Journal of Financial Planning: October 2017
According to the u.s. Census Bureau, Spanish has been the second-most commonly spoken language in the U.S. since the 1980s. The Spanish-speaking population has been growing steadily and is expected to continue doing so. This consistently growing market represents opportunities across various industries.
Although some industries have experienced revenue growth by catering to Spanish-speaking consumers, the financial planning and advising sectors have been significantly behind. An online search of Certified Financial Planner and other financial advisers who identify themselves as fiduciaries (including non-Latino planners) produces few results of those who explicitly also offer their services in Spanish.
A Growing Market
The 2016 annual report published by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce found that the Hispanic share of all new entrepreneurs was 20.8 percent, versus 10 percent a decade ago. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population and are one-and-a-half times more likely to start their own businesses. And those entrepreneurs are more likely to make more than $100,000 in annual income.
The Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight, released in February, highlighted that 76 percent of Hispanic small business owners predict business growth over the next five years versus 55 percent of their non-Hispanic counterparts. This represents a great opportunity to help Hispanic business owners’ growth and personal financial security with proper financial planning. Yet, there is little evidence of financial planners actively seeking to serve the Spanish-speaking market.
One reason more planners do not appear to be catering to Spanish-speaking clients could be due to a common misconception about this market segment. Many people erroneously believe that people of Hispanic origin—first-generation immigrants or first-generation American-born people—don’t have the financial means or interest to invest in financial planning services.
However, of the small business owners surveyed by Bank of America, 42 percent of Hispanics said they plan to pass their business to a family member, versus 18 percent of non-Hispanic small business owners. This suggests that Hispanic business owners are actively thinking about and planning for their future. For financial planners, this represents succession planning and multi-generational financial planning opportunities.
Addressing Language Insecurities
One way financial planners can help the Spanish-speaking market is by offering information in Spanish to complement the advice and educational materials they provide in English. Translating financial documents from English to Spanish can be an added security for both parties if the planner’s primary language is not the same as the client’s first language. Financial terms can be a language in itself, so seek out a service that can deliver contextual accuracy.
Many Hispanic households and small business owners know some level of English but may feel more confident in the financial planning process if they can verify the information by reading it in their native language. A study by Kenneth White Jr., Ph.D, and Stuart Heckman, Ph.D, CFP® (“Financial Planner Use Among Black and Hispanic Households” published in the September 2016 issue of the Journal) found that Hispanics were half as likely as white respondents to engage with a financial planner. The issue may not be that they would not like to invest or plan for the future; it may be that they just have insecurities around language.
There aren’t major differences in communicating with the Spanish-speaking market. According to the study, “Building Our Understanding: Culture Insights; Communicating with Hispanic/Latinos,” published by the CDC’s Healthy Communities Program, the Hispanic culture has a strong emphasis on family and community. But this isn’t much different than their English-only speaking American counterparts.
For most people, the impetus for seeking financial planning advice is to ensure that their wealth and health are managed in a way that minimizes the financial and emotional impact to their loved ones. When actively seeking Spanish-speaking clients, it is important to emphasize the same concerns. For most financial planners, reaching out to this market will not require a vastly different strategy.
And keep in mind, a common misconception in the Spanish-speaking market is that financial services in general are transactional in nature, rather than consultative, so educating the Spanish-speaking market on your business model and your fiduciary status is important.
Access to the Hispanic market isn’t predicated on being a Hispanic adviser. As long as the financial planner has the tools and resources to educate the client base, the market will be receptive to the message. It would behoove planners to consider reaching out to serve a new market that is willing and able to invest in their future.
Claudia Gonzalez is a financial consultant and founder of AdvisorTranslation.com, a financial translation services company dedicated to bridging the financial information gap between English- and Spanish-speaking markets.