Urdu-speaking employee uses language and human connection to help refugees  

March 04, 2022
Saim Malik says he loves the diverse population of Bloomington and the opportunities to connect with the community through U.S. Bank.

Saim Malik draws on his skills to assist Afghan Welcome Home Project of Central Illinois.

Bloomington, Illinois, Client Relations Consultant Saim Malik remembers moving from Pakistan to the U.S. when he was nine years old.

“I had to redo fourth grade and take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for three years,” he recalled. “We had family already living here so that influenced my parents to move, but also my parents wanted us to utilize the educational opportunities a life in the U.S. presented my family.”

Malik now speaks flawless English but he prioritizes his native language, Urdu. “I still speak it with my parents and think it’s important for me to pass it along to the next generation,” he said. “I love the diverse population in Bloomington and the opportunities to connect with people through working at U.S. Bank.”

An Urdu-speaking customer recommended Malik to Ilene Henderson, who works with the Afghan Welcome Home Project of Central Illinois. Henderson was assisting three refugees who, within 24 hours of arriving in Bloomington, needed to open a bank account.

“Saim was great to work with, as he patiently spoke with them in Urdu, taking his time to explain the process and services,” Henderson said. “It was obvious that Saim was there to genuinely help them with their individual financial needs. That approach earned their trust even more because it was obvious he wanted to do what was best for them.”

The day of their visit, Saim helped two of the three men open bank accounts and another refugee has since come into the bank to open an account. 

“In my more than 20 years of leading people, Saim would rank near the top as far as his true genuine desire to help people and deliver on expectations to his team,” said Branch Manager Ric Wyatt. “In our community, we have a lot of people from other countries who are here on work visas due to major companies based in town. Frequently, when non-native English speakers come to the branch, they naturally migrate to Saim because he speaks a few languages and can help build a smoother customer experience.”

Malik said that he’s learned the importance of representation. “One of the things I love about working at U.S. Bank is our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.” When he first started with the company nearly one year ago,  helping customers through cobrowse was his favorite part of the job. Now, it's being a part of an internal council focused on DEI efforts in Illinois.

“In our society, we’ve become so instantaneous, and we often lose perspective on the human factor, but Saim did not,” Henderson said.  “We couldn’t be successful in helping people resettle in Central Illinois if it weren’t for partner institutions in the community like U.S. Bank. What Central Illinois may be lacking in official infrastructure, we make up for in community, and that’s where you find your greatest strength.”  

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