BofA’s Latino Initiatives Under Fire
Bank of America may be facing a public relations nightmare … again. Nine ex-employees are going public with BofA’s sales strategy to cross-sell Spanish-speaking customers multiple checking accounts, cash advance services and high-interest rate credit cards—even when the customer didn’t understand the products.
According to a Los Angeles Times article, employees were instructed to use their Latino heritage and Spanish-speaking skills to open accounts and upsell products.
Bank of America is denying the claims, tying the controversy to an attempt to unionize their workforce (the employees are being backed by Service Employees International Union which is trying to organize BofA).
Regardless of who’s telling the truth, this may put a thorn in BofA’s bold plan to dominate the Latino market. In a 2003 interview with Fortune Magazine, then CEO Ken Lewis was quoted:
“We expect to get no less than 80% of our future growth in retail banking from the Hispanic market.”
Now this isn’t the kind of press you want when you’re betting 80% of your future on the Hispanic market. The LA Times article continues:
[Gabby] Ornelas and three other former BofA tellers, all Latina women, said they and their co-workers were repeatedly instructed to seek potential new Spanish-speaking customers outside the bank. Some were instructed to go to embassies where recent emigres often wait in queue for visa and passport services.
Other tellers were asked to go to neighborhood stores, clinics and child welfare centers, and several were asked to recruit customers at a religiously oriented Mother’s Day celebration, they said.
The ex-employees (and Service Employees International Union) are launching a public campaign this week and are scheduled to meet with members of Congress. Their goal? Push through legislation that would make it easier for union members to organize.
This is going to get interesting.