Military Mindset: How a Career in the Military Paved a Path to Leadership for KeyBank’s Erica Choi

At first glance you may not think there are many parallels between careers in the military and banking. But Erica Choi, KeyBank Senior Vice President and new Commercial Sales Leader for the Capital Region (Albany, N.Y.) says her time at West Point and service in the U.S. Army gave her a strong foundation and skills she uses as a middle market banker.

“Being taught about and placed in leadership situations where you have to lead people at a young age helps you, even when you’re not in a direct leadership position, to pull a team together. It sharpens you as a leader and helps you focus on the goal and the people,” said Choi.

Choi’s interest in service started early while growing up near Scott Air Force Base in Southwestern Illinois. She began her military career as a U.S. Army intelligence officer, leading a counter-terrorism team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But she credits her time at the United States Military Academy with helping foster leadership values that she lives to this day.

“Knowing how to face adversity, work through it, and find the help you need and overcome it is huge.”

After completing her time in service, Choi worked in marketing and brand management in the consumer-packaged goods industry with responsibility for iconic brands such as Jell-O, A-1 Steak Sauce, and Beech-Nut. She then served as an Area Manager for the Small Business Administration for eight years before moving into banking in 2016. Her roles have spanned both consumer and commercial lines of business. Choi joined KeyBank in 2020 as a commercial relationship manager. She credits Key’s commitment to diversity and networking opportunities fostered by the Key Military Network Key Business Impact and Networking Group (KBING) as cultural difference makers that have helped her and her colleagues.

“There are a lot of military members and family in the area (the Capital Region). It’s a place of comfort where you feel known pretty immediately. Sometimes it takes a while to explain your military background to people who haven’t lived it. But you can get together with a group of veterans and in 15-20 seconds tell them where you’ve been and they get you right away. It’s a place where you’re really known and understood. There’s camaraderie and it’s fun”

It’s those connections and the lifelong skills from her years of service that Choi says continue to position her well as a team leader and client centric relationship builder.

“West Point and the Army is the leadership lab that is second to none. Nobody does it better. From the time that I was 18 or 19-years-old, I had one or two cadets I was responsible for and that grew. You mature and you learn. It’s mission and people no matter what.”

Learn more about KeyBank’s commitment to helping clients and communities thrive
 Learn more about KeyBank’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
 Learn more about how KeyBank has been recognized as a top company for veterans and a top military friendly and military friendly spouse employer 

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