As retail banks and other financial institutions set their sights on the future, they see a landscape filled with growing disruption. In addition to the rapid adoption of new technologies, the industry also realizes that U.S. consumers of the future are likely to be more racially and ethnically diverse. Among multicultural consumers in the United States, Hispanics are the fastest-growing group, expected to account for over half of all population growth by 2020.

Presenting financial products in a way that appeals to Hispanic-American consumers is a growth goal for many in the industry. But survey data show that banks have a long way to go in this area. According to a Univision poll, 51 percent of Hispanics feel very or somewhat undervalued by the financial services industry, while 69 percent say financial services companies do not meet their expectations.


But the good news for the industry is that this group is listening.

Hispanics are twice as likely as non-Hispanics to be interested in financial services ads, according to the same survey. So the question is, what kinds of messages are most likely to resonate with this key audience?

Multicultural Marketing Campaigns

Multicultural consumers are culturally fluent, and many are accustomed to speaking English even if they speak another language at home. However, they are often more comfortable buying products and services in their primary language, and messages that connect them to their heritage are often more effective.

Research by Nielsen found Spanish-language advertising was more effective in reaching bilingual Hispanic Millennials, especially when the ads were emotional. The industry also needs a deeper understanding of the cultural context of their target audience. For instance, a recent Zillow commercial featured a Latino man, his wife and his mother preparing to move into a new home. The simple fact of recognizing the prevalence of multigenerational living arrangements among Hispanic home buyers in particular makes this ad more relevant.

Customer Service Support

Despite all the technology that allows customers to bank from anywhere, a recent Accenture survey shows one in four people still visit a bank branch at least once a week. The majority of those customers go there expecting to talk with someone in person. Nearly half of those surveyed said they have greater trust in their bank when they can speak to someone in person, and 61 percent said they prefer “full service branches” with extended hours and full sales support, including mortgage specialists.

This is a tremendous opportunity for financial institutions to add value for their bilingual consumers. Some of the services Hispanic-Americans are coming to expect from their financial services providers include:

  • Email marketing, social media and inbound IVR/phone recording in Spanish
  • Trained, tested bilingual staff in branch locations and contact centers
  • Translated collateral/educational materials
  • In-language access to accounts online and via mobile apps
  • In-language menu options at ATM kiosks
  • Translation of important financial documents

Outreach To Small Business Owners and Communities

Many multicultural consumers are immigrants who start their own businesses hoping to build a better future. One of the biggest challenges they face in doing so is gaining access to credit.

Wells Fargo commissioned a Gallup study of 3,000 diverse small business owners that found these business owners were more likely than their counterparts to report having personal credit challenges and be declined for business credit. Of course, small business owners are also individuals with their own personal financial goals as well.


Developing outreach programs to educate them on how to apply for loans, improve their credit and manage business and personal finances can go a long way toward building loyalty. Financial institutions can see an even greater benefit from partnering with local schools, churches or community organizations to educate these consumers about financial literacy when they’re young.

Supporting Borrowers With Bilingual Loans

Although the population of multicultural consumers continues to grow, the rates of home ownership among them have not kept pace with that growth, according to an analysis of U.S. Census and Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data by Urban Institute. This is especially true among recent immigrants. Between 2000 and 2013, 13.7 million immigrants entered the United States, according to U.S. Census data. In California, the homeownership rate for foreign-born residents in the country for less than five years is 12.7 percent. Language barriers and a lack of access to credit history or personal documents are two common hurdles.

To overcome this, Bank of the West’s International Banking Group developed a mortgage product specifically for immigrants who recently arrived in the U.S. The bank uses materials from foreign governments and overseas financial institutions to verify income, tax, assets and employment history. The loans are offered in 19 states. As this market segment grows, other banks will likely consider similar efforts to gain new customers.

Preparing For the Financial Consumer of the Future

To succeed in the future, financial services organizations must be prepared to meet the needs of multicultural consumers. That includes developing a comprehensive, localized multicultural marketing strategy and making language services available at key touchpoints throughout the customer journey.

LanguageLine Solutions has been a trusted partner for the finance sector for nearly 30 years. Our work covers many areas of the financial sector, including diversified financial firms, securities firms, over 60 percent of top financial data services firms and 15 of the top 27 commercial banks.

To learn more about how we can help your organization reach the Hispanic market, please download our new ebook, The Future of Finance: Banking on the Massive Potential of Limited-English Consumers.

Kathy Peters is a regional vice president with LanguageLine Solutions.