For BofA’s Garofalo, connecting with Hispanic Latino community is more than just good business, it’s personal

Alberto Garofalo can rattle off the numbers that show Bank of America’s commitment to the Latino community. Bankers, after all, are always good with numbers.

“We serve 9.5 million Hispanic Latino individuals, approximately a million Hispanic business owners and we have the No. 1 market share for U.S. Hispanic Latino consumers,” Garofalo said. “And, it’s important to note, these are numbers that continue to grow.”

There’s more.

“A third of every checking account that is opened, is opened by someone in the Hispanic or Latino community,” Garofalo said. “More than 55% of our financial centers, or approximately 2,000, have tailored Spanish-language marketing materials, and we have more than 13,000 Hispanic Latino associates available to customers.

“And we have more than 2.3 million active users on the Spanish version of our mobile app.”

Garofalo, however, is not about the numbers — and certainly not the nationwide numbers. He’s about the commitment the bank has made to the Hispanic Latino market in New Jersey during the 17 years he has been with the company — a commitment he vowed to continue when he took over as New Jersey market president last December.

And for Garofalo, a native of Cuba, it’s personal. That’s how the connections must be, he said. It’s all about meeting the community around the culture — not just the language.

It’s a common theme as the bank celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month.

“At the end of the day, language is an important component, but not the only component,” he told ROI-NJ. “We understand that we have to value and appreciate the culture. That’s why, when we think about our financial centers across the country, not only do we have language-certified teammates, not only do we provide access to all of our products and services in language, but we’re about connecting to the culture. That’s really important.”

Garofalo, a member of Top 25 on the ROI Influencers: People of Color list for 2020, knows this firsthand.

“I know English is my second language, but it’s my preferred language in business,” he said. “For me, it’s not necessarily about someone speaking to me in Spanish, but it’s about someone understanding and valuing the culture and knowing that there’s investments made to really support this growth.

“This is really important, and I think it’s why clients continue to make the choices that they do in selecting financial institutions. Financial institutions not only have to have the resources and the capabilities, but understand the culture and be able to engage clients at that level. It is absolutely important. I know it’s top priority for us here and across our organization, evidenced by the commitment and the engagement we have around diversity and inclusion.”

That commitment, Garofalo said, is felt by every BofA team member in the state.

“We lead a series of conversations where we bring associates together on a regular basis to talk about these unique differences that make us stronger,” he said.

Garofalo proudly boasts about BofA’s commitments in New Jersey, where the bank has 90 centers that have tailored Spanish-language marketing and resources and how a third of its small business bankers are certified to do business in Spanish.

He talks about the bank’s annual Hispanic small business owner spotlight report that is geared directly to Hispanic entrepreneurs — the fastest-growing community when it comes to starting businesses. And its connection to the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and other organizations.

Of course, banking being banking, the numbers are important, too.

Garofalo said Bank of America has committed more than $3.2 million to more than 40 philanthropic organizations in the state. And notes the Community Loan Fund of New Jersey was one of the many Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, that Bank of America provided operating capital.

Last week, Bank of America issued a $2 billion Equality Progress Sustainability Bond designed to advance racial equality, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability. This is the first offering of its kind in the financial services industry, as proceeds will be directed to social and environmental purposes, helping to advance several of the UN’s sustainable development goals, with a focus on financial empowerment of Black and Hispanic Latino communities.

And, of course, earlier this year, there was the bank’s $1 billion commitment to help drive racial equality and economic opportunity. It’s a commitment that Garafolo said already is being felt.

“We recently announced that initial progress, essentially a third of that, or $300 million or so, is going directly to your Hispanic Latino and Black communities — with $25 million of that in support of jobs initiatives in Black and Hispanic Latino communities, $25 million in support of community outreach and initiatives, and $50 million in direct equity investments to minority-deposit institutions,” he said.

Garofalo said the commitment is part of a longtime trend at the bank.

“Not only do we have a long history of supporting the Hispanic Latino community, but, clearly evidenced by the most recent announcement, that support not only continues, but it’s continuing to amplify,” he said. “This is a top priority for us.”