Signature Bank of Arkansas announced they plan to open a branch in east Rogers, AR, catered specifically to Latinos, offering Spanish as its primary language.

As reported by Axios, the CEO and Chairman of the Arkansas-based bank Gary Head explained the location will feature documents, signage, and its logo in Spanish, with the staff also providing services in the language.

This is a step up from other banks that offer services in English and Spanish by hiring Spanish-speaking employees — the east Rogers branch is making moves to fully cater to the Latino community.

The new location plans to open in the upcoming months, although Head reportedly thought about his Spanish-speaking bank idea back in 2005. While 2008’s financial crisis forced him to put those plans to the side for years, a trip to Mexico with family inspired him to finally make the dream a reality.

And it makes sense: Latinos currently make up 18.5% of the United States’ population, 41 million Hispanic-Americans count Spanish as their native tongue, and 11 million are bilingual. Even more, the state of Arkansas is seeing a surge in its Latino population, with the Northwest Arkansas metro area’s Hispanic community growing a tremendous 44.6% from 2010 to 2020. 

Latinos have categorically been edged out of financial success in this country, faced with discriminatory lending practices in some banks for years. According to the Center for Global Policy Solutions, white households’ median wealth is 18 times that of Latinos, our community is three times less likely to have a bank account, and Latinos have a lower savings rate and a higher accumulation of debt.

This leads to less investments, with Latinos many times having less access to credit, and are more susceptible to “predatory” practices by financial institutions. Around 20% of Latinos do not use banking — but Spanish-speaking banks are looking to change that.

While the hill to economic literacy is steep because of underrepresented communities still having less access to education, better jobs, and overarching opportunities, Spanish-speaking banks are a good way to start.

Even more, Signature Bank of Arkansas is partnering with SERVE2PERFORM to bring in 8-12 Latinos into their advisory boards, with a link to apply online

Increasingly, banks in this country are offering service in both Spanish and English, a much-needed response to Latino population growth. For one, JPMorgan Chase makes a point of hiring Spanish-speaking employees in communities with a higher percentage of Hispanics. For example, the “majority” of their employees at their Berea branch speak Spanish, because 20% of the population there is Hispanic.

Meanwhile, Bank of America’s website and apps are available in Spanish, and they have “2,000 designated Hispanic financial services” in the U.S. with 7,000 employees that speak Spanish. They also plan on continuing to cater to Latinos, such as with a Spanish version of Zelle. Even Community First Credit Union made news recently for releasing the first bilingual banking bot in the U.S. called “Maggie,” that talks to customers in either Spanish or English through automatic detection.

While Latino-focused banking isn’t a one-and-done solution for improved financial literacy and success in our communities, it is a definite step in the right direction.