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  • Hispanic Women Have a Strong Desire to Save for Retirement

    Posted by on May 23, 2018

    A recent study on the significance of gender for Hispanic savings and retirement found two important things:

    1. Hispanic women have a huge appetite for financial education and a strong desire to save

    2. Their savings could provide a critical safety net to America’s largest minority group.

    “This study demonstrates that if financial information is communicated simply and respectfully, and in culturally and linguistically competent ways, Latinas, especially, will listen,” said Karen Richman, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study, a collaboration between the National Endowment for Financial Education and the University of Notre Dame.

    Reasons for Low Retirement Savings

    Despite a desire to save, low earnings mean Hispanic women have much lower retirement account balances than any comparable demographic, the study found. Employment paths have a lot to do with these outcomes. According to the study, Hispanics switch jobs more frequently than other demographics. What’s more, they tend to accept positions that do not provide retirement savings benefits.

    The research went on to show that Hispanics with employer-sponsored retirement plans are 50 percent more likely than whites to make hardship withdrawals. Hispanic women are more likely than Hispanic men to liquidate pensions with a lump-sum payment or to spend rather than reinvest their savings when they change jobs. Additionally, Hispanic women tend to see retirement accounts as a source of liquidity. They may take loans and early withdrawals, often to help others, and they end up paying large penalties.

    How Credit Unions Can Help

    Below are a few key takeaways from the study and what they mean for credit unions.

    Hispanics have the highest labor participation, and yet the lowest retirement security. Hispanic women would benefit from workplace financial education, particularly during job transitions as they are deciding what to do with retirement accounts. Credit unions can provide financial education, as well as investment and savings products in a way that’s relevant to this influential and growing audience.

    Hispanic women tend to be the administrators of family finances. The female head of the family often makes tough decisions without knowing all the options. Credit unions can address Hispanic women’s appetite for financial education and desire to save through direct outreach, relationship building and financial education opportunities. A great way to gain a better perspective on what Hispanic women need is through the creation of a Latina advisory group.

    Hispanic men and women are equally likely to participate in collective financial practices based on “confianza,” or “mutual trust.” Credit unions should work to develop relationships with Hispanics based on trust. They should position themselves as a dependable resource for the community through product accessibility, bilingual staff and community investment.

    As this study reveals, a gap exists for Hispanic women in terms of saving for retirement. Credit unions, with their financial expertise and their people helping people philosophy, are well positioned to address this gap.

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    Members Credit Union Grows Hispanic Membership with Financial Education

    Posted by on May 7, 2018

    Continuing our series of blog posts providing updates on 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant recipients, today we’re following up with Members Credit Union in Cos Cob, Connecticut.

    With the grant funds it was awarded, Members Credit Union was able to purchase Spanish seminar-in-a-box kits from CUNA, as well as materials for financial education sessions with Hispanic youth. Partnering with local organizations to conduct seminars has been a successful strategy for the Connecticut credit union.

    More than 80 consumers participated in three seminars Members Credit Union conducted in late 2017:

    In October, the credit union partnered with Family Centers to host a Spanish financial education seminar for parents who live in low-income housing. The following month, Members Credit Union conducted a Spanish financial education seminar for participants of People Empowering People. In December, the credit union hosted a seminar for Family Centers staff, many of whom are Hispanic. The focus of that event was on both personal finances and services available to their Family Centers clients.

    “Each one of the completed seminars brought new members to the credit union, and referrals from our ‘first generation’ of new members are spreading and also yielding new members,” said Kathy Chartier, Members Credit Union president/CEO.

    One of the participants in the November seminar owns Latin Colors magazine. During the seminar, he gave a testimonial about how he has benefited from his relationship with Members Credit Union. He is also giving the credit union the opportunity to share financial education in Spanish in every issue of Latin Colors throughout 2018 in addition to partnering on future seminars.

