The BB&T branch in Arlington's Clarendon neighborhood looks pretty much like most other banks. Customers come and go, and signs in the window advertise identity protection services and a 3.49 percent interest rate for mortgages.
But unlike most bank branches, the signs are in Spanish, and most of the customers going in and out are Hispanic.
That location is one of 40 local multicultural banking centers established by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp., which had $10.1 billion in deposits in 2011, making it the region's fifth-largest bank.
And the bank is about to open whole lot more of those centers.
BB&T is unfurling a plan to increase its multicultural banking centers by 35 percent nationally between now and the end of the year, boosting the total to 350.
In the Washington area, the bank will add 14 centers, which feature at least one or two employees who speak the dominant language in that neighborhood.
"That is almost 20 percent of BB&T's total branch distribution," said Luis Lobo, who is spearheading the initiative. Lobo was president of the Washington market for BB&T for six years before taking a job last year as executive vice president and multicultural markets manager.
As the country's demographics shift, the multicultural market, particularly the Latino population, will become a key component of BB&T's growth, bank officials say.
"BB&T, at the highest level, recognizes just how important the growth of the diverse parts of our population are," said Dan Waetjen, the bank's group/state president for the Washington region. "It's outpacing everything else."
As part of the expansion, the multicultural centers will be getting a slightly different brand, called Vecino, which means "neighbor" in Spanish.
The tag line will be: "BB&T, Vecino. Your trusted neighbor."
"This tells people that there is something inside that branch for Latinos," said Lobo, who is of Costa Rican heritage.
BB&T also has a Spanish language version of its website that will host the Vecino brand and is deploying a Spanish language telephone banking-assistance program and Spanish bank statements.