Magazine article American Banker

Devon Bank Bridges the Language Gap to Reach Customers

Magazine article American Banker

Devon Bank Bridges the Language Gap to Reach Customers

Article excerpt

The best bet for a Chicagoan who wants to take out a loan but speaks only Urdu may be Devon Bank, where Viviana Rodrigues, a personal banking officer, can speak with customers in that language.

Urdu is one of the more than 30 languages - including Spanish, Russian, Hindi, Greek, Chinese, and Assyrian - that various employees of the bank speak.

"Our market is ethnically diverse," said Mike Heimlich, assistant vice president of marketing and public relations for the $220 million-asset bank. "Our staff reflects that same diversity."

A Big Hurdle

Language barriers are a big hurdle for banks striving to reach an ethnically diverse customer base.

And when it comes to publicizing a bank's community reinvestment activities among the groups that will benefit most, the real power comes from old-fashioned word of mouth.

Word of mouth works for Devon Bank because the message being conveyed - that the bank is ready and able to serve its community - reaches exactly those people it wants to draw: the residents of its own market area in Chicago's northwest suburbs.

Even those Devon employees who aren't local residents make themselves a part of the community, because they can converse easily and become involved in local activities.

Gandhi's Birthday

Even in its annual gift calendar, the bank makes good use of its familiarity with the local cultures by including the religious and national holidays of many residents.

For instance, October calendar highlights include not only Yom Kippur, Columbus Day, and Halloween but also Mohandas Gandhi's birthday, Chinese Double Tenth Day, and Czechoslovak Liberation Day. …

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