Associated Credit Union, headquartered in Norcross, Ga. (20 miles northeast of Atlanta), is one of the state’s oldest financial institutions. Chartered in 1930 to provide low-cost financial services to its members, Associated Credit Union’s mission has evolved and now includes better serving underserved populations, including the Hispanic community. To do this, Associated Credit Union laid out a multi-year, comprehensive strategic initiative and is in the process of implementing it.
“Several years ago, Associated Credit Union’s executive management team looked at the demographics of the Atlanta metro market from the 2010 Census numbers for opportunities to grow our membership base,” said Annia Reyes, training manager at Associated Credit Union. “The data drove our credit union to the strategic decision to focus on the emerging Hispanic population.”
What Associated Credit Union discovered through its research was that the overall Hispanic population in the metro Atlanta area at the time of the Census was estimated at 530,000. From a county perspective, Gwinnett County, which houses six out of Associated Credit Union’s 28 branches, contained the largest population of Hispanics at an estimated 190,000 and was noted as one of the fastest growing counties for Hispanics in the state. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, 40 percent of the population in Gwinnett County will be Hispanic.
Equipped with this information, Associated Credit Union turned to Coopera for guidance. The credit union utilized the company’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON) to better understand what was needed to serve the local Hispanic community.
Thru further research, Associated Credit Union discovered that the median age of the Atlanta metro Hispanic market was quite young, between ages 25 and 26, with annual personal earnings ranging from $17,000-$23,000. And, this trend was expected to continue for years to come, as 11 percent of K-12 students in the Atlanta area were Hispanic.
“With Coopera’s help, we were able to put together a rough sketch of our project plan,” said Huff, project management manager at Associated Credit Union. “We then customized the plan to best meet our objectives and to best serve our new members. We knew we needed to find out what Hispanics in the Atlanta market really needed and wanted out of a financial institution.”
Led by a 15-person implementation team, comprised of both management and frontline staff, Associated Credit Union began to lay the foundation and framework for this initiative. The process included gaining a better understanding of staffing needs, an evaluation of products and services, as well as the development of promotions and new marketing materials. It also included internal education and communication. “With this strategic initiative, we were dramatically changing the culture of the organization to become more diverse,” said Reyes. “We are not only committed to our members but to also our staff. It’s crucial that our employees are well informed and receive consistent, on-going training.”
The implementation team quickly took charge, initiating periodic staff training meetings on Wednesday mornings before the credit union opened for business, as well as, putting together staff events around local celebrations like Cinco de Mayo. Reyes, Huff and members of the implementation team also held monthly meetings with Associated Credit Union’s executive management team, as well as provided regular updates to the management team during the bi-weekly managers’ meeting. “Building a solid Hispanic outreach initiative is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Reyes. “We had full buy-in from the credit union from the beginning, and it was our job to keep things fresh and exciting during the process to make sure everyone stayed motivated through implementation. Keeping the lines of communication open at all levels of the credit union has been critical.”
Initially, the plan was to roll out the project in four branches, but as the implementation team continued to work on the initiative, they decided instead to “soft” launch in one branch first. “We tweaked our rollout strategy because of the reality of staffing needs and the learning curve, both internally and within the community,” said Huff. “We did a market analysis of Associated Credit Union’s entire operations area, which helped us determine that we needed to focus our initial efforts in our Norcross branch location. We then worked to hire bilingual staff in that branch, as well as in all of our customer-facing departments (i.e. the call center, loan processing center and so on).”
At this point, Associated Credit Union hired its first branch manager from outside the organization in 30 years. The candidate was bilingual and had industry experience that would help lead the charge in the Norcross branch.
Initial launch efforts have focused on word-of-mouth outreach, as well as advertising in a local Spanish newspaper, Mundo Hispánico. Also, Associated Credit Union’s marketing department worked to create bilingual versions of the credit union’s most-used collateral, including membership applications, deposit slips and product and service handouts.
The credit union also worked to make sure its products and services were able to meet the needs of all its members, including Hispanics. The implementation focused on making sure Associated Credit Union’s rate-reward loan program and first-time car buyer programs were available during the soft launch, as well as working with Associated Credit Union’s vendors, like its reloadable prepaid debit card supplier, to make sure these vendors’ customer-facing departments offered bilingual support. The credit union is also investigating adding remittance products in the near future to make sure the credit union is meeting the money transfer needs of the Hispanic marketplace.
Other future initiatives include adding a Spanish page to the credit union’s website, as well as broader community outreach efforts, such as financial literacy programs and local business partnerships.
“We know that growing our Hispanic membership base will not happen overnight,” said Huff. “Even after our successful soft launch there is much work to be done yet. We are taking a conservative approach to growing opportunities with all emerging markets to make sure we’ve set reasonable objectives and are meeting our plan’s milestones.