    Members Credit Union also has plans to continue offering seminars in 2018, including:

    •  Sessions with elementary and middle school students involved in the Family First program
    •  Financial education seminars in Spanish, in cooperation with Latin Colors magazine
    •  Auto buying seminars in Spanish with Building One Community
    •  A full evening financial education class in partnership with People Empowering People

    The credit union is already seeing results from its financial education efforts in terms of Hispanic membership and loan growth. In 2017, the credit union brought in 73 new Hispanic members (39 percent of all new members), compared to 23 (12 percent of new members) in 2016.

    “The seminars, and the word-of-mouth referrals they have created, are probably our greatest source of new members and loans in 2017,” Chartier said.

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    Is Your Credit Union Friendly to Hispanic Entrepreneurs?

    Posted by on April 23, 2018

    hispanic entreprenuersIf the answer to that question is no (or you don’t know), consider this: Hispanics are creating businesses at 15 times the national rate.

    In an article ranking the best cities for Hispanic entrepreneurs, WalletHub asked a panel of minority-business experts about the biggest challenges faced by Hispanic entrepreneurs. Nearly everyone mentioned access to capital and financial education.

    “There is a clear issue with lack of access to capital to start and grow their venture,” said Pedro F. Moura, an MBA candidate at the Haas School of Business at University of California. “This is also influenced by cultural aspects in which Latinos would rather rely on family and friends for funding than outside investors. Plus, limited financial education also plays a crucial role in understanding the funding that could be unlocked by entrepreneurs.”

    What does this mean for credit unions?

    This means Hispanic communities represent a huge opportunity for credit unions to grow their lending business – and become those communities’ preferred financial provider. If there is a known preference for borrowing from family and friends, the question for credit unions becomes, How can we build and nurture a similar relationship with Hispanic members?

    Below are a few strategies to consider.

    Offer small business-friendly loans. Small-dollar loans or Small Business Administration (SBA) loans up to $5,000 can be a great way to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. With an SBA 504 loan, for example, a borrower may only need 10 percent of equity, rather than the 20 percent required with a more traditional loan. Also, the loan is normally divided into two parts. One, which tends to be 50 percent of the loan, is held by a lender. The rest is held by nonprofit groups, such as the Certified Development Corporation, with this portion backed by the SBA.

    Provide microloans. Microloans are typically very small (under $500) short-term loans with a low interest rate, extended to self-employed individuals, new startups with very low capital requirements or small businesses with only a few employees. Microloans can be a good source of funding for a business to hire its first employee, cover startup costs or purchase initial inventory.

    Offer Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) loans. ITIN loans are designed to help people who have a tax ID number but are not eligible for a Social Security number. Credit unions see the possibilities in serving a population that is not being served well by traditional financial institutions and they understand the value of inclusivity.

    Provide lines of credit and credit-building loans. During the early stages of developing their companies, entrepreneurs may not have diversified enough to generate a constant positive cash flow. Lines of credit accommodate the seasonal credit demands of businesses along with ups and downs in cash flow. They also enable entrepreneurs to purchase inventory in anticipation of future sales. Credit-building loans, on the other hand, can help entrepreneurs build their credit as they work to grow their business.

    Offer small-business financial education. Even the most robust small-business lending program can be ineffective without the right education plan in place to help entrepreneurs understand their options and select the right loans for their businesses. Ensure your marketing and education materials are available in Spanish and are culturally relevant to Hispanic populations.

    Build community partnerships. One of the best ways to expand your credit union’s Hispanic entrepreneur outreach efforts is to partner with organizations that offer small business assistance for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs. Examples include local Hispanic chambers of commerce and small business incubators.

    Credit unions desiring to be Hispanic entrepreneur-friendly should work to build the right mix of lending products supported by a strong financial education program. Those that get it right will not only provide a much-needed service to Hispanics in their communities, they will also benefit themselves through lending and membership growth.

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    Get to Know Víctor Miguel Corro

    Posted by on April 16, 2018

    Continuing our get-to-know series, we’d like to introduce you to Víctor Miguel Corro, who joined the Coopera team earlier this year as client relations director.

