Daniel Ayala, head of Wells Fargo’s Global Remittance Services, spoke to DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti about how cultural competence allows his company to better serve underrepresented groups. Wells Fargo is No. 33 in the DiversityInc Top 50.
Luke Visconti: How has cultural competence enabled Wells Fargo to help its customers succeed financially?
Daniel Ayala: Cultural competence is a key element of being able to effectively execute a business strategy in today’s corporate world. Eighty percent of the consumer market growth in the last two or three years has been driven by diverse segments. When you look at the long-term implications that number is amplified because minorities are going to be the majority, so having cultural context and understanding the segment well allow us not only to perform the way we perform historically but really project ourselves into the future.
Visconti: What are the greatest differences among the financial habits of Latinos, Asians and whites, especially in the area of consumer remittances?
Ayala: At the end of the day, consumer remittances is really people taking care of other people, so it’s as simple as a father sending money to his siblings and/or potentially to his kids and providing that day-to-day support. So it’s really not different from one segment to the other. One key thing about remittances on the international side is it goes beyond educational support. In some cases, people in the U.S. that come from Latin America and Asia are supporting families, extended families for their lifetime, so in those cases sending money to those families overseas is a key financial activity that they perform month after month.
Visconti: Can you talk about any specific cultural differences that you weren’t aware of but found out through your good work and were able to put to good use for serving your customers?
Ayala: When you look at different ethnic groups you always look for the differences. But what I found is the immigrant experience has a lot of commonalities: First you need to establish yourself, then you need to make ends meet for yourself, and then your primary focus is to take care of your family back home.
There is one key theme that cuts across all immigrant segments no matter where they come from, and it’s the principle that hard work pays. And when it pays, they take care of their own. That’s a very unique thing about the immigrant segment. When you hear the stories about people leaving everything behind and in some cases not even speaking the language and surviving through all those challenges, it’s a great story of success, and you still hear about people being able to live the American dream through that.
Visconti: I can’t imagine what could be more relieving to somebody who is struggling to establish themselves than to know they have security, that the money that they are sending home, which in lot of cases is keeping people alive, is getting there safely and at a reasonable cost.
Ayala: Absolutely. When you humanize that and you understand that the $300 transaction going from Oxnard, California, let’s say, to San Salvador, El Salvador, is going from a grandparent for his grandson’s birthday, and that money is going to be used to buy the bicycle and to pay for the birthday party, you understand how important that transaction is to that individual in Oxnard and how important it is to the family receiving that money. You can’t be late, it needs to be delivered on time and needs to be a positive experience for both sides. That’s the business we are in, and that’s why it’s important to understand who it is that you are really serving and for what purpose.