Balancing Korean traditions in a western world

May 16, 2023 Chelsey Sleator
How Kevin Gordon navigated “cultural friction,” and why he says he’s found his dream job.

Kevin Gordon jokes that he started his career while he was still in the womb. It’s a reference to the fact that his mother has had a long, trailblazing career in financial services, which meant Kevin spent much of his childhood in her office, with a conference room as his playroom. It led to him taking a liking to the industry from a young age, and he’s proud of the example his mother set for him.


My mother is a total unicorn—she’s a Korean woman, and a working mom. She’s found this balance of sticking to and preserving our Korean traditions, values and culture, but has also created a career in the modern, western world.

- Kevin Gordon, Senior Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab

Growing up half-Korean in a predominately white Chicago community, Kevin has had to deal with what he calls cultural friction. But he’s been able to look to his parents to help guide him through it.

“Both my parents felt the cultural friction from the opposite side,” explains Kevin, whose father is white. “It took them a long time to be accepted by each other’s families. Seeing them navigate that together is inspiration for what I do and why I like to work hard.”

And he definitely works hard. Based out of New York, Kevin is a Senior Investment Strategist and part of the Schwab Center for Financial Research (SCFR) think-tank. He considers himself an interpreter. He spends his days researching everything that’s going on in the U.S. stock market and economy, taking it up 30,000 feet figuratively—by identifying what it means and the potential macro impacts—and literally—by flying across the country for client events or media appearances to help people make sense of what’s happening.

“I got incredibly lucky in finding my dream job right out of college,” explains Kevin, who graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in Economics and Political Science in 2019.

In fact, Kevin says he knew early on he wanted to work for Schwab. He loved the people he had met through his mother growing up and felt a cultural “spark” that he didn’t feel from other companies. When he found out Liz Ann Sonders, Schwab’s Chief Investment Strategist, had a new research position, Kevin immediately expressed interest and pursued the role.

“My mom said, ‘Are they going to pay you?’ And I said, ‘I don’t care,’” laughs Kevin.

Kevin has been with Schwab for nearly four years now. When asked about the influence he has had on the team, Liz Ann says, “Steve Jobs once said about the iPhone that it wasn’t that customers were asking for it specifically; but that once Apple created it, its customers did not know what they did without it. That’s how we feel about Kevin joining our team.”

Constantly adapting

Over the years, Kevin has developed a more public profile at Schwab. While this experience has been predominantly positive, there are downsides to being in the media.

“The investment industry is full of combatting views and everyone feels they have to have an attention-grabbing, immovable stake in the ground,” explains Kevin. “But because we are putting everything through the lens of the client at Schwab, it’s really not like that here. Would the client want someone who is never going to change their view? Or would they want someone who adapts to the world because we all see it differently and come from different places?”

Growing up within two cultures made Kevin feel like he never really fit into either one. But at Schwab he’s found a culture he can fit into. Looking ahead, Kevin explains that he’s not big on titles or specific career milestones. To him, all that matters is doing great work and working with great people. “And I check both boxes every day I walk in the door,” he says.