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VOL. 35 | NO. 27 | Friday, July 8, 2011

Tapping a growing market

MIBANCO joins larger Nashville-area banks in pursuing Hispanic customers

By Judy Sarles

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Nashville’s burgeoning Hispanic population will soon have a bank to call its own as MIBANCO, a division of the Bank of Camden, is opening a branch this summer at 4536 Nolensville Pike.

While many of Middle Tennessee’s banks, especially the larger institutions, already have found ways to connect with the area’s growing Hispanic population, the Nashville MIBANCO branch will try to draw customers from the Hispanic community by being aware of their particular challenges, concerns and needs, says bank vice president Santiago Cuccarese.

The bank will have bilingual bank staff to educate and assist customers so they can enter the financial mainstream, Cuccarese explains, adding conventional banks are not adequately satisfying the banking requirements of the Hispanic community.

“We understand that there is a large, yet-underserved, Spanish-speaking population that could benefit from our unique approach to banking, tailored financial products and services, extended operating hours and outstanding customer service,” Cuccarese says.

Davidson County’s Hispanic population increased 134 percent between 2000 and 2010, U.S. Census Bureau figures show. The county’s population of roughly 626,000 residents includes about 61,000 Hispanics or 9.8 percent of the population, up from 26,000 in 2000 or 4.5 percent of the population.

Located at 4536 Nolensville Pike, the Nashville branch follows a Knoxville location opened two years ago. It serves more than 3,000 customers and is actively involved in the community.

The Nashville office will feature an area for children to play while their parents conduct business. It will initially hire five people. No additional branches are planned for Nashville.

“All urban areas with a high concentration of Spanish speakers will be considered,” Cuccarese says. “We see a need of more MIBANCOs and will work hard to extend our network.”

Bank of Camden, a state-chartered community bank opened in 1931, has nearly $200 million in assets and operates seven offices in Tennessee.

The Nashville branch of MIBANCO will fill an existing space that satisfies the bank’s objective of providing convenience through locating its offices in shopping centers or close to stores that serve the Hispanic community. MIBANCO also wants its branches to function as community centers by actively joining with local nonprofit organizations to promote health clinics, ESL classes, foreign consulates’ visits, and cultural awareness festivals.

Reliant Bank, another community bank, connects with the Hispanic community through Tatia Cummings, vice president, commercial banking, who serves on the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board of directors. The bank sponsored a recent chamber membership event and brought in a speaker.

“This is a great way for us to get plugged in and to help serve the Hispanic business community by working with them on their various initiatives,” says Marion Ingram, Reliant Bank’s vice president and marketing director.

The bank also uses Cummings as a conduit for reaching out to the Hispanic business community and to help Hispanics find appropriate financial products for their businesses. Cummings, who has been on the chamber board for three years, is originally from Columbia. She is the only Reliant staff member who is bilingual in Spanish and English.

Like most small banks, Reliant doesn’t have specific banking programs that serve the Hispanic population, but it goes into local schools to offer financial literacy workshops and at the bank, schedules educational seminars on how a businesses can grow, which are helpful to the Hispanic community.

Despite Cuccarese’s assessment of conventional banks, many of the Nashville area’s larger banks try to serve and connect with the Hispanic community. For example, Regions Bank has programs in place companywide that help meet the needs of the Hispanic market. Much of the bank’s financial literature is translated into Spanish, its ATMs and website are accessible in Spanish, and its call centers have Spanish-speaking people on staff.

“We do have some bilingual employees working at our branches,” says Latrisha Jemison, senior vice president, regional community affairs manager at Regions. “Of course, we would like to have more.”

Regions At Work is one of the bank’s outreach initiatives that helps Hispanic employees, as well as other employees, open accounts. To open accounts, Regions accepts the Matricula Consular, which is an identification card for Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico. The bank also presents financial literacy workshops at Metro schools that have a large percentage of Hispanic students.

Regions engages a Hispanic advertising agency because the bank does a lot of advertising to the Hispanic community, especially in Florida, where there is a large Spanish-speaking population. Here in the Nashville area, Regions is taking note of the growing Hispanic community.

“We’ve seen the census data and the demographics changing,” Jemison says, “and we do know that this is a segment of the population that’s emerging, and we certainly want to provide products and services. We are reviewing our current products and services to provide a higher level of products that may be of interest to the Hispanic community.”

Bank of America aims for diversity in its banking center staffing. To assist its Hispanic customers, it has 12 Spanish-speaking associates at its Nolensville Road branch, four at its Thompson Lane location, and four at its Plus Park office.

“Bank of America is proud to be a leader in supporting diversity and setting opportunity in motion to create economically vibrant communities by lending, investing, and giving,” says John Stein, Bank of America Tennessee president.

“Our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion focus on four key areas: recruiting and retaining diverse talent, maintaining relationships with diverse suppliers, offering products and services to meet the diverse needs of our customers, and focusing on philanthropic efforts that support underserved communities. We embrace the power of our people to deliver for our customers and communities.”

SunTrust Bank tries to market and transact business in Spanish for customers who indicate a preference in areas that have a considerable Hispanic population. The bank places bilingual staff in branches serving a sizeable amount of Hispanic customers and has available marketing materials, including promotional signs, posters, and brochures translated into Spanish.

A high level of involvement in community outreach is achieved through SunTrust’s local Hispanic Affinity Group, which provides financial literacy classes to young people and adults. SunTrust also supports a scholarship through Lipscomb University for Hispanic students to further their education.

“At SunTrust, we are committed to providing financial services to meet the needs of each segment of the diverse communities we serve in the most efficient and effective way possible,” says Tami Buttrey, retail line of business manager at SunTrust.

State Farm Bank reaches out to the Hispanic Community by offering financial literacy courses through its “Make It Possible” program, provided in Spanish and English.

“Our agents will do quite a bit of community outreach through not-for-profit organizations,” says Aymee Zubizarreta, a State Farm Insurance spokeswoman, “and we also go into high schools and middle schools and provide these courses.”

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