Jon Munoz is a hot commodity.

After 10 years in the banking business, Mr. Munoz is among a small but growing number of professionals who specialize in ethnic marketing.

Last month, he was hired away from Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank Corp. to become national Hispanic marketing manager for Banc One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio.

Thirty-five-year-old Mr. Munoz, a native of El Paso, Tex., said he is constantly called by headhunters. That is because many companies are just discovering how big the Hispanic market is.

Banc One decided to bolster its ethnic marketing when it became apparent that 25% of its customers came from one of four minority groups: Hispanic, Native-American, Asian, and African-American, according to Martha Vaughan, Banc One's specialty markets manager.

Not many banking companies have positions similar to the one Mr. Munoz now occupies. Besides Banc One and NationsBank, Mr. Munoz said, other banks with positions devoted to ethnic marketing include San Francisco-based BankAmerica Corp. and Chase Manhattan Corp., New York.

Still, it is an area that is growing, Mr. Munoz said. "Going after the Hispanic market is definitely an evolution," he said.

Linda Mueller, a spokeswoman for BankAmerica, said one-third of all new BankAmerica customers in California are Hispanic. "It's a very important market for us," she said.

A year ago, BankAmerica launched an ethnic marketing group and named Grace Geraghty marketing director. Ms. Geraghty, a 13-year veteran of BankAmerica and a native of Argentina, said the job provided her a new challenge. "I never did anything with my Spanish background," she said.

Ms. Geraghty hired marketing managers for three minority groups- Hispanic, Asian, and African-American. She believes ethnic marketing is a growing area.

Mr. Munoz also happened upon his job. After working as a NationsBank teller in Austin while he finished a degree in advertising at the University of Texas, Mr. Munoz started his career as a marketing specialist in Dallas for NationsBank. He initially worked on marketing for African- American, Hispanic, and Asian-American customers but ultimately focused solely on Hispanic marketing.

Mr. Munoz considers himself fortunate to have found a job as a niche marketer. A third-generation Mexican-American, he said there are a lot of misperceptions about the Hispanic market. For one, there are many groups under the Hispanic label in the United States-including Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans. Corporations often run mass-market advertising in Spanish and expect it to draw customers. But that does not work, Mr. Munoz said. Each group must be considered separately, he said.

Though U.S. companies have gotten better at reaching Hispanic customers, he said, there is still room for improvement. Sponsorships of community events are a big draw, but even those can be botched by insensitivity, he said. "Most of the time a company will come in and throw a lot of money at a number of sponsorships and not really get involved," Mr. Munoz said. "The Hispanic market is not dumb. They feel it's patronizing."

As part of his job, Mr. Munoz is a liaison between his company and a number of national organizations, including the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Hispanic Corporate Council, and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

However, finding a national manager for the Hispanic market was not easy, Ms. Vaughan said. "There's not a large pool of candidates. Specialty marketing is a relatively new field," she said. "It's only taken off within the last 10 years."

Ms. Vaughan, who brought Mr. Munoz to Banc One, said she also plans to hire a national African-American marketing manager.

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