Speaking The Customer's Language Literally

Brokerage houses open up branches catering to ethnic groups

Twice a week, Alvin N. Chau visits the Charles Schwab brokerage office in Chinatown in Oakland, Calif., where almost all the customer-service reps speak Chinese. Even though the 45-year-old accountant came to the U.S. from Hong Kong three decades ago and speaks fluent English, he still prefers to handle investments in his native language. "I feel closer to the person if we speak Cantonese," says Chau.

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