About a dozen local Latino business and community leaders gathered in the private room of an upscale Spanish restaurant downtown last week to celebrate one of their own.

Luis G. Lobo was recently appointed regional president of the country's ninth-largest bank. Lobo, who was born in Costa Rica and grew up in western North Carolina, will oversee Branch Banking & Trust Co.'s branches in the District and its suburbs.

Johnny A. Yataco, president of the Washington Hispanic newspaper, co-hosted the luncheon with Luis Vasquez-Ajmac, president of Maya Advertising and Communications.

Lobo told his hosts, the Chamber of Commerce leaders and community activists around the table that he plans to help BB&T do a better job of catering to the region's fast-growing immigrant community. "The banking industry has been asleep," he said. The men and women around the table nodded.

Lobo's recent appointment is a big win for local Hispanic businesses, Yataco said. Latinos appointed to positions in the federal government or in large companies may have more power, but Lobo can have real impact, he said. More loans could go to Hispanic-owned businesses and more mortgages to aspiring homeowners.

"We need more people like him in those positions," Yataco said. "Money is power."

-- Krissah Williams

Luis G. Lobo, right, is the new Washington regional president of Branch Banking and Trust Co. Among those saluting him at a luncheon last week were, from left: Michael E. Veve of Lasa Monroig & Veve LLP, Thomas L. Oliver of the National Hispanic Press Foundation and Johnny A. Yataco of the newspaper Washington Hispanic.