Can a large, conservative bank change its culture? Particularly one with more than 360 years of history? MUFG, the world’s fifth largest financial group, is taking a page from the playbook of more nimble, innovative companies, such as those in the technology sector, and undergoing a massive culture change in its operations in the Americas.

Why? Because the bank realized that a strong company culture where employees feel valued and empowered is at the heart of any successful business. So earlier this year, MUFG unveiled its Culture Principles across the organization.

The Principles—Client Centric, People Focused, Listen Up. Speak Up., Innovate & Simplify, Own & Execute—provide clear behavior expectations to change and sustain new ways of working together. They are embedded in all aspects of the company and are driving its diverse and inclusive culture.

“Our Culture Principles are redefining how we work,” says Amy Ward, chief human resources officer for the Americas. “From client interactions and team meetings to global performance management, every colleague is accountable for owning MUFG’s culture and delivering on our Principles consistently and conscientiously.”

The Principles help foster an environment where diverse perspectives are encouraged and embraced, and the belief that each colleague brings a unique viewpoint to every situation, challenge, and opportunity remains at the bank’s core. The objective is to make sure all colleagues understand that their contributions are valued, and that results are recognized at every level within the organization.

“Every employee, regardless of his or her level or title, has the ability to make change,” says Donna Valiquette, chief corporate administrative officer for Canada, who spearheaded the culture initiative in the Americas. “Like many other organizations, we have senior-level support; however, this isn’t a top-down process, and it definitely has to be all inclusive to succeed.”

Several internal tools were developed to support the launch of the Principles, including a Culture Principles “flipbook” and culture intranet page, messages from senior leaders and colleagues whose actions bring the Culture Principles to life, and Culture Principles screensavers for daily reinforcement. In addition, Speak Up Boards are being rolled out to various lines of business to encourage colleagues to suggest and implement new ways of doing things.

The Culture Principles were also incorporated into the company’s new external careers website, which recently earned the bank a coveted honor as the Best Employment Website, a 2019 WebAward for Outstanding Achievement in Web Development.

Approximately 380 “influencers” have been identified by managers from all business units and tasked as change leaders for their departments—identifying opportunities for growth, and finding new ways to engage employees to help them “live” the Culture Principles. They are being given measurement tools to help them assess where their groups are doing well with cultural change and where they can focus on improvement.

“Evolving MUFG’s culture is a journey that will take dedication and commitment on the part of every colleague,” says Amy. “We’re all agents of change and have an important role in making sure our company continues to thrive for the next 360 years and beyond, with our culture at the heart of our organization.”

Stephanie Andrews-Higgins

Stephanie Andrews-Higgins

Director, Regulatory Business Controls Manager in Wealth Markets

Investment Management & Trust

Tell us about your education and professional path.

I graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BA degree in history and then, completed law school at the University of Iowa College of Law. After passing the California Bar during a recession when many firms were laying off attorneys, I followed my father’s path by accepting a position within MUFG’s Management Training Program. (My father worked for the bank for 25 years, and retired the year I started.)

I spent most of my banking career in audit, compliance, and risk management, supporting affluent clients. In 2012, I joined our Wealth Markets team, and for the past five years, I’ve been a director, regulatory business controls manager, as part of Investment Management & Trust. I manage a small team responsible for performing fiduciary controls testing, quality assurance reviews of issue remediations, and risk management support during compliance, audit, and examiner reviews. The Culture Principles* have helped enhance how I accomplish my daily work.

Best practices you’d like to share?

Stay open to different career possibilities. You may be presented with an opportunity that you never considered and discover that you love it! Even if you don’t love it, you’ve exposed yourself to something new and hopefully, gained a unique skill. To stay relevant in the modern workplace, you must constantly evolve and learn new things, and you never know what wonderful opportunity is around the corner!

Why is inclusion and diversity important?

To achieve the optimal outcome, I, like most people, need to feel valued and know that my contributions make a difference. When I feel like I can bring my best, true self to work, the results are stronger. Diversity fosters a more creative and innovative workforce, recognizing value in differing thoughts, ideas, backgrounds, and experiences that are in alignment with our changing nation. That’s what our Culture Principles* are all about.

What/who motivates you?

