Local Banks Compete For Hispanics Business

June 14, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — In mid-May two Michigan banks with numerous offices here announced they would accept identification cards issued by the Mexican government’s consulates as primary identification for check cashing and other bank business.

The firms are Fifth Third Bank and Bank One, both of which are seeking to serve the community’s growing Hispanic community and the increasing numbers of Mexican citizens who are employed in this country. Other banks reportedly are following suit.

The companies made the announcements respectively on May 16 and May 17, though both report actually accepting the cards as valid identification earlier in May.

Both also began accepting the card for use in the Chicago market in April. Fifth Third said its offices in eastern and northern Michigan began accepting the cards as of the first of this month.

The photo ID cards, which the Mexican government introduced last year through its dozen counsul general offices in the United States, are entitled Certificado de Matricula Consular.

In English legalese, they are defined as certificates of consular registration.

In November, Wells Fargo began accepting the cards for identification purposes at 3,000 offices in 23 states. Since then, acceptance of the cards among governments, police agencies and banks has rolled eastward.

Banks’ branch offices accept the cards, along with the Internal Revenue Service’s Individual Taxpayer Identification Number as legal identification. They also accept valid Mexican passports as an alternate ID.

Both the card and number are necessary for Mexican nationals who lack other identification or the Social Security numbers required to open both savings and checking accounts in U.S. banks.

The twin forms of ID also enable Mexican workers to obtain debit cards.

The State of Michigan Secretary of State’s offices accept the Matricula Consular Card as identification when issuing driver’s licenses.

At first glance, the Mexican card looks familiar. The photos have the same garish red background that formerly was used in Michigan driver license photos.

The card is available through Mexican consulates in Detroit and is offered by the government of Mexico to improve security and economic mobility between Mexico and the Untied States.

According to Fifth Third, the card incorporates a series of security features that make it extremely difficult to forge or counterfeit.

Kevin Kabat, the president and CEO of Fifth Third (West Michigan), said that accepting the card and the taxpayer ID number opens U.S. banking to Hispanic persons who otherwise were shut out of the U.S. banking system.

Echoing his remarks was Charles W. Shoemaker, who manages Bank One’s services of consumers and small businesses in Michigan and the Midwest.

“Bank One is ready to fulfill the increasing financial service needs among the Hispanic population,” Shoemaker said. “We can give Hispanic customers the tools they need to manage their wealth and provide bilingual information so they can make informed choices.”

Fifth Third is just as eager to help.

“We have planned an entire series of banking programs specifically for the Hispanic market,” Kabat said. “They are tailored to meet the needs of this significant and growing segment of our community.

“We want the Hispanic community to think of Fifth Third as their bank of choice,” he added.

It’s easy to see why the firms are interested in attracting business from Mexican workers. According to data from the latest U.S. Census, nearly 300,000 Hispanics work in Michigan, and about 90 percent of them are Mexican.

Fifth Third also offers bilingual materials and ATMs and has Spanish-speaking staff members. Too, the firm has a bilingual 1-800 help line and now is booting up plans for specialized personal loan, mortgage loan and other lending products for Hispanics plus a number of other commercial and business services for the Hispanic business community.

To obtain a consular ID, a Mexican national must register with the consulate within whose jurisdiction he or she lives. For Michigan residents, the consulate is located in Detroit’s Penobscot Building, 645 Griswold. The telephone number there is (313) 964-4515.  

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