BB&T Corporation, headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a fast growing, highly profitable financial holding company with $132.6 billion in assets. Its bank subsidiaries operate approximately 1,500 financial centers in the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, and Washington, D.C.

The company has many accolades to its credit: It is consistently recognized by Fortune as one of America's "Most Admired Companies"; ranked highest in customer service satisfaction among primary mortgage servicing companies, according to a 2007 nationwide study by J.D. Power and Associates; and was a 2007 ASTD BEST Award winner.

BB&T is a mission-driven organization with a clearly defined set of values. It encourages employees to have a strong sense of purpose, a high level of self-esteem, and the capacity to think clearly and logically. The company believes that its competitive advantage is largely in the minds of its employees, as represented by their capacity to turn rational ideas into action toward the accomplishment of its mission.

Community Strategy

BB&T has built much of its success around its strong community bank strategy. "Our vision is to be the bank of choice for multicultural customers looking for financial opportunities in the communities we serve," says Jorge G. Mller, vice president and multicultural markets manager.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the country, making up 13.3 percent of the population. Experts estimate that their buying power will top $1 trillion by the year 2015. To help welcome the Hispanic community and demonstrate their loyalty to Hispanic clients, BB&T in 2002 launched a corporate-wide effort that included a series of community outreach and employee education efforts.

To better serve the customers within these markets, BB&T has worked to understand the relationships and needs among three market subsegments: Hispanics who speak English exclusively, bilingual Hispanics, and Hispanics who speak Spanish exclusively. "To develop our multicultural market strategy, BB&T first assesses all facets of delivering a positive customer experience. We look for the right staff and support them with the appropriate tools, information, and training, and continue to develop the necessary channels for their support," says Mller.

Tu Conexion - Your Connection

Because it is difficult to hire an all-bilingual staff, BB&T created Tu Conexin, a self-study training program that teaches its non-Spanish speaking employees key Spanish phrases and the basics of communication with Hispanic clients so that they have a better understanding of that market.

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Employees who interact with Spanish-speaking clients receive a kit that includes a Spanish Quick Reference Guide, which details phonetics, words, and phrases commonly used by people in this market. The kit also contains a DVD that depicts common banking transactions, as well as a CD soundtrack. To aid employee practice with pronunciation, a Quick Reference Guide Audio Companion and participant workbook are also included.

Upon completion of the program, employees call into a phone-based testing service that evaluates their language proficiency. Across the organization, more than 1,500 kits have been used by employees.

Audio Outreach

Another key initiative is the development and distribution of BiBi tapes. Distributed to BB&T branches beginning in 2002, the BiBi tapes are a series of Spanish-language audiotapes that provide basic banking information, as well as other important information about living in the United States. Unlike traditional American educational audiotapes, where narrators generally offer information in a tutorial teacher-to-student style, the BiBi tapes follow the "TV Novelas-style" storytelling approach popular on Spanish television.

The soap opera-style series traces the experiences of Juan and Maria Perez, fictional immigrants who have recently come to the United States. One person they meet is a Mexican woman named Beatriz "BiBi" Bienvenido Torres. BiBi portrays a respected member of the Hispanic community, a long-time U.S. resident, and BB&T employee. There are currently nine tapes, covering such topics as emergency preparedness; home and auto safety tips; renting and buying a home; healthcare; education; insurance; working in the United States; tips on finding a job and starting a small business; and basic banking information. The tapes are distributed to the Hispanic community free of charge through the AP newswire and throughout the corporation.

The BiBi tapes are designed to bridge the learning gap many Hispanics say exists when it comes to life in America. "We are pleased that the BiBi series is keeping pace with situations that are critically important to our Spanish-speaking residents as they embrace American culture," says Axel Lluch, director of Hispanic and Latino Affairs for the North Carolina governor's office. BB&T is the first and only bank known to provide free informational tapes designed to increase new Hispanic immigrants' understanding of the nuances of living in the United States.

The latest educational offering is an audio CD series, which simulates a radio call-in talk show. The first episode focuses on income taxes in the United States - why we pay taxes, how to pay, and how to find help and resources in this area. The second is about credit and lending - credit basics, how to establish and maintain good credit, and how to make informed decisions about borrowing money. This series is also distributed through local branches.