Mi Casa Resource Center, a Denver non-profit with a 35-year history of advancing the economic success of Latinos, has found an ingenious way to support the benefits of economic development and diversity in their community while providing financial institutions a means to build market share among Latino consumers.
Now in its third year, Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program trains students fluent in English and Spanish for a career in the financial sector. During the five-week training course, individuals learn banking products and services, transaction processing, sales and customer service. A career coach assists with resume-writing, practicing interview and networking skills and conducting online job searches.
Mi Casa graduates currently employed at Wells Fargo, FirstBank, Key Bank, Charles Schwab and TCF Bank have seen hourly wage increases of 150%. Health insurance and tuition reimbursement are additional benefits for which they may qualify.
Achieving full-time employment with a career path and a establishing a means of building assets is critical to a growing and influential Latino community who represent an important component of the economy. According to Denver newspaper, La Voz Nueva, Latinos account for over 35 percent of the Denver Metro population. In disposable income, Denver Latinos rank as the 8th largest market in the nation.
However, research shows cultural and language barriers can limit access to traditional financial services which means many Latinos rely on payday loan and check cashing institutions for banking needs. The Denver Office of Economic Development reports Denver residents spent $26 million on payday loan and check cashing fees in 2006. The average full-time worker not accessing a bank or credit union will spend $40,000 in his or her lifetime just to turn wages into cash.
With support from the Denver Office of Economic Development, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation and Sara Lee Foundation, Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program trains bilingual individuals to provide excellent financial customer service in Spanish and English. By opening a bank account, direct deposit and a no-fee savings account, individuals avoid predatory lending fees and can increase savings. See Bank On Denver’s Savings Calculator to see how much can be saved!
In October 2010, Mi Casa’s Bilingual Bank Teller program’s success was recognized by the National Council of La Raza at its annual workforce conference, ¡Listo! Preparing Latinos Workers for the New Economy, in Chicago, IL. During this event, many non-profits across the United States learned how to develop their own bilingual bank teller programs.
Additional programs would help communities build social and financial capital through increased employment and savings while banks further develop a diverse workforce necessary for attracting new customers. The result? An excellent example of the philanthrocapitalistic, “do well while doing good” philosophy in action!