Quinceañera parties are major celebrations to mark a Latin girl’s 15th birthday – and they can sometimes be as elaborate and expensive as some wedding celebrations.

Fabian Yépez of Rumbo Cultural Marketing helps financial institutions build relationships with Hispanic consumers. In an article provocatively titled: Marketing Financial Services To Hispanics Takes More Than Spanish Lip Service, Fabian is interviewed by The Financial Brand.

He discusses the importance and challenges of reaching out to this diverse segment, as well as one of the campaign successes of their client Grow Financial, a firm that Rumbo is currently agency of record for in Tampa, Florida. Grow Financial  teaches young girls about saving money for their own Quinceañera Party.

Q1: What is the business case for marketing banking services to Hispanic consumers?

  • A: By 2050, 1 of 3 Americans will be of Hispanic origin.
Financial institutions cannot afford to ignore the growing Hispanic market. By 2020, 1 in 5 Americans are expected to be of Hispanic origin, and by 2050, it will be approximately 1 out of 3. It needs to be understood that this is not a passing fad, and that a long-term investment will pay off. The current U.S. landscape has evolved and will continue to do so in the next few years. Especially when financial institutions focus on younger audiences, it’s necessary to pay attention to the ethnic breakdown.

Q2. What’s the biggest mistake you see financial marketers make when targeting a Hispanics?

  • A. The most common mistake is assuming all Hispanics are the same, and that they can be addressed as one big homogenous group. 

 I can’t tell you how many times we hear someone say, “We tried reaching out to the Hispanic market. We translated all our materials and it just didn’t work.” Or another example, “We were thinking of hiring a mariachi band because Latinos like mariachi bands.” The Hispanic market is complex, and there are numerous variables that need to be considered, as there will often be with any niche market.

Additional mistakes I have seen? Some financial institutions think they only need to address the language barrier. Others believe that because something worked in one market it will work in another. Many are just simply unprepared internally to deal with a Hispanic market, even if they have the language component covered.

We have been hearing these kinds of examples for years, and unfortunately they are still happening.

Q3: Why is marketing financial services to Hispanics so tricky?

  • A. It takes time to build trust.

 While conducting research a few years ago, I spoke with some tellers who mentioned that it was too much work when Hispanics wanted to open a new account, particularly Spanish speakers. They said that when non-Hispanics wanted to open an account, the customer would usually just ask where to sign and get on with their day. But with Hispanics, opening an account meant an initial visit to gather information, a second visit with additional questions, and possibly a third visit to finally agree to open the account. And each time, they came accompanied by a friend or relative.

What the tellers didn’t understand was that for many Hispanics, this could be their first account in the U.S. — maybe ever — and may feel distrust, intimidation, or simply don’t fully understand how financial institutions in the U.S. work. An important aspect about this market is that they need to feel comfortable with whom they are dealing with, and need to build and establish a relationship first. This could take three or more visits. When Latino customers get to the point where they’ll ask tellers where they might find a trustworthy babysitter, or recommend a good mechanic, then the financial institution can be certain that a solid relationship has been established.

And remember the friends or relatives that came with them in the beginning as the relationship got underway? Many of them are also likely to become customers. Word-of-mouth referrals play a huge role with this market, so the extra time and patience invested in the one initial Hispanic customer can lead to many more flooding in, just from that first contact.

Once Hispanic consumers feel that your organization understands them you will start to see results, and move on to develop enduring relationships that will last long into the future.

Q4. What have you done right to target Hispanics?

  • A. Upfront Market Segment Research is Vital

When Grow Financial FCU came to Rumbo Cultural Marketing looking for a full on Hispanic Marketing program, we started with an in-depth research phase, prior to even saying “Hola” to any Hispanic members. The Tampa Bay Hispanic market is unique, with a very diverse breakdown unlike other parts of the country. Even though there are many cultural and traditional differences among the Mexican, Puerto Rican and South American population, we were looking for something that was shared by a majority.

The result? Quinceañera parties. When a Latin girl turns 15, a significant celebration takes place to mark the transition from childhood to young adulthood. These parties are sometimes as elaborate as a wedding. Many families acquire large debt in order to throw these events, so we wanted to help make this celebration possible. Project Quince was developed as an account that allows to start saving at an early age, requiring minimum monthly deposits, and with additional benefits over a traditional savings account. It has been very well received in the local market.

Also, if financial marketers are looking for ideas to connect with Hispanics, they should take a look at BofA. I like what BofA has been doing for this market, especially when targeting Spanish-speaking Hispanics.

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