Demographic shifts tell us that financial consumers have become more culturally and ethnically diverse.
Over 65 million U.S. residents—or 21 percent of the U.S. population over the age of five—speak a language other than English at home. More than one out of every 12 people in the U.S. are limited English proficient (LEP), meaning they speak English less than very well. This group represents around nine percent of adults living in America.
This group is only expected to grow in coming years, as nearly 90 percent of U.S. population growth is likely to come from immigrants and their descendants over the next several decades.
These limited-English consumers have historically found it difficult to access financial products and services. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicates many of the challenges limited-English consumers encounter are related to language and financial literacy. There are also bilinguals who—though not limited English proficient—may prefer to conduct finance-related discussions in their native languages.
LanguageLine interpreters who work with banking clients and their limited-English banking customers are a powerful source of insight on how to communicate with these consumers. A recent survey of our interpreters offered a great reminder that clients are well served by considering the linguistic and cultural diversity of their clients.
Financial literacy, which is a challenge for many English-speaking Americans, may require more work for newer arrivals. Two things interpreters point out are:
- Describe complex financial terms and processes: Many immigrants aren’t familiar with the U.S. banking system or financial products because there is such a difference from their home countries. English-specific terms may not exist in other languages. Bank representatives can build trust, loyalty, and long-term relationships by explaining at a fundamental level how their products and services work, as well as why specific data is being requested.
- Ensure understanding: Standard scripting used by call agents may not be sufficient to ensure understanding when interpreted into another language. Agents may need to describe more complicated concepts in simpler terms than are provided in the original script. If that’s not practical for all encounters, banks may consider simplifying the language used in scripting.
LanguageLine Can Help
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.