BB&T in Winston-Salem, N.C., appears to be laying the groundwork for a marketing campaign aimed at the Asian community.
A group of Asian employees at the $212 billion-asset company recently formed an advisory council in hopes of guiding management on smart ways to connect with Asian personnel and clients.
The so-called Asian Affinity Group held a networking event in February in conjunction with the Lunar New Year, a popular holiday in the Asian community. It has also formed a steering committee with co-chairs in North Carolina and Texas, and created a detailed mission statement, according to information that had been posted on a website with the URL http://www.asianaffinity.org.
The site went offline Thursday shortly after an American Banker reporter asked the company questions about it. A message at that address said it will be back online this summer.
The group wants to provide input for an effort it called BB&T's Asian market initiative, according to the mission statement. Asian Affinity Group also wants to "provide strategic recommendations" to BB&T and its executive diversity council, while offering support for Asian employees and increasing the company's "awareness and involvement in the Asian community."
A BB&T spokeswoman, reached on Thursday before the site disappeared, declined to comment on the group beyond confirming that it exists.
A source familiar with the effort said the group is interested in becoming a business resource group, where it would become a formal part of BB&T and play a role in strategic planning. Such groups, often created around shared characteristics or life experiences, are common in large corporations.
The locations of the co-chair positions are noteworthy, particularly the creation of a post in Texas, where BB&T is interested in growing more aggressively. The company bought dozens of Citigroup branches in the state and is keen on more acquisitions, provided the targets have been prudent in managing their exposure to the oil industry during the current energy crisis.
Texas has a growing Asian demographic; it made up 4.5% of the state's population in 2014 compared with 3.8% in 2010, according to Census Bureau data.
Texas has the third-largest Asian-American population in the country — 1.2 million, or 6.3% of all Asian-Americans in the United States — behind California and New York. Nearly a fifth of the population in Fort Bend County — near Houston — consists of Asians.
A number of mergers in Texas, including East West Bancorp Inc.'s 2013 agreement to buy MetroCorp Bancshares in Houston, were spurred by a desire to tap into that area's Asian market, said Curtis Carpenter, head of investment banking at Sheshunoff & Co. in Austin, Texas.
Marketing to Asians in Texas "could be a smart strategy," Carpenter said.
"The key is to hire lenders who know that community, understand the cultural differences and can market effectively," he added. "Asians tend to do business together and like banking groups tailored and focused on their needs. They're good bank customers, and banks that serve that community tend to do very well."
North Carolina, meanwhile, has about 284,000 Asian-Americans, representing 1.5% of the national population. Since the state is BB&T home turf, there is a high likelihood that a large number of its Asian workforce is based there. The Asian population in North Carolina increased from 2.2% of all residents in 2010 to 2.7% in 2014.