My parents instilled in me the importance of always doing my best, and I wanted them to be proud of me. I am also strongly motivated by all of the opportunities available to me that were not legally and socially available to my ancestors. I’m humbled by their sacrifices, strength, and courage.

Three words that describe you?

Optimistic. Collaborative. Critical thinker.

*See “MUFG—Creating a Winning Culture

Candice Nakagawa

Candice Nakagawa

Director, Private Wealth Advisor


Candice Nakagawa has had many high points in her career, including a 2019 MUFG President’s Award. Her journey is empowering.


Working as a teller while in college sparked Candice’s interest in banking, and after graduation, she joined MUFG’s Management Training Program. “I’d read about how the company was a diverse, great place to work and was intrigued,” she says.

Through various Private Bank roles, she quickly honed her passion for service, with a thoughtful, client-centric approach—traits that she embodied even before they became MUFG Culture Principles*.

In 2014, Candice took on her current role as a private wealth advisor, leading teams of subject matter experts in developing customized strategies to help affluent clients reach their financial goals. “I enjoy building long-term relationships with clients and their families as their trusted advisor,” she says. “We often transform dreams into reality, and that’s incredibly fulfilling.”


Candice, who is bilingual in Japanese and English, earned her bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in Japanese studies from the University of California, San Diego.

In 2009, she was selected for the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Exchange Program in Japan. In 2012, she graduated from the Pacific Coast Banking School and recently, completed an MBA at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

“‘Keep learning’ is the best career advice I’ve received. The philosophy of kaizen, or continuous improvement, is what we live by in serving clients,” she says.


Candice’s passion for learning fuels her commitment to giving back. She helped create and oversees The Private Bank’s professional development program, through which she and her colleagues work with private bankers to build their skillsets. “It’s important to remain committed to developing internal talent, as strong teams help make the entire organization stronger,” she says.

To rejuvenate, Candice squeezes in time to travel, including to Jerusalem and Jordan, where she visited the Old City and Petra, a World Heritage Site, describing both as magical. She also enjoys music and says that “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King reminds her of her grandfather. He taught her humility and kindness, and to never see her gender as a barrier to what she could achieve in life.

He’d definitely be proud.

*See “MUFG—Creating a Winning Culture

Joseph DeMarino

Joseph DeMarino

Vice President

Global Corporate & Investment Banking

Tell us about your professional background.

I majored in finance and international business at Villanova University, and received my MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. I have worked in various finance disciplines, including investment management, equity research, and investment banking.

I joined MUFG in 2016 and work on a relationship management team in MUFG’s Chicago office. I coordinate and help deliver MUFG’s full product suite to corporations in the United States and globally, with a specific focus on the food and beverage sector. Some of these products and services include acquisition financing, access to debt capital markets, and derivatives.

What are some key lessons you’ve learned in your career?

The benefits of being patient and remaining flexible. Organizations are constantly evolving, so patience is crucial. Sometimes doors that have previously been shut are all of a sudden open, and you need to be in the right place at the right time. Also, I think it’s important to be flexible when assigned new projects. Not every new task will align perfectly with your skillset, but that’s an opportunity to broaden your expertise and experience.

Why is inclusion and diversity important?

Inclusion and diversity are key drivers in creating a positive culture and morale. People do their best work when they feel that they’re valued team members. Including all those who wish to contribute, and hearing viewpoints from a diverse pool of backgrounds and experiences allows the best ideas to surface, ultimately increasing your organization’s odds of success.

How are you practicing the MUFG Culture Principles* in your work?

Client Centric—Being client centric is all about understanding your clients’ needs. When meeting with clients, I try to talk less and listen more.

People Focused—Last year, I participated on a team that created an internal process for communicating key deal successes that improved both recognition and communication within the department.

Listen Up. Speak Up.—The openness of MUFG’s management creates an environment where I feel highly comfortable voicing my own opinions.

Innovate & Simplify—As one of the largest banks in the world, certain aspects of doing business can be complicated. Innovating and simplifying is rewarding, and the payoff is direct and easily felt.

Own & Execute—Being the point person on a transaction creates an opportunity for professional development. With that responsibility comes accountability, so there are clear incentives to perform well.

*See “MUFG—Creating a Winning Culture