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Marketing efforts aim to reach Hispanic population

TUPELO — The Hispanic population, currently estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be approximately 40 million, is one of the fastest-growing groups in the country, and the financial services industry is strategizing on how to best meet the segment’s needs.

While statistics can vary, one estimate that hasn’t gone unnoticed is that Hispanic purchasing power has more than tripled in the past 15 years.

Statistics such as these have caught the attention of a number of banking companies, including Tupelo-based BancorpSouth, which has developed a number of marketing initiatives to engage Spanish-speaking customers and prospects.

BancorpSouth senior vice president Randy Burchfield said that the key and emphasis of the plan is communication — overcoming language barriers and utilizing an array of methods to effectively reach the Hispanic community.

“We want to insure that our Spanish-speaking customers and prospects feel comfortable in transacting their financial business with BancorpSouth,” Burchfield said. “We want this market to view our bank as a trusted source they can depend on for their personal or business financial needs.”

A few of the initiatives currently in place or in the process of being implemented include:

• Bilingual customer service at branches to assist customers during regular banking hours.

• Selected number of Spanish-speaking bank personnel in high Hispanic concentration areas.

• Spanish option on ATM machines in key markets.

An increased focus on meeting the needs of the Hispanic segment evolved as the company expanded its geographic footprint. Moreover, Burchfield noted that recent FDIC reports indicate that 50% of the estimated 40 million Hispanics who reside in the United States have not established a relationship with a mainstream bank, and that some industry analysts believe that half of the U.S. retail banking growth in financial services will come from the Hispanic market.

“In most of our seven-state market area, there are one or more communities with a concentration of Spanish-speaking individuals,” Burchfield said. “Today, our main areas are East Texas, North/West Arkansas, North Alabama, Central Mississippi and more recently South Mississippi. As our bank grows geographically, so does our Hispanic customer base.”
Burchfield said that the company wants to make sure that language is not a barrier to access or to understanding of financial services and that the company continues to expand its Hispanic marketing and communications initiatives.

BancorpSouth is currently upgrading its InfoLine 24-hour automated system to accommodate a Spanish option for Spanish-speaking customers and the company is also developing a Spanish website page link that will contain basic bank and financial information. Additionally, BancorpSouth piloted a conversational Spanish classes for employees in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The company also has a bilingual staff person in its corporate marketing department — Leticia Gassaway.

“Leticia is a certified Spanish teacher and native speaker and she does all of our translations and conducts our financial literacy classes,” Burchfield said. “She also does community outreach.” Some of the outreach efforts include speaking to various groups to stress the importance of financial education and conducting Spanish financial literacy classes.

Many bank marketers are reinforcing the importance of customized marketing strategies, with an emphasis on targeted communication that’s relevant to Spanish-speaking customer/prospect needs.

“We must reach out, communicate in their language and gain their trust and confidence,” Burchfield concluded.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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