Pitching with Education to Ethnic Groups

By Anderson, Amy L. | American Banker, July 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

Pitching with Education to Ethnic Groups


Anderson, Amy L., American Banker


For ethnic minorities, education has traditionally been a stepping-stone to a better life. For firms that want to sell them investment products, it is also a marketing tool. To tap this fast-growing market, investment products companies are rolling out seminars, Web sites, and brochures to help minorities get comfortable with the idea of investing -- and to establish relationships with them. "People will not come to you if they don't trust you," said Wallace B. Louie, who heads Charles Schwab & Co's. fastest-growing unit, the Asia Pacific Group. African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are outstripping the general population not only in population growth but also in median-income growth, according to census data. Also, their aggregate after-tax buying power grew 73%, 84%, and 102%, respectively, from 1990 to 1999, against 57% for the population as a whole, the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth estimated. One problem in selling to immigrants in particular is that many come from very different financial systems, said Saul Gitlin, a vice president at Kang & Lee, a New York ad agency that specializes in marketing to the Asian community. To sell to such people, he said, financial services companies have to cover the basics -- how to invest, what the products are -- before they get to the sales pitch. Education also forges trust and a positive view of a company's brand, Mr. Gitlin said. "It's the entry price for getting into this market," he said. Schwab's Asia Pacific unit, which now accounts for 4% to 5% of the brokerage's overall business, according to Datamonitor Corp. of London, offers Web sites in Chinese and Korean that explain investing terms and principles. It has also contributed financial content to Sina.com, a Chinese-language Web site. Potential investors will find links to Schwab's Chinese trading site on Sina.com. And if there is enough demand, Schwab will develop a Korean-language trading site, Mr. Louie said. Mr. Louie said the Web sites do not merely showcase Schwab's knowledge and expertise. They also bespeak "an element of integrity," he said, because investors are getting a service rather than a sales pitch. Establishing trust is so important to members of ethnic communities that banks may have a better shot than brokerages at their business, said Arnold Wechsler, chief executive officer of the New York-based financial services marketing firm Wechsler Ross & Partners Inc.

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