    How did you end up working for a company focused on helping credit unions serve the Hispanic market?

    Victor after a long hike at Macchu Picchu in Peru

    I’m no stranger to the credit union world, and in a career-transition moment, things aligned to give me this great opportunity. It is a great fit personally, as I am a first-generation immigrant. I came from Panama and now live in Wisconsin. I remember coming to the U.S. and facing everyday struggles. Everything from trying to get a haircut to adjusting to the climate was difficult. I’d never experienced a day below 75 degrees in my life and now I was living in Wisconsin. Talk about building character!

    What gets you out of bed in the morning?

    Knowing I support my family though a career in a mission-driven industry that ultimately seeks to improve lives. When I wake up, I see that as one more day, one more chance to help somebody.

    What does your typical day look like?

    My day consists of helping Coopera’s clients reach more people who do not know the joy of being part of a credit union. I get to interact with clients and work with our wonderful team to help those clients be the financial entity of choice for the Hispanic community.

    What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

    Victor at a Florida credit union alongside a delegation from Brazil

    Be the proverbial bridge. That means working to connect people in spite of their background and differences. There is always common ground to be found, and that will push us all forward together.

    What excites you the most about the future of financial services in the Hispanic market?

    There is a growing understanding among credit unions that reaching an untapped market makes sense philosophically, and it also presents a strong business case. In my recent conversations with industry leaders, I have sensed the enthusiasm and a natural inclination to want to reach out and serve. The integration of technology is also a very exciting prospect for this market.

    Where do you go/what do you do to get inspiration?

    A hammock in Panama does the trick every time! But when that’s not available, it’s a long bike ride or an old song.

    What is something unique about you most people wouldn’t know?

    Victor with Oscar Arias, then president of Costa Rica

    My parents started a credit union back in my hometown in Panama. I was once a fifth-grade homeroom teacher. I have visited 89 countries (and not just the airport!). I have met six sitting heads of state in as many countries.

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    Santa Cruz Community Credit Union Sets Aggressive Goals to Help Hispanic Entrepreneurs

    Posted by on April 3, 2018

    (more…)

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    An Unscoreable Consumer Could Become Your Next Great Member

    Posted by on March 6, 2018

    Somewhere between 50 and 80 million U.S. consumers have little or no credit history. That’s somewhere in the range of 15 to 25 percent of the U.S. population. What this means is that a massive number of people in America are “unscoreable” by most traditional models.

    At the same time, acquiring new members is becoming increasingly difficult for credit unions. Competition and financial consumer expectations have never been more complex and fast-moving.

    What if there was a way for credit unions to avoid turning away “unscoreable” consumers for loans and other services? What if there was a way to welcome them without increasing a cooperative’s risk profile?

    No Credit Does Not Mean Bad Credit

    Just because a consumer is unscoreable by most traditional credit scoring models doesn’t mean he or she won’t be able to pay back a loan. Several alternative models available today can help a lender evaluate a consumer’s ability to repay. Below are some examples, along with the types of data they incorporate into their models:

    eCredable – Bills, such as rent, utilities, mobile phone, cable/satellite TV and insurance

    Cignifi – Mobile phone behavior data

    First Access – Prepaid mobile-phone payment histories

    TrustingSocial – Social, web and mobile data

    Kabbage – e-commerce histories from sites like Amazon

    Experian’s Emerging Credit Score – Internet and direct-marketing purchases, property and asset records and telecommunications and utility data

    TransUnion CreditVision Link – Property tax records and checking/debit account records

    LexisNexis RiskView – Residential stability, asset ownership, derogatory status, life-stage analysis

    One thing all these companies have in common: They’re using big data to create better outcomes for consumers and meaningful value for lenders. And credit unions have the opportunity to do so, as well.

    Alternative sources of consumer data, such as utility records, cell phone payments, medical payments, insurance payments, remittance receipts, direct deposit histories and more, can be used to build better risk models. Armed with this information – and with the proper programs in place to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and privacy laws – credit unions can continue making responsible lending decisions while better serving the underserved.