“Our initial goal is to grow five percent in Hispanic membership over the course of the upcoming year,” continued Huff. “Out of this, we would like between 60-65 percent of these new members to open a checking account and request a debit card. As we become more familiar with the Hispanic membership needs, and as they become more trusting of us as a financial institution, we will then focus on really growing loans with the new Hispanic membership.
“It is our objective to become the primary financial institution for Hispanics in the Atlanta market, especially Gwinnett County,” finished Huff. “And we’re willing to make the necessary investments to see this happen.”Leave a comment
Coopera client Travis Credit Union (TCU), the Yolo Family Resource Center (FRC) and Woodland, Calif., city officials recently honored the first class of graduates from the credit union’s New Era Tanda Program. Debuted in mid-2012, the program was designed to help Latino participants develop a 12-month shared savings goal and to take advantage of the credit union’s unique savings and loan offerings.
TCU worked with Coopera to develop the program concept for this unique program centered on tandas (also known as cundinas, sans or quinelas). Informal borrowing/lending circles, tandas are common in immigrant cultures, especially Latin American immigrant cultures. The modernized tanda, developed by TCU, aimed at bridging a cultural custom with the credit union experience.
Funded in part by a National Credit Union Foundation grant, TCU partnered with the Yolo FRC to conduct the pilot program. The program used a grassroots and culturally relevant approach tailored to the local Latino community. The first New Era Tanda Program class was composed of six people, each of whom was encouraged to attend monthly financial literacy courses, all offered in Spanish.
Participants contributed on a monthly basis to a shared savings account and also received a group share-secured loan to help save for a down-payment on a vehicle. In addition, after satisfactory completion of the program, each participant was eligible for a TCU credit-building credit card and/or auto loan. Throughout the program, participants and their families were encouraged to discuss how the various financial educational topics and the act of habitual saving affected their financial well-being.
“The grant’s goal was to study, test and implement a savings and lending program that leverages a Latin American cultural tradition, the tanda,” stated Barry Nelson, executive vice
After graduating from the program in August, participants became eligible for TCU’s individual product offerings to meet their credit-building and/or vehicle-purchase goals.
As with any good pilot, measuring the results was incredibly important to TCU, NCUF and Coopera. TCU worked with Coopera to create pre- and post-surveys to measure and track the change in each participant’s financial beliefs and behaviors. These surveys were administered at the start and end of the program. One of the goals of the program was to build Hispanic members’ credit and good financial habits through financial education. The findings were exciting.
Congratulations to TCU, Yolo FRC and the New Era Tanda program participants on a job well done!
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Coopera and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) are working together on another exciting initiative this year. Together, the two companies are engaging in bilingual political advocacy with the launch of “No Le Cobren Impuestos a Mi Credit Union” (the Spanish-language version of the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign).
This endeavor with Coopera is a part of CUNA’s effort to involve its Spanish-speaking members in political advocacy that affects all communities across the country, including Hispanic communities. With language no longer a barrier, Spanish speakers will now be able to engage in important advocacy and political issues that affect their credit unions.
“These issues affect all of us. At a time when Congress has made broad-based tax reform a major priority, it is more important than ever that all the voices of all our members are heard equally,” said Bill Cheney, president and CEO of CUNA.
The “No Le Cobren Impuestos a Mi Credit Union” campaign will include a Spanish-language toolkit, video message, action center and website. This campaign will also have all of the elements of the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” campaign, including:
• Website www.NoImpuestosAMiCU.org
The addition of Spanish language advocacy is the latest development in this large-scale, nationwide grassroots-mobilization campaign urging America’s 96 million credit union members to deliver a united message to Congress: “Don’t Tax My Credit Union.”Leave a comment
Sending money home is very important to the Hispanic community. For credit unions looking to grow their membership base and revenue opportunities, offering remittance services (from branch locations, via phone or even online) is a great value-added tool to help build a strong relationship with the Hispanic community. The World Bank reported that remittance flows topped $530 billion in 2012. More than $63 billion of that total was remitted from the U.S. to Latin America and the Caribbean (a large percentage of that $63 billion was sent to Mexico and Central America).
Traditionally, remittance service providers (i.e. non-wire transfer services) have been outside of the financial service industry…think mom-and-pop grocery stores.
Currently, credit unions have a negligible market share in the remittance space.
But, the remittance landscape is changing. With new consumer-focused regulations (the CFPB’s remittance transfer rule regulation will take effect on October 28, 2013), all remittance providers will be impacted. Under the rule, “Remittance transfer providers are required to provide prepayment and receipt disclosures to the consumer sender that include the exchange rate, certain fees and taxes associated with a transfer, and the amount of money that will be received on the other end of the transfer. Remittance transfer providers will also be required to investigate disputes and correct errors.”
