Financial Education Symposium


Story By: Robert Sullivan




Panels of Hispanic financial experts – some of the heaviest hitters in the business -- hammered home the need for Latinos to pull together, help each other, educate those in need of financial education, and then educate themselves even more. The symposium highlighted business opportunities and talent acquisition.

Latino Leaders magazine publisher Jorge Ferraez, who organized the event, said it was designed as an exchange of visions among people with good ideas.

In a panel on Latino Financial Experience, Mercedes Eggleton-Garcia, Vice President of Global Community Relations at MasterCard, said 28 per cent of Americans don’t have access to banking, credit cards or other financial services, and of that figure, about half are Latinos.

“The underserved wind up paying stiff rates for check cashing services – and are constantly threatened with robbery because everyone knows they carry cash”.   

MasterCard, one of the sponsors of the event, works with Latino community organizations throughout the country to send the message: “the world is going cashless …you need to learn how this works.”

Other sponsors included Bank of America, New York Life, Paychex, TIAA, NSHMBA, and the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Jerry Arzu, Managing Director of Telsey Advisory Group advocated financial literacy training among Latinos to start early as possible. A group he supports, supplies computers to youngsters who can’t afford them and each one is pre-installed with Mint money managing software.

In the The Hispanic Market Potential panel Jose Mireles, Team Manager, Hispanic Market field at TIAA, said only 30 per cent of working Hispanics have access to retirement accounts -- many because they didn’t participate in retirement plans. “It is not for lack of interest that they don’t participate,” he said. “It’s for lack of information and education.”

Orlando Camargo, President of the New York chapter of ALPFA, and principal of the Dilenschneider Group, drilled down on community self- help. “The Poles, the Jewish, Irish went before us,” he said. “It’s now our turn.” Asked about Latinos on corporate boards, Camargo said, “We have to get out there, we need to be outside of our comfort zone.”  Camargo said ALPFA is identifying and assisting Latinos at all levels, not just at the introductory level to develop a new vision of stewardship.

Monika Mantilla, President and CEO of Altura Capital, had specific advice for Hispanic entrepreneurs: Identify supply and demand opportunities; train the Hispanic business owners to be more skillful in financial matters. Mantilla said there is a lack of federal research on the Spanish speaking community as entrepreneurs and as a market.

 Warren Peña, a financial advisor said his company, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management,

 discovered that it is essential for the company to have Spanish speaking representatives. “There’s a wide demographic out there, much more comfortable speaking Spanish. It generates almost an immediate trust.”

James Cotto, a Senior Vice President at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, said there are not enough young people to support the ageing population, and that Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group in the country.

“We’re the hottest commodity.”  

Carlos Pelayo, Managing Director, Legal at Merrill Lynch had positive words to say. “This symposium provided a wonderful forum to have a candid dialogue on a topic that is so critical:  the need for increased financial literacy within the Hispanic/Latino community. The panel discussions were filled with productive and enlightening commentary, and all participants took away concrete examples of ways in which Hispanic/Latinos can better unleash our power both as employees within the financial industry and as consumers of financial services.”

To conclude, Pelayo said there needs to be more events like these to continue to expand awareness of the vast opportunities that are available to the Hispanic/Latino community in financial services.


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