Best of both worlds for Gerard Araw, Wall Street banker and suburban family man

‘A quiet life, that’s how we want it.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

Gerard Araw, the relationship manager for Commerzbank, probably speaks for many immigrant professionals who are trying to strike a balance between the traditions they grew up with and the alluring cosmopolitan lifestyle of New York. Gerard, 41, works in Lower Manhattan and goes home to his family in Springfield, New Jersey. He believes in raising a family in a quiet suburban town under the care of one parent – in this case his wife Denise who is a stay-at-home mom to their two daughters Zoe, 9 and Kin, 5.

“Mine is a very simple life, but very family-oriented,” he told The FilAm in an interview at a vacant coffee shop outside his 2 World Financial Center office. “That’s how we want it.”

Gerard, a banker in Manila, came to the New York in 1999 after he and his FilAm girlfriend – that’s Denise! — got married. Commerzbank, who was in need of a temp at the time, was his first employer. It’s been 13 years since. The bank decided to keep him beyond his two-month tenure as a temp. He rose through a variety of duties and titles and is now the relationship manager, whose marching order is to connect the bank with its customers.

From his valley home in Springfield, he does the bridge-and-tunnel commute to Lower Manhattan. A winding but pleasant walk through the diggings-filled streets brings him to his office before 9 a.m. Everything works in reverse after 5 p.m. By the time he gets home, there’s a warm meal waiting for him and just enough time to bond with his daughters before they go to bed. He rues that “there is never enough time,” but makes the most of whatever time he can manage with his family.

“New York would be a good time and place to start out if it’s just me and my wife. But we’re thinking about growing a family. I don’t think the city is a place to grow a family,” he said.

In the following interview, Gerard shares insights into his double life as a Wall Street banker and as the living, breathing specimen of Nicolas Cage’s “The Family Man.”

TF: Relationship manager sounds like a cozy title? What exactly do you do?
GA: I’m the first point of contact with clients to the products of the bank. Basically I communicate with customers what we have in terms of commercial and investment banking products.

TF: Did you have a banking background?
GA: My orientation was in investment banking in Insular Investment and Trust Corp. in the Philippines. I was there for six years. I graduated from De La Salle University with a major in Behavioral Sciences and Management of Financial Institutions.

TF: Why did you come to New York?
GA: On my fifth year at Insular, there was the 1997 Asian financial crisis. There was significant slowdown in the market. At that time I was also planning to get married, and it was fortunate that my wife was born here. My wife is pure Filipino but she was born in Jersey. We decided to come over for adventure.

TF: The industry is still slow right now. How does that affect you and your bank?
GA: We’re the second largest bank in Germany. The whole banking industry is shrinking. It’s very difficult to look for any career growth. If the whole banking industry is affected in Europe, it will also have repercussions here in America and Asia. Every player will be affected. Closing down offices, shrinking businesses, cutting costs, yes these are all possible.

TF: As a member of the FilAm business community, do you think of ways to connect American or foreign investors to the Philippines?
GA: All the time. I actually had more than a handful of conversations with people in Frankfurt, with the heads of Commerzbank here in New York and in Asia. I explained to them the idea of bringing Commerzbank in the Philippines. I tell them it’s the only bank that’s not there. BNP Paribas is there, Citibank, JPMorgan, Standard Chartered. I don’t think it’s a crowded market. There will always be an interest in providing access to the European market, and we’re one of the biggest players in Europe.

TF: Your father, Bienvenido Araw, is one of the leaders promoting mining in the Philippines.
GA: My father is with Benguet Mining Corp. as senior vice president. Commerzbank is not in mining, but there might be some interest especially for precious metals (like gold, silver, platinum).

TF: What’s family life like?
GA: We live in Springfield, my kids go to public school. They’re into dolls like Barbie and mostly into arts. Zoe is 9 and Kin is 5. Zoe has a Facebook with her cousins, with her mom and the aunts. Her mom logs her in and out. I don’t have a Facebook.

We live in a very family-oriented place, a small town with five schools, it’s a place where kids are just running around all day long, or walking and biking. It’s a predominantly Jewish community. My house is close to a temple and also walking distance from a Catholic church.

TF: The industry being what it is right now, are you worried?
GA: Yes, the industry is shrinking. In the very unfortunate situation that I could lose my job, I’d probably hang around for a few months, maybe set up a small restaurant. Probably a different kind of a sandwich place. Maybe in Springfield. Me and my wife we cook a lot.

TF: The possibility of going back home, has that crossed your mind?
GA: Yes, why not? I grew up in the Philippines and I worked there.

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