Many current providers are finding it hard to comply with the CFPB’s new rule and have chosen to get out of the service. But, this hasn’t changed the strong need for remittances, especially for Hispanics. It’s simply created a lot of uncertainly in the industry as to who will provide this service moving forward, and what that service providers will need to do to be able to offer remittances.
Credit unions are well-positioned to pick up where these other remittance service providers have left off. Beyond simply allowing Hispanic consumers another choice for sending money home to loved ones, providing remittance services also gives credit unions the chance to deliver more comprehensive financial services to this market segment.
This is why it’s so important for credit unions to understand the makeup of their local Hispanic community. For example, if a credit union has a large percentage of 2nd or 3rd generation Hispanics who are more acclimated into the U.S. financial system, adding remittance services to the business’s product portfolio may not be the right fit. But if the credit union has a large population of underserved Hispanics in the area, offering remittance services could make a lot dollars and sense.
With more than one in four households (nearly 30 percent) in the U.S. today is underserved (i.e. conducting all or some of their financial transactions outside of the mainstream banking system) — and Hispanics representing a disproportionate number of this group — the pursuit of this market for potential members may initially seem counterintuitive for a credit union. But, the underserved represent a large market opportunity. That’s because underserved Americans are a fast-growing and young population with growing incomes.
For the credit union, whose collective mission is “people helping people,” that supports such an underserved individual through a difficult time, the potential for life-long loyalty is huge. And underserved Hispanics, in particular, tend to have large households and live in tight-knit communities, creating more word-of-mouth opportunities for the credit union that serves them well. The outcome of adding tools like remittance services is a win-win for credit unions willing to embrace the opportunity.Leave a comment
Latinas aren’t just looking for any financial services. Dignified financial services are what we want — the type that credit unions are known for. Latinas are decision-makers, they are wage-earners and they are increasingly bi-cultural; all of which are nuances to make note of and integrate in a credit union’s overall Hispanic growth plan.
One of the most notable nuances that credit unions looking to court this powerful consumer segment need to know is that Latinas aren’t assimilating.
Perhaps one of the most revealing findings of Nielsen’s Latina Power Shift Report is that Latinas aren’t assimilating in the same way that past generations of U.S. immigrants did. What’s occurring is that we aren’t losing our Latino culture overtime to become more American, we’re actually adding the American culture to our Latino culture and are increasingly becoming ambicultural®, a term coined by Nielsen specifically to describe this phenomenon.
What does this mean? It means we can switch back from the English language to the Spanish language without hesitation, we celebrate traditional American holidays and serve traditional Latin American foods at these events and we embrace our Latin American roots with our diverse group of both American and Latin American friends and family.
While this can pose some unique challenges and opportunities for credit unions to communicate to us, it’s not an impossible feet, in fact it just means credit unions must have a marketing and product strategy that
These nuances will require a new way of looking at marketing and product strategies to effectively reach Latinas. And, if you really want to serve your Latino community, you need to be connecting with Latinas — the new U.S. economic driving force.Leave a comment
When targeting Latinos to increase opportunities for credit union growth and revenue, there are so many important segments to consider, including underserved and unbanked, immigrants, youth and young adults and small businesses. A particular segment that transcends all of these groups is Latinas.
As a Latina myself, I like to think that Latinas have always been the most important U.S. consumer segment and now Nielsen’s Latina Power Shift Report confirms my biased thinking. The report reveals that Latinas are the key drivers of Hispanic economic power in the U.S. on all fronts; income, education and employment.
As a powerful consumer segment for your credit union, here are a couple of facts about Latinas that you need to know…
Latinas are the Predominant Decision Makers
This is partly due to the fact that Latinas are increasingly the primary wage earner and influencer in their households, which is a historical shift. And if credit unions aren’t adapting their marketing and communication strategies to address the Latina head of household, that message may not be getting through to anyone in that Latino family.
Latinas are Bringing in the Money
And in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Latina-owned businesses rose 46 percent from 2002 to 2007; faster than Latino and total female-owned businesses.
So, where are Latinas spending their extra income? Nielsen’s 2011 Women of Tomorrow Report revealed the top categories of spend for disposable income includes: Paying off debt, general savings, retirement, education for self and new homes.
With the mission of people helping people, credit unions have the financial products that Latinas are looking for.Leave a comment
For Affinity Credit Union, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa., success with Hispanic outreach and membership growth efforts did not happen overnight. The 12,000-member credit union started its outreach through a series of community sponsorships, and over the years, has grown efforts to become a full business development initiative.
According to Affinity CEO Sandy Robinson, Affinity recognized a need for its credit union to better serve Hispanics in the local Des Moines market several years ago. In consulting regularly with Coopera, Robinson and Affinity came to understand that to be able to relate to new Hispanic members, staff needed to immerse themselves in the culture. “This is a culture where trust building is essential,” said Robinson. “Only after Hispanic community members understand you are there to help them can you begin showing them all the great things you can do to improve their lives.”