    How One Organization Successfully Uses Alternative Credit Scoring

    Kinecta Federal Credit Union uses an alternative data score from LexisNexis known as Riskview to assess creditworthiness for traditionally unscoreable borrowers. The model factors in data from sources like utility bills, public records, address and employment stability, among many others alternative data elements. The result is a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulated score.

    By using nontraditional credit verification methods, Kinecta is able to approve more than 60 percent of the applications it receives. Since 2014, Kinecta has made about 20,000 loans for more than $30 million.”

    How Alternative Credit Scoring Fits the Credit Union Philosophy

    Credit unions exist to help people, not make a profit. Their goal is to serve all members well, including those of modest means – the very people most likely to be unscoreable by traditional credit scoring models. Many of these consumers fall into one or more of the following segments:

    • Unbanked/underbanked
    • First-generation immigrants
    • Millennials
    • Rural consumers

    Alternative credit scoring provides credit access to consumers who may otherwise be turned down for a loan or forced to turn to a predatory lender. Using payment history and other data sources to evaluate a consumer’s creditworthiness is an excellent example of “people helping people” – one that benefits both consumers and credit unions alike.

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    How JetStream FCU Sent an Important Message to a Hispanic High School Student

    Posted by on February 19, 2018

    In September 2017, we announced seven Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions had received the 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant to continue their Hispanic outreach and community impact efforts. Over the next few months, we’ll be checking in with each of the credit unions and sharing updates on their progress.

    First up is JetStream Federal Credit Union in Miami Lakes, Florida.

    JetStream partnered with a local high school to select a deserving scholarship recipient. To qualify, the student needed to be a member of a Hispanic, low-income family and meet the following criteria: a 3.7 minimum GPA, a college in mind and an area of interest in business or finance.

    As a first step, JetStream chose Barbara Goleman Senior High as a partner. “We chose this high school because of its location, as well as its student body makeup,” said Vanessa Miranda, manager of HR and community outreach for JetStream. “The Barbara Goleman student makeup is 84 percent Hispanic.”

    (Left to right) JetStream FCU CEO Jeanne Kucey, Scholarship Winner Gabriel Hernandez, JetStream HR Manager Vanessa Miranda

    JetStream received many qualified applications, which included essay responses. With the help of several teachers and JetStream staff, they were able to select the winner: Gabriel Hernandez, a senior who will begin an accounting program at Florida International University in the fall.

    “Gabriel’s essay demonstrated his devotion to his academics,” said Miranda. “His long list of extra-curricular activities, as well as his academic achievements, truly stuck out from the rest. He has been an honors AP student since freshman year and has achieved a 4.9 weighted GPA. In addition, he is the captain of the soccer team and part of The National Honors Society.”

    Something else Jetstream says made Hernandez stand out was a strong commitment to his community. He has tutored immigrant students at a local high school, as well as volunteered his time to feed the hungry.

    Long-term, Hernandez plans to be an accountant or financial advisor. “I will be working with people and matching them to financial programs that will assist with their future,” Gabriel wrote in his essay. “Like JetStream’s motto, I believe that people matter most. I think that I could be an asset for both the consumer and the financial institution that hires me in the future.”

    In his essay, Hernandez also shared that he is concerned about how he will pay for college tuition and does not want to create further financial burdens for his parents.

    “We are very thankful that the Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant was awarded to JetStream, which allowed us to give a most valuable gift, the gift of education, to this deserving Hispanic student,” said Miranda. “I know this young man will go on to do amazing things. We feel honored that we were given the chance through this grant to aid him in achieving his goals and helping him see that the American dream is possible for everyone.”

    Hernandez closed his essay by writing, “I know that I will succeed in college, but this scholarship will show me that others believe in me, too.”

