June 30, 2011

Grasping Hispanics' Financial Needs Includes Understanding Their Immigration History

Immigration is a thorny issue but one that Arnoldo Mata, head of research at the Hispanic Institute in Washington, D.C., says is an integral part of the dialog when it comes to understanding the Hispanic community’s financial needs.

It is not enough, Mata says, to assume that all Hispanics have the same immigration history and status. Different Hispanic groups have arrived and continue to arrive in the U.S. under different circumstances, and these immigration patterns determine economics, Mata says. If financial advisors and financial firms are to get to the heart of the vast and heterogeneous Hispanic community, then they have to understand this.

“When people ask me about the Hispanic community, I say think of it in terms of baseball,” Mata says. “Just like the Yankees are the richest baseball team, the Cubans are the richest Hispanics, and that’s to do with their immigration history, the fact that the upper class Cubans were the first to come into the U.S.”

These people were followed by the intellectuals and then the working classes, Mata says, but the Cuban story is very different from, for example, the Mexican story, where workers with very little education where the first to come to this country.

Mata believes that for the financial advisory community to successfully tap into the Hispanic population, it must make a concerted effort to understand different immigration histories, and also understand that Hispanic immigration is ongoing, both into and across the U.S.

It’s no secret that Hispanics continue to be the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., and today, he says, there are groups of Hispanics in even the most unlikely corners of the U.S. Tapping into the pockets of wealth within these communities means going below the surface and understanding their individual cultures, histories and lingos, he says.

“Where I live on the Texas-Mexico border, the dominant Hispanic group is, of course, Mexican, but we also have Cubans and a growing number of Puerto Rican professionals,” Mata says. “They all have different amounts of wealth and different financial needs, but if you approach everyone in the same way – in this case, you assume everyone is a Mexican and approach them as such -- you won’t be successful.”

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