Exeleon Magazine

Leyna Nguyen

Leading with Integrity in Journalism and Finance

Leyna Nguyen Exeleon Magazine VanMay Finance

Leyna Nguyen: Leading with Integrity in Journalism and Finance

With the advancement of time and human civilization, the concept of leadership has continually evolved to meet the changing needs of society.

Scholars, philosophers, and leaders themselves have attempted to define leadership, but not one single definition has withstood the test of time due to the fluid nature of leadership expectations.

Nonetheless, in recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on leading with integrity. This emphasis on integrity in leadership is not just a preferred trait but has become a fundamental expectation for organizations across the board.

With over 25 years of journalistic experience, Leyna Nguyen is an example of one such leader who leads with integrity in both her professional and personal endeavors.

Leyna’s transition from being an award-winning journalist to a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist showcases how integrity can be the cornerstone of impactful leadership.

Fittingly, Leyna Nguyen features on the Cover of Exeleon Magazine’s Transformational Women Leaders to Follow in 2024.

Branching into Journalism

Born in Vietnam and raised in the United States as a refugee, Leyna’s journey is a testament to resilience, leadership, and the relentless pursuit of proving herself.

As the eldest of three children in a Vietnamese family, Leyna naturally assumed the role of a leader from a young age. Her early experiences of navigating a new culture, learning English as a Second Language (ESL), and striving to meet her parents’ expectations while fitting in at school, instilled in her a strong sense of responsibility and a drive to excel.

She recalls, “I knew a lot was expected of me and I took it upon myself from a very young age to do better and be better—I was out to prove something—although I wasn’t really sure what that something was, I just knew I had this drive.”

As Leyna grew up, this drive led her to a distinguished career in journalism, a field she had been passionate about since elementary school. “I was fascinated with watching the news and I wanted to be the reporter who was always in the know.”

For her, journalism represented an honorable profession that served the public.

Over the years, Leyna’s diverse career in journalism has deeply influenced her perspective on storytelling and its impact on society.

Despite the industry’s changes over the years, she believes that journalism can still uphold its noble purpose. “WHAT stories we tell and HOW we tell them can effect change. That influence should be handled with integrity.” Leyna points out. 

Making Waves

With over 25 years of TV broadcasting experience, Leyna Nguyen became a familiar face and a household name in Los Angeles and beyond. Her journey in television began in Augusta, GA during the 90s and she quickly rose through the ranks to work for the leading NBC affiliate in Sacramento before making her mark in LA,

Throughout her career, Leyna has demonstrated her skills in various aspects of broadcasting, from producing shows to field reporting and anchoring. She has also worked on documentaries, radio, and stage, showcasing her adaptability and talent in different media formats. Her expertise extends to technical aspects such as shooting and editing as well.

Leyna is a five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist with appearances in over 35 television shows and movies, including popular titles like NCIS, Supergirl, The District, Austin Powers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Her ability to connect with audiences and tell compelling stories has earned her critical acclaim and a loyal following during her journalism career.

Finding her Purpose…Again!

At the age of 49, Leyna retired as a journalist and TV broadcaster. She explains, “I retired at the age of 49 because frankly I didn’t love my job anymore. I was a primetime anchor at CBS in Los Angeles—a coveted position that paid me well, but it was no longer fulfilling—I didn’t feel like I was in the right place anymore. My son was starting high school, my daughter was going into middle school and all their lives—mom worked nights.”

Leyna’s choice to step away from her successful career was driven by a desire to be more present for her family during the formative years of their lives. She acknowledges that it was a hard decision to walk away, but it made the most sense at that moment.

“A year after I retired, COVID hit. It was ironically the most wonderful couple of years for our family. We thrived on all the extra time we spent together!”

However, as life began to return to normal, Leyna found herself at home, alone, with no actual purpose. Soon after, she decided to start a YouTube Channel to teach English pronunciation, and the channel became an instant hit.

As she expanded her content to cover financial education, she tapped into a pressing need for accessible and simplified financial advice. Drawing on her journalistic skills, Leyna simplified complex financial concepts and made them relatable, even translating them into Vietnamese to reach a broader audience. Through this new venture, she discovered a renewed sense of purpose.

