing how Huntington knocked on the doors
of lawmakers at the State Capitol to win support for the bill. “As a nisei
girl from Maui, she was truly a role model and showed me what could be achieved.”
Like many an akamai banker, Fujihara-Chong can deliver a crisp brief on “creating
value” for customers and shareholders. But she also can reflect on the gratification
she gets from mentoring young professionals or helping businesses achieve their
goals. It’s a common theme that dates all the way back to her work with international
students. “This has been the most rewarding part of it all, whether it has
been helping students, bank clients or staff to succeed,” she says. “Now
as an HMSA board member, I hope to contribute to the effort of addressing the increasing
challenges of providing access to health care.”
Last fall, Fujihara-Chong and her husband, Stanley Chong, joined the ranks of “empty
nesters.” Their son is studying at a language institute in Japan, and their
daughter is finishing up her first year at Claremont McKenna College in California.
With more personal time, Fujihara-Chong has picked up tennis again. “It’s
great exercise, it’s healthy, and it’s a fun way to socialize with others,”