Alpine bank to accept Mexican ID cards for transactions
Inspired in part by the recent visit of Mexican Consul General Leticia Calzada, one of the region’s leading banks is instituting a change aimed at boosting business among Mexicans and increasing their banking options.
Alpine Bank announced this week that it will accept Matricula Consular cards as identification for Mexicans.
The cards are issued for identification purposes by the Mexican government to Mexican nationals living abroad.
“We believe that by approving this form of identification, we are making it easier for Mexican nationals to cash checks, open accounts and in general use our bank,” said John Cooper, executive vice president of marketing for Alpine Bank.
Locally owned Alpine Bank has 28 locations on the Western Slope and more than $850 million in assets.
It joins at least two other Colorado banking institutions, Wells Fargo and US Bank, that also accept the cards, said Mario Hernandez, a spokesman for Calzada. The cards are particularly helpful to Mexicans who don’t have U.S. Social Security numbers.
When Calzada met with education and business leaders in Glenwood Springs last month, she specifically praised banks that were accepting Matricula Consular cards as identification.
Cooper said Calzada helped inspire Alpine Bank to make the change.
He said Alpine Bank officials examined what documents were necessary for an individual to receive a Matricula Consular card, and were convinced that they were sufficient to verify identification.
“Once we understood that, I think we moved quickly to accept it and try to make it as easy as possible for our Latino customers to conduct their banking activities,” he said.
“Oh wow, that’s wonderful,” said Hernandez, when informed of Alpine Bank’s new policy.
“It’s very good to hear. It’s very good news for us,” he said.
He called the acceptance of the cards by banks a “win-win” situation for banks and Mexican customers.
“It’s a lot of money out there that people are keeping underneath their mattresses, which is not safe for them, and it’s not good business for banks, because banks would benefit from this money being put into the banks,” he said.
“I think there’s probably quite a bit of that,” Cooper said of cash being stashed away by local Mexicans who can’t open accounts.
“I think it’s important for us to reach out to them, let them know they’re important, find out what they need, and do something about it,” he said.
Alpine Bank got requests to make the policy change, and Cooper said it makes business sense to pursue Mexican clients.
“I think they represent a significant customer segment or potential customer segment for us,” he said. “We know that they’re loyal, once they have gained trust in us. I think we need to make steps to let them know that we recognize them as important customers and are interested in their business.”
Wells Fargo has been pursuing the Spanish-speaking market for some time. For two years, Susie Meraz has served as a home mortgage consultant for Wells Fargo in Glenwood Springs, focusing on “emerging markets” such as Latino customers, low-income and first-time homebuyers.
Business among Latino customers was slow at first, due to the difficulty of advertising. “Word of mouth has really worked, and we’ve been really busy,” she said. Many Latino families now realize they can buy a home.
The mortgage side of the banking business is difficult for some Latinos because Social Security numbers are needed to run credit checks, Meraz said.
Some lending programs require applicants to be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens, while others will loan money to people with work permits or work visas, she said.
Meanwhile, to simply open a banking account or cash checks, Wells Fargo had long required only two forms of identification from Mexican customers, just as would be required of any other customer, she said.
If they didn’t have a Social Security number, they could sign a form declaring foreign status, she said.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, amid increasing concerns in regard to foreigners and identification forgery, Wells Fargo began looking to Matricula Consular cards as a form of identification.
Hernandez said when Wells Fargo investigated what is entailed in getting a card, “We proved to them that it’s a serious process.”
Those obtaining the card need a Mexican birth certificate and a second form of identification. Often, that is a voter registration card that includes a photo and fingerprint, although another ID form such as a passport can be used.
Cooper said banks must protect current account holders by proving that customers are who they purport to be – whether they are Mexicans or anyone else.
Typically, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and voter registration cards are used to prove identity, he said.
Given the number of visitors from abroad in a resort area, he said, “It’s not uncommon that we would also see passports.”
Alpine Bank also works closely with law enforcement officials to determine what forms of identification are valid.
At Wells Fargo, Meraz said she is happy to see Alpine Bank accepting the Mexican ID cards.
“It’s good that there are more options out there for Hispanics,” she said.
Cooper encouraged other banks to also consider making the policy change, to make Latinos “feel good about banks” as a way to manage money.
Some area Latinos come from countries other than Mexico. None offer a comparable ID card, Calzada said.
“I would hope that there would be an opportunity to do the same thing for them,” said Cooper.
Hernandez said Peru is the only other Latin American country with a general consulate office in Colorado, although Guatemala may be opening one.
Meanwhile, Alpine Bank is continuing to explore other ways to reach out to Latino customers.
Besides hiring bilingual employees at branch banks, Cooper said, it has created a task force that has 50 percent Spanish-speaking employees, “to try and determine how we can better understand and respond to their financial needs.”
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