...even when a person can understand English, sufficiently in everyday interactions, when it comes to major decisions, people are usually more comfortable in their first language.
The United States is now the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world1, with approximately 58 million Hispanics or Latinos. Although the median earnings of Hispanics are significantly lower than the median earnings of the total U.S. population2―a result of the lower education levels3 and other factors―the combined buying power of this fastest growing ethnic populace is expected to increase to 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars by 2020 as compared to 0.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 20004.
The Fastest Growing Ethnic Populace
2000 (0.5 trillion USD)
2020 (1.7 trillion USD)
Of the U.S. residents who speak language other than English at home, 62 percent speak Spanish.
This provides the perfect opportunity to attract this massive but largely untapped buying power when it comes to banking and financial products. According to the latest FDIC survey5, almost 43 percent of Hispanic households are unbanked or underbanked. Moreover, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that households where only Spanish is spoken are five times less likely to use a bank or credit union6. That’s a big deal, because Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., accounting for about 18 percent of the population.
Unbanked or underbanked Hispanic households
How to tap into this massive buying power?
As addressed in a previous publication, “even when a person can understand English, sufficiently in everyday interactions, when it comes to major decisions, including those in financial matters, people are usually more comfortable in their first language.” To reach your audience, you may consider:
- Localizing all or part of your website and marketing collateral;
- Staffing proficient bilingual staff in your call centers and branches or contracting professional remote interpreting services to bridge communication gaps between English-speaking staff and your Spanish speaking consumers/members;
- Offering more fairly priced and transparent credit, such as “starter credit” options with affordable secured cards and small loans that report to credit bureaus so as to help Hispanic consumers build their credit histories;10
- Building financial counseling networks with public-private partnerships to educate Hispanic consumers who are more likely to be dissatisfied with the financial information currently available and to not know which services are right for them;10
- Using mobile banking as recommended by a study by the University of Virginia which reveled that Hispanic lack home Internet access and tend to connect to the web via smartphones11; and
- Go beyond tailor-made product offerings to attract Hispanic consumers as recommended by UnidosUS research which reveled that Hispanics want to bank where they feel welcome, where they find familiar staff who speak their language and understand their culture.12
would switch from their current bank for a bank that offered mobile banking services
of those who do not use mobile banking cited “information security” as the main reason
How do I decide what to translate/localize?
Before localizing your content, consider what services and programs would best fit your target audience. For example, Hispanics and non-Hispanics differ in their definitions of prosperity and the services they may be interested in could differ. A 2017 Univision study7 discovered that Hispanics define success as daily progression, moving forward and living the American dream, whereas the majority of other ethnic groups focus on stability, freeing themselves from stress and being comfortable. So when it comes to handling finances, Hispanics are more likely to use immediate or short-term solutions like check-cashing services, money orders, pre-paid cards and payday loans, but least likely to invest in savings and retirement accounts8. Studies also show that Hispanics are less likely to own credit cards than non-Hispanics, but they are more likely to carry a balance if they do have plastic9. This information is key and should be considered in developing a project plan for translating and localizing marketing materials and online content into Spanish.
- Bureau, U.S. Census. 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
- Bureau, U.S. Census. Data tables
- Burgen, S. (June 29, 2015). US now has more Spanish speakers than Spain – only Mexico has more. The Guardian. U.S. Edition
- Bureau, U.S. Census. Earnings Gap by Census Bureau Data on Educational Attainment
- Statista – The Statistics Portal. (2019). Buying power of Hispanic consumers in the United States from 1990 to 2020 (in trillion U.S. dollars)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. (2017). 2017 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households
- Correal, D. (July 14, 2016). Immigrants facing unique financial challenges. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Ruiz, R. (Oct. 26, 2017). Banking on Hispanics for Growth. Univision Communications Inc.
- Richman, K., Barboza, G. et al. (June 2008). La Tercera Edad: Latinos’ Pensions, Retirement and Impact on Families. Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame. Research Reports, Vol. 2008.1
- Hispanic Finances and Financial Services. Report. (March 2009). Mintel
- National Council of La Raza. Survival Spending: The Role of Credit Cards in Hispanic Households
- Fairchild, G., Rai K. Perdido en la traducción: The Opportunity in Financial Services for Latinos. University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, Tayloe Murphy Center
- UnidosUS. (Jan. 26, 2018). Banking the unbanked: What’s important for Latino consumers