Oregon bankers are preparing a series of Hispanic banking fairs this summer to capitalize on a recent surge of immigrants into the state.
Since 1990, the Hispanic population in Oregon has more than doubled, to 275,000, or 8% of the states population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To attract these potential new customers, members of the Oregon Bankers Association are planning fairs this August in Medford, Woodburn, and other Oregon cities that have growing numbers of Hispanic people.
The fairs are intended to introduce immigrants to banking products and employment opportunities at the participating banks, according to the associations events organizer, Brent Warren, who is the Community Reinvestment Act manager for Oregon at $88 billion-asset KeyCorp.
We want to outreach to the Hispanic community to let them know that banks want their business and that we can help them achieve their dreams of owning a home, saving for college, and buying a car, Mr. Warren said.
An explosion of immigration from Central and South American countries expanded the nations Hispanic population by 57.9% during the 1990s, to 35.3 million. And many Spanish-speaking people are moving beyond the states where they have traditionally settled California and Texas as they have become increasingly crowded.
Last year, six Oregon banks teamed up to hold a one-day fair in a Medford church. The event drew about 200 people and proved so successful that banks are working with local Hispanic groups to expand the fairs to shopping centers and other popular meeting places in Hispanic neighborhoods.
Still, the banks outreach effort may be a particularly tough sell to new immigrants.
There is an inherent distrust of banks among immigrants from Mexico, Central, and South America, Mr. Warren said. The economies in some of the immigrants native countries have gone down the tubes. So many people who have put money into bank accounts have either had their money devalued or have lost their money when those banks went out of business.
The first goal of the Oregon bankers at the fairs will be to persuade freshly arrived immigrants that U.S. bank deposits backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are safer and the U.S. dollar an extremely stable currency.
Were trying to get the money out of the mattresses, Mr. Warren said.
Many new immigrants, shunning banks, obtain costly loans from pawn shops or title loan companies, he added, and the banks participating in the fairs hope to persuade such people that bank loans can be more reasonable.
Business banks such as $450 million-asset Premier West Bank of Medford plan to use the fairs to find Hispanic people who may already have established banking relationships but are looking for a bank to help build their own businesses.
We already have some Hispanic small businesses banking with us, and wed like to increase that, said John Anhorn, Premier Wests president and chief executive officer. These fairs will be a great opportunity to meet more people and tell our bank story.
If the summer fairs are successful, the Oregon Bankers Association hopes to offer them year-round, Mr. Warren added.