A first-ever summit between Iowa bankers and leaders of the state’s Latino community is scheduled for today (Wednesday) in the Des Moines area. Ben Hildebrandt, spokesman for the Iowa Bankers Association, says the summit is an effort to better educate Latinos about the American banking system — and to educate Iowa bankers about Latinos. Hildebrandt says “The banks in South America aren’t respected. They don’t have an F-D-I-C situation where your money is insured. What we always say is ‘the safest place to put money is in a bank’ but in Latin America that’s not true. You may put your money in today and it’s sadly gone tomorrow. The culture in South America is not to trust banks.” He says Latinos are the fastest-growing population in Iowa and their perceptions of Iowa’s financial institutions need to be shifted.Hildebrandt says in cities like Perry, Osceola, Sioux City and Keokuk, there are quickly-growing Latino populations and they’re the largest minority group in the state. One estimate found Latinos living in the U.S. sent 31-billion dollars to relatives in Mexico and other countries in South America last year. He says Iowa bankers would like to convince the Latinos to safeguard some of that money here. Hildebrandt says there are many ways Iowa institutions can make Latinos feel at home.He says the most oblivious way is to have someone who understands and speaks Spanish in the bank, have information in Spanish, and have a telephone that’s answered in Spanish. Today’s summit is considered the inaugural meeting of what’ll be called the New Americans Task Force, and it will include some 60 bankers from across Iowa and leaders from several of Iowa’s Latino communities. The meeting starts at 9 A.M. and is being held at the Iowa Bankers Association headquarters in Johnston.
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