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    To Discover What You Have to Give, Put Yourself There

    Posted by on February 12, 2018

    Have you ever felt a calling to help, but you weren’t entirely clear what form that help should take? It’s a puzzle many credit union leaders confront. That’s because the credit union movement has rallied around the collective battle cry of “people helping people.” While most everyone working in or leading a credit union is aware of the mission, quite a few wonder, what exactly does “people helping people” look like in our cooperative? How can we live out the industry’s mission in our community? Who needs our help the most and how do we find them?

    The answers are clearer for some than others. Yet, even those with a solid giving-back plan in place often discover even more ways to contribute after they begin. The key, according to LiFE Federal Credit Union (LiFE FCU) CEO Dustin Fuller, is simply to put yourself in the place you believe you’re needed. The rest, he insists, usually happens naturally.

    Take Fuller’s recent credit union-sponsored mission trip, for instance. Fuller and LiFE FCU’s former chief lending officer (now CU Evolution CEO) Deke Alexander had a crystal clear vision for how their credit union employees could impact the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Modeling their outreach after traditional church-sponsored mission trips, the pair gathered a group of employees and credit union members together and organized a mission trip of their own.

    Fuller and Alexander had traveled to the Dominican Republic before, so they had an intimate understanding of the acute need for access to clean drinking water in many of the villages there. The plan, then, was to mobilize their group around the installation of water filters in two villages. As the group went about making their plans for the trip, one of the soon-to-be missionaries had an idea. A LiFE FCU business member, he is also a doctor who owns and operates Total Eyecare, a vision clinic in LiFE FCU’s hometown of Denton, Texas. What if, the doctor proposed, we bring eyeglasses along for the village elders, many of whom are likely experiencing loss of vision as they age? Everyone agreed it was an excellent idea, so they packed a suitcase full of glasses and brought it along to the Dominican Republic.

    The five-day mission trip was, as Fuller describes it, “an awesome experience that did some amazing things for the hearts of employees and members.” By the time the group was ready to head back to the U.S., they had installed two LifeStraw filters that were producing enough clean drinking water for 400 people in three villages. And, they had outfitted 72 elders with reading glasses.

    Even more exciting, however, were the unanticipated ways the group was able to impact the lives of the villagers. As they moved about the people and the environment over those five days, they discovered three other, absolutely unexpected, ways they could impact the lives of the people they came to help.

    The first surprise came as their van was leaving one particular village. From inside the vehicle, the doctor spotted a young girl sitting alone in front of her family’s home. He asked the driver to stop so he could go and talk with her. As it turns out, the girl had trouble seeing because one of her eyes wasn’t focusing properly. The impairment also affected the way she looked, and she was being teased by her schoolmates. The doctor had with him a lens he believed would help. When the little girl tried on the glasses, her eye immediately responded, straightening out instantly. “Her little face just lit up,” said Fuller, who witnessed the moment. “And her mother… you should have seen her. She hit her knees, bawling. She had never seen her daughter’s eyes straight in her entire life.”

    The second surprise came out of a conversation the LiFE FCU missionaries were having with a few of the village pastors. The topic was how to help people in these desolate villages develop their own healthy economies. The group began to talk about the cooperative financial model and how supporting them in the build of a community-based financial network could work. They also discussed the development of a micro-lending pool to finance a motorcycle. If equipped with a crate or two, the villagers could sell their now-clean drinking water in nearby villages. The income could be pooled and used in the case of a health emergency, to finance additional motorcycles or for any other needs that came up. According to CU Evolution’s Alexander, the elders in the village were excited about the concept and are beginning to work toward bringing the vision into reality. LiFE FCU is also looking forward to supporting them as they develop the micro-lending network.

    Lastly, the group learned that pastors in nearby villages were forced to travel 10 hours every month to get the proper training they needed to support their villages. If they had mobile devices, however, they would be able to participate in training sessions digitally, staying close to the people in their villages while also learning what they needed to become even more adept at serving them. Fuller called back home to another of LiFE FCU’s business members, SNAG Management, and asked if there was anything they could do. The member gave an emphatic yes, and shipped off five iPhone 5s to the village pastors within a week.

