Stephen Kagawa, FSS, LUTCF, founder and CEO of The Pacific Bridge Companies (TPBC), has a vision—to help families protect what they love through TPBC’s platform, Aloha Financial Advisors. As Kagawa explains, “Aloha Financial Advisors is all about doing good and having advisors who are rooted in their vision of a better world driven by their core values.”
Where It All Began
The story of Kagawa’s passion for reaching underserved communities goes back nearly a century. In 1933, his grandfather, Lawrence Takeo “L.T.” Kagawa, was disappointed to learn that life insurance companies either refused to write policies for people of color or demanded higher premiums than that of their Caucasian neighbors. He partnered with A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America and Transamerica, and helped bring affordable life insurance to all people of color.
A Turning Point
When he was young, Kagawa thought life insurance agents were just salespeople and he wasn’t interested in becoming a third-generation insurance agent. After he dropped out of college, he took an internship with Transamerica. At first, he didn’t understand the importance of the work his father and grandfather had done for decades. Then he heard the story of a woman whose husband’s life insurance changed her life and saved her livelihood.
The woman and her husband had it all—two children, a nice home, and a successful business in the garment district of Los Angeles. When two life insurance agents knocked on their door, she wasn’t interested. After two weeks of discussion, her husband made a decision: he would buy life insurance, even though his wife didn’t think they needed it. Because of that decision, their family was protected when he was shot and killed.
“The next day was the beginning of the rest of my life,” Kagawa says. He got licensed in California and made it his mission to help the single parents on the 8th and 9th floors of his office building. He asked everyone he met, “Who would take care of their children if you were gone? How would they afford it?” It was months later when he realized that he would get commissions on his sales. Then it finally hit him: “The more good [my family] was doing, the better they were doing for other people and for themselves.”
Kagawa’s passion is incorporating his core values into his business. He talks about his journey of losing—and regaining—his vision and purpose in the industry. “In this business, they train us to sell other people's products, so we get good at it.” He continues, “I was doing good for people, but I wasn't [following the] vision of the better world I wanted to shape.” He believes that when we stay rooted in our values, our lives become fulfilled and that there is a symbiotic relationship between doing good and doing well.
Kagawa admits he’s selective when hiring new advisors. "I want advisors who have a fire burning inside them, a bright light they want to get out,” he says. That spirit is what he looks for.
While they’re regularly recognized, TPBC isn’t focused on winning awards. “Aloha Financial Advising is a way of life,” Kagawa explains. “We need to have something that reflects the epitome of a financial advisor. We focus on people and what they care about, what’s important to them.”
A Global Connection
TPBC connects 14 companies across five countries around the Pacific Rim. Their team of advisors is split between two groups, one with a global specialty and the other with a domestic one. “[The United States is] a country of 200 nations,” says Kagawa. “Why not help people from where they come and where they go?”
TPBC is a global wealth management firm that navigates the intricacies of international tax and finance law. Their aim is to fill in the gaps in opportunity from country to country and to bring that expertise to underserved, poorly served, or unserved communities in the U.S. and around the globe.
Through the Decades with NAIFA
When Kagawa joined NAIFA, it was called the National Association of Life Underwriters (NALU). Another member of the Hawaii insurance community, Adelia Chung, took him to a state convention in 1986 and said, “This is your home. You can depend on these people to be of like mind and like spirit.”
At NAIFA, Kagawa learned how pivotal political advocacy is in serving Main Street Americans every day. “NAIFA is there as our legislative advocate,” he says. “To fight for the people that we serve and for ourselves.”
TPBC puts NAIFA front and center. Kagawa believes it’s important not just to reap the benefits of membership, but also to give back, and advocacy is a central component. “What shows more dedication and commitment than going out there and voicing opinions and shaping the opinions of our lawmakers?” He continues, “You do yourself a favor by not only knowing what's going on but being able to shape the results.”
Kagawa also sees NAIFA as a great way to meet and interact with like-minded people who want to ensure better lives for themselves and the people they serve. “Without each other, we’d be a lot less,” he says. “Ours is a lonely business. What better way to make it less lonely than being a part of what's relevant? And that’s NAIFA.”
Over the years, Kagawa has served in several leadership roles within NAIFA, including Diversity Champion, National Committee Chairperson, and Past President of NAIFA-Greater Foothills. He attends NAIFA-CA and NAIFA-National events and will be at NAIFA’s Annual Congressional Conference in Washington, D.C., on May 23-24, 2022. He also currently serves as the Chairman of the Million Dollar Round Table’s Top of the Table Advisory Board and is an MDRT Global Council Member.
Kagawa shares a final thought on the critical role NAIFA plays in the insurance and financial services industry, saying, "An organization like NAIFA is important to maintain balance and have a voice that needs to be heard by the politicians and lawmakers that shape the way we can operate and the things we can do for the people we serve and depend on us.”
To learn more about Stephen Kagawa and Aloha Financial Advising, you can read his book, Aloha Financial Advising: Doing Good to Do Better for Your Clients and Yourself.