“Suddenly, I felt useful again—I was making a difference in people’s lives, and I realized that my whole career as a journalist was just practice for what I am doing right now” she proudly exclaims.

A Day in My Life

As I get older and especially since I’m now helping people with retirement, life insurance and long-term care, I’m more aware of the need for self-care. People tend to take good health for granted until they don’t have it anymore.

During the covid lockdown I started leading a hula-hoop exercising class on Zoom mostly as a fun way to connect with people, but I developed an intense workout that’s transformed a lot of people. Some have stopped their medications for cholesterol and pre-diabetes as a result of the workouts. That’s why we’re still going strong.

After my workout, I’m in back-to-back meetings most days. I do YouTube livestreams every Mondays and Thursdays, and two finance shows on Vietnamese language TV programs.

My husband and I both work at this speed. There are nights we are just bushed, but the feeling we get from helping people gives us the energy to keep going. Denny is great at making sure we set aside time for family on weekends. We also have our date night so we can look at each other with no laptops in between us.

VanMay Financial

Transitioning from her successful career in television news, Leyna Nguyen is now channeling her expertise into helping people take control of their finances so they can retire comfortably.

Together with her husband, Denny Hooten, a financial adviser with Merill Lynch and finance professor at USC, Leyna co-founded VanMay Financial. Their approach to financial advising is client-centered, treating each client with respect and attention regardless of their financial status. They aim to provide a comprehensive range of financial products and services, guided by integrity and a genuine desire to help people take control of their finances.

As Executive Field Chairman at First Financial Security, Leyna and Denny are responsible for adding hundreds of millions of dollars in protection and wealth to many families. In just 10 months, she became a million-dollar producer at FFS with no prior knowledge or experience in the industry and was inducted into the prestigious Chairman’s Club. Together, they have provided families with nearly $500 million in coverage.

Talking about her partnership with Denny, Leyna mentions “As a team, he and I can provide our clients with just about every financial product that’s out there. We also share the same values when it comes to customer service. We treat the client who’s living paycheck to paycheck with the same respect and attention as the person who’s worth $100m.”

She adds, “As we grow it’s important for us to find people whose “why” aligns with ours. Product knowledge can be learned, certifications can be earned, but integrity and heart can’t be taught.”

Moreover, Leyna attributes their success to hard work and a deep-seated commitment to educating people about their financial options and helping them make informed decisions.

Beyond her professional engagements, Leyna is deeply committed to philanthropy and community service. She is the founder of Love Across the Ocean (LATO), a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian aid in Vietnam and supports veterans, refugees, and disaster relief efforts in the U.S. Her philanthropic work is driven by a sense of gratitude for the opportunities she has had in America and a desire to give back to those in need.

She remarks, “I’ve always said my goal was to become so rich that all I’d do is travel the world doing charity work. I’m not that rich yet but we’ve been able to help hundreds of thousands of people over the years and that keeps my cup full.”

Looking Ahead

Leyna Nguyen’s vision for the future is a blend of professional ambition and personal fulfillment. Professionally, she is passionate about expanding her impact in the finance space. Recognizing the widespread need for financial guidance, she is focused on building a team of leaders who embody her values and work ethic.

Her aim is not just to grow her team in numbers, but to cultivate individuals who prioritize integrity and the well-being of their clients above all else. Leyna’s excitement about this endeavor stems from her commitment to making a difference in people’s lives.

On a personal level, Leyna cherishes the value of time and seeks to make the most of it with her loved ones. She aspires to create more memorable moments with her children before they embark on their own journeys. Traveling with her husband is another priority, as she believes in the power of exploring new places for the mind and soul.

Additionally, she is dedicated to giving back to her aging parents, who have made numerous sacrifices for her well-being. She hopes to provide them with experiences and comforts they would not seek out on their own. “They’ve spent their whole lives being frugal and helping others, so I’d really like to spend money on them, and spoil them with experiences they would never pay for on their own. That would really bring me a lot of joy,” she mentions.