How Agents Succeed In The Hispanic Market
Agents whose clients are Hispanic, or who plan to enter the Hispanic market, should not assume that whats true for one is true for all.
While immigrants to the United States from Latin American nations have a certain background in common with arrivals from the same country, and even to an extent with immigrants from other Latin American countries, they are very likely different in terms of education, wealth and assimilation into the U.S. culture.
In fact, where a Hispanic client lives in the U.S. is likely a better indicator of his financial priorities than is his nationality, says Luis Barrionuevo of MetLife Financial Services in South Florida.
“In South Texas, New York, South Florida the marketing for the Hispanic is very similar to the mainstream, the biggest difference is the language,” he says.
In fact, the only difference between the Hispanic and mainstream client is that the former is trying to assimilate into the mainstream, “which is behind (the Hispanic clients) interest in financial planning and insurance, which is not as predominant in their countries,” he says.
Barrionuevo says that as with the mainstream, a higher-end Hispanic client will be more interested in estate planning than will a lower-income Hispanic client, and the differences continue from there. So, the best way to assess specific financial services needs is through face-to-face interviews, “rather than mass-marketing to a group.”
He suggests that agents do a disservice to their Hispanic clients when they attempt to homogenize the Hispanic market, particularly because many have non-Hispanic spouses.
Treating each client as an individual is essential when targeting the Hispanic market, but agents need to go beyond that to be successful, says Marco Rodriguez, who works in The Principals Sacramento office. Agents need to make their job a part of their life, he says.
Rodriguez feels that although members of the Hispanic market should not be painted with the same brush, certain characteristics are applicable to many in the U.S. Hispanic population, and being aware of them can be useful to agents in the field.
For example, because the concepts of insurance and financial services are foreign to many Hispanics, it behooves agents to take a role in their clients financial services education. In order to do that, the agent must first earn their trust.
“A lot of Hispanics have not participated in insurance, mutual funds, investments–theyre new in the market,” Rodriguez says. “So it takes education about financial instruments, and trust.
“When I first started it was hard because (my Hispanic clients) didnt know how the products worked or the companies,” Rodriguez says. “But Hispanics are very loyal, so once they got to know me they started doing business with me.”
Indeed, an easily achieved relationship is not likely with this market, Rodriguez says. “It took me a long time to build the relationships. Thats what Hispanics want, they want to do business with people they trust.”
Getting involved in the community for Rodriguez meant joining the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. After 10 years with the chamber, Rodriguez is currently senior financial advisor representative and chairman of the board.
This involvement has “led to opportunities to help the community, to do business with Hispanics, to interact with Hispanics and help them get contracts and procurement dollars from different entities so that small business owners can meet each other as well as representatives from large corporations,” he says.
Rodriguez feels that many Hispanics share certain priorities, and agents should be aware of them before they enter the market.
Many Hispanics are “focused on family, getting their kids to go to college, taking care of their parents and doing the right thing,” he says.
“Doing the right thing” has been such a priority to older generations of Hispanics that that work ethic has been instilled in the psyches of their children, says Pablo Pomes, an Allstate agent who works in Temple City, Los Angeles.
Having grown up in the area, Pomes recalls a Hispanic taco vendor who seemed to work around the clock.
“He just had a hole in the wall and thats how he started, good old-fashioned hard work. Three, four in the morning he was there,” Pomes says. “He sent six kids to college selling tacos, so thats pretty darn nice.”
Pomes has been in his Los Angeles office for 16 years and now is insuring the children and grandchildren of some of the clients he started with.
“Theyre trying to shoot for better things than their parents had,” he says. “Its the good old-fashioned American dream.”
Its important to serve the needs of whomever your clients are, whether they are “Hispanic, black, blue, green or whatever,” Pomes says. In fact, because there is a large population of Chinese in his area, he has begun to study Mandarin.
“I will sell to anyone who has a need,” he says.
As far as reaching out to the Hispanic community, Pomes echoes Rodriguezs point that it is important to become a member of the community.
“You can spend money and advertise, or you can try to start at the local level and the Chamber of Commerce,” Pomes says. “In the L.A. area there are many Hispanic organizations an agent can become a member of.”
The number of Hispanics in the U.S. alone should be enough incentive for an agent to consider the market, Pomes says.
The U.S. Hispanic population is “growing by leaps and bounds, theyre extremely loyal, they bring family and friends to your business and they have a tremendous purchasing power,” he says. “And theyre consumers.”
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 14, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.