MEET ACE WATANASUPARP
His attainments are celebrious, but he is not arrogant. His command of finance and real estate enterprise is encyclopedic, but he is not pontifical. He has eviscerated the obstructions that stalemated others, and yet, he is venerated. This is Ace Watanasuparp.
Ace is senior vice president and director of strategic sales for the Home Mortgage Division of Citizens Bank, one of the nation’s oldest and largest financial institutions, with 1,000 branches in 11 states and more than $185B in assets under management. Ace joined this distinguished institution in 2015 but his current appointment was offered and accepted just one month before the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite the early challenges of his new position, Ace accomplished what no one expected—he expanded into new markets and captured unprecedented market share during a global pandemic.
Setting precedents is nothing new to Ace. He’s been doing it throughout his life. Prior to attending law school at NYU, he became the first Asian American in the University of Connecticut’s history to “walk on” to the prestigious men’s basketball team. Then, in the first year of his career in finance, as a loan officer for Citibank, he was ranked the sixth-highest producer in the United States and subsequently recruited by some of the largest names in banking—Bank of America and Wells Fargo, among them. Later, when the time came for Ace to decide on a bank to call home, he ultimately chose Citizens.
ABOUT CITIZENS BANK
Citizens Bank services individual consumers and the full range of business classes, providing a comprehensive suite of financial amenities. They are at once a friendly neighborhood bank that offers personalized services to residents of the communities in which they operate and a national presence that has eclipsed geographical limitations by providing accessible and transparent wealth management, lending, and small business offerings to all of America. And as they continue to expand as an institution and mortgage leader, they haven’t lost sight of their values—they’re more committed than ever when clients need them most, whether that’s during a global pandemic or in a time when big banking is so often detached and disconnected from real people.
Ace and Citizens Bank have a symbiosis that is rarely achieved between employer and executive. His entrepreneurial proclivities are in harmony with the directives of his role, and as the founder and owner of nine successful restaurants, he understands the nuances of leadership and solution-focused agendas. Both he and Citizens Bank have a strong vision and that is the differentiator that sets them both apart in an environment where congruence is the norm. As Citizens forges ahead to distinguish itself in the banking sector at large, Ace supports them by strengthening their position in the real estate and finance markets.
Ace, how does your experience as a college athlete play a role in your leadership style?
As a basketball player, it was always about the team. In this role, I apply that same team mentality to support our various markets and their leaders, such as our retail and wealth partners, to grow their value propositions within our bank. In essence, I’m building teams within the real estate community.
The team dynamic is also something I instill in everyone within the Home Mortgage Division—we support and encourage each other and work together to always do what’s best for the collective, not the individual, and when that requires sacrifice, we are each prepared to make it.
Citizens Bank is known for its commitment to the people and the communities it serves. Can you share some examples?
When you’re a regional bank, you have a responsibility to your community. Each year we give a home to a veteran. Every Thanksgiving, we read stories submitted by clients, select the best one, and give that client a home. We are constantly thinking about ways to improve relations, whether it’s through our home-buying seminars or creating products that allow more people to fulfill their American Dream.
This commitment was especially apparent during the pandemic. Can you share some ways in which you helped during COVID-19?
I’ll be happy to. We did not lay anyone off. We allowed most of our staff to work from home and provided laptops to 1,200 employees. To support both physical and mental well-being, we instituted a set of parameters to ensure no one felt isolated. We acted as a sounding board for our staff so they could share challenges and we in turn could help them find solutions. We were particularly in tune to communications—implementing technology for e-signatures, desktop appraisal reviews, virtual closings, and online applications. And we provided education, allowing staff to pursue an MBA online through Stanford, NY, and Columbia universities. COVID showed us that we could do more than just adapt. It confirmed that empowering our staff and clients, which was always a priority, has intrinsic dividends that were just as valuable as profit.
Citizens Bank is continuing to grow. Tell us about this and your role in its expansion efforts.
We just acquired HSBC and Investors Bancorp and I will be spearheading both migrations. It will add 10 million new customers and increase depositories, so it’s a huge growth model for us going into 2022, and it’s exciting to see the bank continue to expand their footprint.
What do you enjoy most about your work, or what drives you?
I get to meet so many different people and help them achieve their goals. As a leader, you want to see the folks you work with succeed. In the beginning, it was about how can I reach my goals, now it’s about others. Also, I’m a Type A personality, so I’ve always been competitive, and I want to win on the court, in business, and in life. The environment helps, too—being around goal-oriented people is important because positivity is infectious.
Ace holds a BS in finance from the University of Connecticut and studied law at NYU School of Law. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Brick Underground, Real Estate Weekly, NY Real Estate Journal, and the Mann Report as an expert in residential lending.
Ace Watanasuparp, SVP National Director of Strategic Sales, Citizens Bank
Click on the cover to download the complete magazine.