You wouldn’t trust just anyone to help you handle your money, would you? So the question becomes, “How well do you know your bank?” And more importantly, “How well does your bank understand you?” In a time where the face of the American consumer is always changing, banks and other financial institutions may have trouble understanding how different demographics go about handling their finances. This isn’t a trend that only large banks need to embrace, but one that small community banks and credit unions should acknowledge as well.
According to the American Bankers Association (ABA), the United States is now one-third African American, Asian and Latino. In the past, banks and financial institutions often overlooked these ethnic groups because they had a higher proportion of unbanked or underbanked members. Now, the same groups represent incredible growth opportunities for the financial industry. To be successful, it will take a lot more than just adding a new language to a marketing campaign. Financial brands will need to develop ways to form unique partnerships with different ethnic groups to get a full understanding of their wants and needs.
BB&T is a great success story that has gone on to set the standard for financial institutions seeking ways to connect with more diverse consumers. In the early 2000s, the bank recognized the diverse areas that its branches were located in. With a focus on multicultural, the bank began opening branches that included native-speaking associates, relevant materials and services to match the specific needs of the Asian-American consumers. BB&T viewed itself not only as a bank, but as an educational partner for its customers and members of the community who are looking for better ways to manage their finances.
Getting involved in the community is key. Wells Fargo, for example, established its Asian Business Services program to make information and resources more readily available to potential Asian-American business owners. In the larger “Conversations” campaign, Wells Fargo demonstrated its philosophy of being a business partner by having its advisors take the time to form a more personal relationship with consumers. The campaign was met with great success in areas with higher minority populations.
While many multinational banks have taken note of the need to implement a multicultural marketing strategy, small town banks and credit unions haven’t missed the boat. For example, HarborOne Credit Union in Massachusetts opened its Multicultural Banking Center to protect low-income residents, minorities and immigrants from unethical financial practices. The center also offers non-financial classes, including intermediate English and computer basics. America is a land built by immigrants and continues to welcome them. By not making multicultural populations a priority in marketing and day-to-day business, banks and financial institutions are overlooking an important segment of their audience.