    What was so special about each of those three moments, Fuller points out, is that they could never have been predicted. They happened as a natural outgrowth of the group being physically present in a space and being open to the opportunities that presented themselves.

    “The pastor at our church often says, ‘You have to go through to grow through it,’” said Fuller. “What he means is you have to experience first-hand how the people you want to help are moving through their days. And it’s not just about experiencing the poverty; it’s about experiencing how the people live and then discovering how you’re uniquely gifted to help.

    “Too often, in our personal lives and in business, we get so wrapped up in the way things have always been done,” continued Fuller. “The same is true for giving. Unless we look out at the horizon and think about exploring something new, we can’t grow. We have to go through it to grow through it.”
    As credit unions and other organizations ponder how they may be able to have a positive impact on their communities this year, it may be wise to strategize by physically moving into a new space. Maybe it’s holding strategic planning sessions alongside a local church in an underserved area of town or hosting a financial education session at a shelter. By getting into a different space, you may discover entirely new ways to give back in 2018.

    Alexander acknowledges that “putting yourself there” can be scary. But, he says, acknowledging the fear and pushing past it is worth the effort. “The first time I was approached about going on a mission trip, I didn’t know if I wanted to go. It seemed like an incredible amount of work. I didn’t know the language. I wasn’t comfortable with the environment. Mostly, I didn’t understand how I was going to be able to contribute or what I even had to give. But I did it, and it changed me. I just had to sit there and let the people impact me. It’s not what you know, it’s how open you are to the experience.”

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    What These Three Credit Unions Know about YouTube

    Posted by on February 6, 2018

    A recent PwC report, “Always connected: U.S.-based Hispanic consumers dominate mobile, entertainment and beyond,” found that an astonishing 90 percent of Hispanic consumers stream video on their mobile devices. When it comes to their video channel of choice, YouTube reigns. Seven in 10 Hispanics regularly use YouTube (compared to six in 10 non-Hispanics).

    “Hispanic consumers spend a disproportionate amount of their day on the phone—most notably, streaming videos,” write the report’s authors. “Mobile video and, in particular, YouTube, are at the heart of Hispanic consumers. In response, brands looking to win over this mobile-dominant consumer should position the phone, and video, at the epicenter of their marketing plan.”

    Credit unions looking to develop and deepen relationships with this young, fast-growing and often underserved segment, should pay close attention to these findings, as well as to how some of their colleagues are having success with video. Below are three ways credit unions have integrated YouTube into their Hispanic marketing and engagement efforts.

    Financial Education

    YouTube is a great channel for educating consumers on financial wellness topics. Here are just a few ideas:

    • The credit union difference
    • Budgeting
    • Building credit
    • Phishing scams
    • Identify theft
    • Scholarships
    • Home equity loans
    • Rewards programs
    • Debt collection
    • Car-buying process
    • Home-selling tips
    • Tax returns
    • Money-savvy traveling
    • Back-to-school shopping

    Ascentra Credit Union in Bettendorf, Iowa, has leveraged YouTube to educate consumers, specifically through a monthly video series called Ascentra Making Cents. In addition to YouTube, Ascentra also provides the videos directly to its community partners to share through their own networks. The credit union is currently in the process of adding Spanish subtitles to the videos using funds it received from the 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant for Hispanic Outreach.

     

     

    Member Testimonials

    Consumers – particularly those unfamiliar or uncomfortable with traditional financial institutions – want to see certain things from any credit union attempting to make a connection with them. Employees and members who look like them, communications that speak to them and experiences that feel real to them are crucial to encouraging underserved individuals to give credit union membership real consideration. Videos of real members sharing why they chose the credit union and how it’s impacted them can benefit the credit union in many ways, including:

    • Building credibility and trust
    • Highlighting success stories
    • Showcasing community impact
    • Encouraging viewers to take action

    Community 1st Credit Union in Ottumwa, Iowa, has several member testimonial videos on its YouTube channel. One example tells the story (in both Spanish and English) of how Community 1st helped members who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico open a restaurant and buy house.

