Magazine article American Banker

NationsBank Making Overtures to Hispanics

Magazine article American Banker

NationsBank Making Overtures to Hispanics

Article excerpt

In a bid to deepen its ties to an increasingly powerful minority group, NationsBank Corp. is launching efforts to woo Hispanics as it prepares to merge with BankAmerica Corp.

NationsBank officials said they are expanding Hispanic-targeted marketing and advertising, arming sales associates with Spanish-language lending documents, and developing recruitment plans to boost Hispanic management.

"What we're trying to do is come up with a seamless sales and service approach to this customer group," said Maria C. Alonso, NationsBank's national Hispanic marketing manager. "We want, from beginning to end, a way to better serve this customer group."

The move comes as the $315 billion-asset banking company deals with a host of community-related concerns over its planned $60 billion merger with BankAmerica in San Francisco. From east to west, numerous constituencies are voicing fears about being underserved by the combined company, which is to be based in Charlotte, N.C.

Hispanic groups have not formally protested the merger, but they do have concerns.

With an estimated $348 billion in nationwide purchasing power, the Hispanic population is one NationsBank cannot afford to ignore, observers said. The states with the highest concentrations of Hispanics-California, Texas, and Florida-are key markets for NationsBank and BankAmerica.

"It is something that they have become more aware of, but it will take far more than words," said R. Harold Schroeder, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "With California and Florida, the Hispanic community becomes a significant component of the franchise, and they need to develop a more thorough understanding of that segment."

In South Florida, NationsBank has stumbled in trying to win the hearts of Hispanics. Its Hispanic market president recently quit to join competitor Union Planters Corp. …

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