- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Security One Bank, a community bank for Hispanics, opened yesterday at Baileys Crossroads in Falls Church.

The bank is as much of a social statement on the growing influence of the Hispanic population in the Washington area as it is a traditional community bank.

“A lot of it is going to be just focusing on this community,” said Carl E. Dodson, president of Security One Bank.

All 11 of the bank’s employees are bilingual.

The bank is likely to face competition from other banks that already serve the immigrant market, said Laura Fisher, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.

“Banks are very good at identifying emerging markets,” Miss Fisher said.

In 2002, there were 7,302 Hispanic-owned businesses operating in Fairfax County, a 47.2 percent increase since 1997, according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Eleven of the 500 largest Hispanic-owned companies in the United States are based in Fairfax County.

Like Security One Bank, big national banks are increasingly using bilingual employees in Hispanic areas, advertising in Spanish and offering wire transfers of money to foreign countries.

Unlike most banks, which rely heavily on print or television ads for their marketing campaigns, Security One Bank plans to spread the word about its services largely through nonprofit organizations.

It also has the advantage of appealing to customers as fellow Hispanics, who often are deeply suspicious of banks if they are immigrants.

“They come from a culture where, in many cases, the banks can’t be trusted,” Mr. Dodson said.

The bank’s planned information campaigns are intended to teach “a lot of financial literacy, a lot of financial planning,” he said.

They also are intended “to try to get people who are using the check-cashing companies to understand the advantages of dealing with a bank,” he said.

The bank, which has raised $15 million from investors, plans to focus its lending services on retail, commercial and real estate.

Legal Services of Northern Virginia and the Hispanic Committee of Virginia, an immigrant advocacy group, have expressed an interest in helping out, Security One Bank officials said. They plan to approach local churches for assistance next.

The bank’s board of directors is drawn from big names in the local Hispanic business and political community, including J. Fernando Barrueta, former president of the Hispanic College Fund, Jorge E. Figueredo, former executive director of the Hispanic Committee of Virginia, and William Soza, former chairman of information technology company Soza & Co.

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