Clarksville bank utilizes Ozarks students to bring in Hispanic customers

Release Date: 6/8/2006

Students help design bank brochure

CLARKSVILLE, ARK. (June 8, 2006) – University of the Ozarks students partnered with a Clarksville bank on a project that has significantly increased local Hispanic participation in banking.

Working with First Security Bank in Clarksville, students met with Hispanic residents and helped produce a brochure, printed in Spanish, that has lead to over 100 new accounts from Hispanic customers, said Cole Martin, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer.

The project began last fall after Martin spoke with Rickey Casey, professor of business and management at Ozarks and Ana Moncada, cultural marketing and community development representative at the bank and an Ozarks graduate. Casey suggested utilizing Ozarks’ chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) to help reach potential Hispanic customers.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we do a focus group?’” said Casey, and a group of Hispanic students from Ozarks arranged a meeting for local Hispanics at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Clarksville. “The (students) didn’t mess around,” Martin said. “They met with us on a Monday and were meeting with (local Hispanics) the following Sunday!”

Moncada and Casey worked with the students to develop questions to ask at the church meeting. The goals of the project, both said, were to help Hispanics overcome a fear of approaching a bank, related to a fear of government institutions, and give them basic information about banking services.

“Having (Hispanic) students there gave them people whom they trust,” Casey said.

After the church meeting, which was attended by about 35 local Hispanics, Moncada drew up the brochure, which lists documents Hispanics need to open an account and contact information for the bank’s two Spanish-speaking employees.

The brochure has earned accolades from other bank officials after it has been distributed at banking conferences and gatherings. “Unlike many well intentioned brochures which are simply translations of existing English-language brochures, Ana’s brochure for First Security was written for the Spanish-speaking audience in terms with which they are familiar,” Lyn Haralson, a community affairs officer in the Little Rock branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, wrote in an email message. “This strategy is key to a successful Hispanic banking program and the reason we have asked Ana to speak to financial institutions across our district.”

A native of Honduras who came to Ozarks after meeting Casey during a visit to her high school, Moncada graduated from Ozarks in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

She worked with SIFE while an Ozarks student, translating at parent-teacher conferences in Clarksville schools for Hispanic parents and teaching workshops on personal finance for local Hispanic residents.

Moncada says this is just the first step in the bank’s efforts to cultivate Hispanic customers. “We’re in the process of making another (brochure)!” Moncada said.“We have several (Hispanics) who have never written a check!”

She added that Hispanics have begun inquiring about car loans, mortgages and other financial products and services.

The Hispanic population of Clarksville and surrounding Johnson County has outpaced the statewide percentage of Hispanics, with the county recording 1,527 Hispanics, or 6.7 percent of the county’s population in the 2000 census, compared with 3.2 percent in Arkansas. Arkansas’ total Hispanic population rose from 2.4 million in 1990 to 2.7 million in 2000.

Hispanics have moved to the Clarksville area in recent years, mainly from Mexico. Many work in Clarksville’s large Tyson Chicken processing plant.