Two of Delaware’s M&T Bank branches are part of the company’s push to accommodate Spanish-speaking members of the communities they serve. Called multicultural branches, M&Ts in Elsmere and Georgetown are now fully bilingual, targeting customers who speak only Spanish or feel more comfortable doing business in Spanish.
“We are building what I call a ‘culturally fluent bank’ — that’s our vision,” said David Femi, manager of multicultural banking and community affairs for M&T Bank. “We want to be the bank of choice for all multicultural communities, and in doing that we’ve identified communities across our network, including in Delaware, that depict high concentrations of racial, ethnic and language diversity. Within this community, we ask ourselves how might we connect at a local level with local flavor so we can truly understand our communities and our customers.”
The Elsmere and Georgetown branches were identified through data analysis and customer feedback as areas with a high concentration of diversity in language and ethnicity. They join other branches in M&T’s service areas, as well as a new Spanish-language website.
“Language is only a very small component of culture,” Femi told Technical.ly, “but language is a very powerful tool in culture.” So much so that bilingual employees can get certified to qualify for a higher paycheck, he said: “If the percentage of folks in a community is over 20% for example, we make sure that in that branch we hire local folks from the neighborhood into that branch. We will train them, we will certify them, and if they become language certified, they become eligible for 10% bilingual premium pay.”
Marketing materials such as posters in the multicultural branches will also reflect the community.
Femi, who is based in Buffalo, has strong ties to Delaware. He lived in the state for 20 years, attended Delaware State University and visits frequently. He’s noticed a shift in demographics, also reflected in the latest U.S. Census: Latinx people now make up 10.5% of Delaware’s population, up from 8.2% in 2010.
“It’s one of the most culturally diverse states in the country, so we wanted to work with that momentum,” he said.
One of M&T’s key strategic partners is Del State, which works with the bank to diversify professional pipelines, including via an executive mentor program and a professional development series for the university’s Early College High School in Dover.
The company’s business education materials across its footprint are also translated into Spanish, thanks to a Georgetown focus group of Latinx small business owners.
Though Spanish is far and away the most dominant language in Delaware after English, the multicultural centers offer services in 15 languages, including Chinese, Korean, Hindi, German, Italian, Portuguese and Russian.
Cultural fluency, Femi said, is bigger than making people comfortable.
“Our goal is not to make our communities feel good,” he said. “Our goal is to be there for them and truly invest in the growth and sustainability of these communities.”