INDIANAPOLIS – Like most children, 9-year-old Erika does not want to sit still for a video conversation with her relatives in Peru. But her mother, Fiorella “Fio” Gambetta-Gibson, doesn’t let her budge.
The thing I value most is the commitment to strong family ties – that is very important to me. As busy as we are today, I remind my American-born daughter the importance of that. I have to coerce her into sitting patiently next to me to talk to them as well. One day she will appreciate it, but for now, my impatient child will just have to deal with it.
Born in Lima, Peru, Gambetta-Gibson moved to Indianapolis in 2001 to pursue a master’s in business administration at Butler University after earning a bachelor degree in industrial engineering and science from a Peruvian public university.
With her MBA in hand, she started her PNC career in 2004 by holding various branch network jobs. She founded PNC's first multicultural employee resource group and was recently promoted to a leadership position on the corporate diversity team. She helps to grow the solid base of multicultural clients in central Indiana where the Hispanic population is growing at twice the national average.
“I see my role as the voice of our diverse clients. I assist them by recommending PNC’s products and services, but I also create relationships by learning about their rich cultures, values and customs,” she said, noting how she was one of five Hispanic employees in the region in 2004. Today she is one of 40.
Gambetta-Gibson’s heritage also helps her understand the culture and barriers that prevent some segments of the Hispanic population from using banks.
“In my experience, most Hispanics have a distrust for financial institutions due to past experience in their home countries. I am a good bridge for them to understand how it works in the United States,” she said.
For someone reluctant to take out a loan – incur debt to be owed – based on his or her culture, Gambetta-Gibson shares her own experience as a young immigrant student new to America.
“I had to learn things on my own,” she said. “I had no experience with ‘credit,’ nor did I know the importance of building a credit history since no one explained it to me. I found out I couldn’t obtain even a cell phone without a U.S. credit history. I hadn’t realized the power of negotiation and potential savings that can result in having a solid credit history”
Gambetta-Gibson’s ability to bridge Hispanic and American cultures has carried over to her community work as well. One example is "Project Stepping Stone," a free annual one-week college preparatory program for Hispanic high school students, which includes PNC among the sponsors.
The director once asked Gambetta-Gibson to conduct mock interviews with the students, including an extremely shy teenage girl who had just arrived from Mexico a few months earlier and visibly shook during the interviews.
Gambetta-Gibson shared her experiences as a Hispanic graduate student who moved to America with English as her second language. The girl’s eyes brightened as the banker described how she too would soon walk proudly across the stage on graduation day.
“She said this was the first time anyone said she was smart enough and capable enough,” said Gambetta-Gibson, noting that most Hispanic teens she meets today are the first in their families to attend college. “We spent time talking about how to master a second language and how to embrace and enjoy a second culture, which is crucial to succeeding in a new country.”
Gambetta-Gibson said it is very important to keep up culture and tradition, especially languages. She has taught her daughter to speak Spanish, how to celebrate typical Hispanic holidays and how to preserve traditions. This philosophy applies to her many community efforts, which include serving as board member with the Hispanic Business Council, Indianapolis Chamber and the Business Ownership Initiative of Indiana. She is also an advisor to the general consul of the Republic of Mexico in Indianapolis.
“I recall my mom telling my four siblings and me to ‘be yourself’ and you will have more to offer others. I’ve learned that sharing your own perspective from your own cultures and traditions will enrich any conversation, project or team,” she said.
For Gambetta-Gibson, achieving one’s goals starts with education: “My parents taught us that the best thing that they could pass on to us was an education, because you can take it wherever you go. Without education, I would not be here.”
My parents always told us, ‘The day that we pass, you will not get money, nor gold. Those things can fade, but no one can take away your degree.’ And they were right.