     

     

     

     

    Advertising Videos

    Because it’s free to host videos on YouTube, it can offer a much higher ROI than television advertising. Plus, a Google-commissioned Nielsen study found more Hispanics watch YouTube than any cable network in the U.S. Posting advertising videos on YouTube can help your credit union build brand awareness and share your commitment to the community.

    The videos don’t have to be overly complicated. Hapo Community Credit Union in Richland, Wash., has a series of short advertising videos on its YouTube channel. Each features a credit union employee sharing a benefit of banking with Hapo.

     

     

     

     

    When launching a YouTube strategy, it’s important to continually go back to your credit union’s strategic plan to ensure each of your video tactics aligns with your business goals. If you have goals to engage Hispanic consumers, educate your community or promote the benefits of membership, you may find YouTube the perfect place to be.

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    Creating a More Inclusive Industry: Lessons for Credit Unions

    Posted by on January 22, 2018

    In its 2017 Diversity Report, Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab) provided an update on its efforts to create a more inclusive financial services industry. Managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., FinLab seeks to identify, test and bring to scale promising innovations to improve financial health in America. The program is dedicated to supporting and encouraging diversity within the early-stage fintech space.

    “As an investor and supporter of early-stage startups, we believe that diverse teams simply build better products,” writes CFSI FinLab Senior Manager Maria Lajewski in the report. “By having a more comprehensive understanding of the market, diverse teams are more likely to build products that address the needs of a broad swath of consumers, including those who are historically underserved. And it’s those companies that are much more likely to grow and scale to reach millions of customers.”

    Below are a couple interesting findings Lajewski shares in the report:

    Of the 57 percent of Americans who struggle with their financial health, some segments of the population – including low-income women and people of color – struggle disproportionately.

    Of the 78 FinLab applicants who self-identified as targeting at least one underserved community, 32 had not yet raised any capital and 22 had raised less than $500,000. However, the average amount of capital raised across the total applicant pool was $630,000.

    LESSONS FOR CREDIT UNIONS

    FinLab’s findings and work to create a more inclusive industry are relevant to credit unions in several ways. Here are a few key takeaways:

    Consider extending credit to startups. The FinLab report reveals many early-stage companies, especially those serving underserved communities, struggle securing investment capital. With their community focus and “people helping people” philosophy, credit unions are well-suited to help meet that need. As reported in Inc., Apple may exist today because co-founder Steve Wozniak was able to get a loan from his credit union while the company was still based in a garage. Talk about a feather in that credit union’s cap.

    Educate staff and community. Throughout FinLab’s eight-month program, the organization brings in a wide range of people and experiences to help founders deepen their understanding of the financial challenges low-income and underserved consumers face. FinLab also organizes dinners to discuss how to build diverse organizational teams and culturally relevant products for underserved communities. Credit unions could easily adopt similar models to educate their employees and community members.

    Host “day-in-the-life” events. During a workshop called FinX, FinLab participants go into a local community to perform a series of real-time financial transactions, such as cashing a check, buying and loading a prepaid card and sending a money order. Here again, credit unions could organize similar activities to help their staff better understand the challenges faced by the underserved in their communities. Coopera coordinates similar activities through its Coopera Immersion Program. Our staff guide credit union team members through a series of exercises designed to give them a better idea of what life is like for the underserved in their communities.

    “While we understand these issues are multifaceted and will never be solved in a single conversation over dinner, creating a safe space and the opportunity to have these discussions is one way that we can regularly check our individual and collective blind spots,” writes Lajewski. “Where are the missed partnership opportunities or design decisions that could open up your customer base to those who have the most to gain from your product? It takes a little extra effort to make sure we’re creating a safe space to discuss these kinds of questions, but it’s an investment we’re willing to make.”

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