A few years ago, M&T Bank in Buffalo, New York, set out to improve banking services in racially diverse communities.
Based on feedback from neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations and other community partners across its Northeast and Mid-Atlantic footprint, the company has created a multi-pronged approach to improving the experience. customer and remove barriers to financial inclusion.
The bank’s plan included a Spanish-language website, which was launched in July, and the addition of Chinese and Korean features in more than 1,600 ATMs operated by M&T.
As of Thursday, the plan also includes 99 other retail branches designated as “multicultural banking centers,” bringing the total number of such locations to 118. The sites, located in eight states and Washington, D.C., offer banking services to clients. ‘ preferred languages. They employ people who experience and understand the cultural nuances of each multicultural community.
“America is becoming more and more diverse and the customer base continues to change,” said David Femi, head of multicultural banking and diversified market strategy at the bank with $151.9 billion in assets, in a statement. interview. “We’re ready to be at the forefront of this change, and part of that is making sure our financial centers reflect the communities we serve.”
The composition of the American population is indeed in transition. The 2020 census showed that while the white population remained the largest group at 204.3 million people, it declined by 8.6% between 2010 and 2020.
Meanwhile, over the same 10-year period, the Asian population increased by 35.5%, the Hispanic or Latino population increased by 23%, and the Black or African American population increased by 5.6%. .
M&T has paid attention to the country’s demographics as part of an ongoing effort to better understand the communities it serves. The bank says it has seen customer growth at branches previously designated as multicultural banking centers and hopes the expansion of these services will generate even more multicultural customers.
It’s not just the right thing to do for the community, it’s also a smart move, said Chris Kay, head of consumer banking, business banking and marketing at M&T.
“I think what sets us apart is the notion that for us to be relevant and sustainable in the community, we actually have to be the bank to the community,” Kay added. “It’s our way of operating.”
Multicultural banking has been included in the bank’s first community reinvestment plan, which is tied to M&T’s pending acquisition of People’s United Financial in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Announced in October, the $43 billion plan will provide loans, investments and other financial support to communities in need throughout its footprint, including new markets that M&T plans to enter by purchasing People’s United.
M&T designated its first multicultural banking centers in late 2020, Kay said. Nineteen individual branches across the bank’s footprint were part of the year-long pilot program.
During that first year, the bank rolled out language-specific marketing materials and hung posters and other imagery reflecting the communities in which those branches were located, Femi said.
The 99 new locations, scattered across the service area of the bank’s branches, were identified using neighborhood-level census data on non-English speakers, community partners and M&T’s own bankers, said the bank.
To celebrate the milestone of operating more than 100 multicultural banking centers, M&T customers, partners and employees rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell on Thursday.
All multicultural branches are located in areas where at least 20% of the population is Black or Hispanic, or at least 10% is Asian American, Russian, or Polish. At least 1% of the population in each local community speaks a language other than English, and in communities where language barriers exist, these branches have at least one multilingual employee to assist customers.
None of the branches are located in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine, four states that will be added to M&T territory if the Federal Reserve approves the pending acquisition of nearly a year old People’s United. year. The $7.6 billion deal received approval from the New York State Department of Financial Services and the Connecticut Department of Banking last year.
M&T sought to be “intentional” about which branches it designated as multicultural in order to truly connect with communities, Femi said. The bank plans to appoint around 50 more multicultural branches this year and next, while also hosting small business symposia and innovation labs targeting multicultural business owners and entrepreneurs, it said. he adds.
M&T is also adding Spanish capabilities to its nearly two-year-old online appointment scheduling feature, which is currently only available in English, Femi said.
“I think we’re just getting started,” Femi said of the bank’s efforts to be culturally inclusive. “We see huge opportunities in this space.”