Above photo: New York Life employees outside the office building in Osaka, Japan, 1903
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and New York Life would like to take the time to celebrate the many achievements of those agents who have contributed to our rich history over the years and strengthened and diversified our communities.
One of the great early success stories is Benzo Hayashi of the Hawaii branch, who in 1918 became vice president of the $100,000 Club (an early sales club.) He had written over 158 applications reaching $161,500 in coverage, quite a sum at that time. As our Weekly Bulletin stated at the time:
“It certainly is a tribute to the possibilities of our profession, the opportunities in America for a man who speaks another language to enter the work and in so short a time win the highest place next to the Club President. We congratulate Vice-President Hayashi and compliment him on a record that those long in the business would be proud to own.”
The same year, members of New York Life’s $200,000 Club (an early sales club) in 1918 included 12 agents of Japanese nationality. One of those agents, Iichiji Akahoshi of Los Angeles, was invited to speak at the $200,000 Club convention that year.
These early successes would foretell generations of successful Asian-American members of NYL’s sales field force, many of whom became leaders of NYL’s sales organizations.
Henry Y. Kasai
Henry Y. Kasai became an NYLIC agent in 1915. When he first started working at the company, he only spoke Japanese, but became bilingual as his clientele transitioned from Japanese immigrants to their American-born children.
Throughout his 50-plus-year career with New York Life, Mr. Kasai was regarded highly as an emissary between Japanese and American cultures. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Americanism Award in 1947, the Nisei of the Biennium Award from the Japanese-American Citizens League in 1964, and the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1966. The Order of the Sacred Treasure was particularly significant, acknowledging Mr. Kasai’s efforts to promote “understanding and international goodwill.” At the time of the award, Henry Y. Kasai was advocating Salt Lake City adopt Matsumoto City in Japan as its sister city (which it did in 1968).
Raymond K. Wu
Raymond K. Wu was a University of Tokyo and University of Missouri graduate who joined our Lincoln Branch in New York, in May 1950. In his first year with the company, he had become one of the best-known life insurance salesmen among the Chinese population in New York City. Within five years, Mr. Wu had become a million-dollar producer and member of the Presidents Council. In May 1955, Wu’s success led him to open New York Life’s first office in New York’s Chinatown district.
An immigrant from Taiwan, Christine K. Young joined New York Life in 1982. With no prior training or experience, Ms. Young found immediate success working with the Chinese community in San Francisco, California. In 1983, she was made a member of the Chairman’s Council, a Summit Member in 1984, and the Agent of the Year for the San Francisco General Office in 1986, 1988 and 1989. Ms. Young was also a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table, Top of the Table, Twenty-five Million Dollar International Forum, and recipient of the National Sales Achievement Award. In 1993, Young became the Council Vice President. She had 2,000 clients at the time, making her “one of the top female and Asian salespersons in the life insurance industry.”
In addition to her career, Christine Young hosted a Chinese cultural program and wrote a biweekly column for two Chinese-language newspapers. She was an active advocate for Asian community charities in the Bay Area and frequently donated to children’s orphanages in China. “I feel extremely close to the Asian community. By promoting their achievements, and providing for their insurance needs, I actively support Asians in America.”
Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.