The credit union began by forming a mostly external task force made up of employees and local small business owners to act as an advisory council to the board and the staff. “Our first attempt at the task force fell apart,” admitted Robinson, “I believe we started it too early in our Hispanic efforts, and perhaps not having a diverse enough group, was the reason our first attempt was unsuccessful. But, we regrouped and tried again. We focused first on community sponsorships, such as the annual Latino Heritage Festival and local soccer teams, and then expanded our efforts.”
During this time, Affinity added staff, growing from two bilingual employees to five, and split its internal task force into two groups — an employee one focused on implementation, as well as a management one focused on strategy. And, the credit union implemented Coopera’s cultural immersion training program for its employees. “To best understand the Hispanic culture, we needed to become part of it,” said Robinson. “We took employees to outings at local Hispanic grocery stores and restaurants, asking them to interact with the store employees in Spanish. We also made a point to join local organizations that help further our outreach to the Hispanic community.”
In partnership with Coopera, other efforts have included: The translation of its marketing collateral and branch signage into Spanish, a dedicated page on its website in Spanish, advertising on the local Hispanic radio station and a dedicated Spanish-language Facebook page.
Also with Coopera’s guidance, Affinity has made a point to offer products specifically tailored to the needs of Hispanic members, including a credit builder loan program, which has resulted in a significant amount of new business for the credit union. According to Robinson, Affinity also discovered that its Hispanic members were more likely to have loans than its non-Hispanic members. “In June alone, we wrote 10 new loans and opened six new accounts for Hispanic members,” said Robinson. “Of those six new accounts, five of them were referred to us through our radio advertisements, and one was referred to us by an employer. Referrals and other word of mouth resources are the best leads for new business within the Hispanic market.”
Since November of 2011, Robinson notes that Affinity’s Hispanic membership has grown 32 percent, and that 55.8 percent of the credit union’s Hispanic members are under the age of 40, with the average age being 36.
Through Affinity’s growth and successes, there have been many lessons learned. According to Robinson, any credit union that may be considering a relationship with the Hispanic community should plan carefully and implement thoughtfully. “It is important to get buy-in from all levels of the credit union team — from the board and management teams to your employees,” said Robinson. “Also, lay out a detailed plan of how you will move forward with your Hispanic initiatives. Don’t be afraid to try new things in order to succeed, and if an effort doesn’t get the results you’re hoping for, try something else.
“Success in doing business with the Hispanic community takes time,” concluded Robinson. “Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. It happens slowly and with a lot of effort on both the part of the credit union, as well as the new members you are targeting. Be patient, be genuine, and you will achieve results.”Leave a comment
I recently attended the America’s Credit Union Conference (ACUC) in New York City where I had the opportunity, in partnership with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation), to coordinate and participate in a pre-conference workshop on emerging markets. Coopera also had the chance to host a breakout session titled “Multidimensional Hispanic Market – A Different Model of Assimilation.”
With more than 100 people in attendance at these two events, emerging markets proved to be a hot topic with 2013 conference attendees.
Here’s a quick recap of what was presented…
During the pre-conference workshop, three different panel-based events provided the audience with background and opinions on the importance of serving emerging markets (defined as the underserved, immigrant and minority populations) as an opportunity for credit union growth. Panelists included:
In the breakout session, we shared how to view the Hispanic community through the lens of the acculturation and assimilation processes. For reference, acculturation refers to the preservation of one’s birth culture and the addition of another culture. Assimilation refers to the replacement of one’s birth culture by another. At Coopera, we see that Hispanics are creating a new model in which they are more likely to create a bicultural and bilingual identity.
During both sessions, many attendees wanted to understand why more credit unions are not embracing the Hispanic market opportunity.
Our belief is that a lack of clear understanding of the market — essentially, a fear of the unknown — often creates a sort of marketing paralysis. This makes it difficult for credit unions to know when or how to engage. A lack of relevant marketing intelligence also contributes to this fear. Credit unions do not have a sufficient amount of data to support their development of an emerging markets strategy.
Our goal with these sessions was to help provide attendees with a better understanding of the Hispanic community from a multidimensional perspective. We did this by providing ideas on how to get started with outreach efforts, as well showcasing some of the available data to support the emerging-markets business case.
Both sessions received high ratings from attendees, proving how important the topic of emerging markets is to the credit union industry right now. Some of feedback we got included:
“Very informative marketing tools and distinction between assimilation versus acculturation.”
‘Very educational and informative.”
“This was outstanding and enlightening, revealing the complexity of the Hispanic community that I was no aware of. Thanks.”
Armed with useful data and a better understanding of the market potential, we hope conference attendees and their colleagues will begin to eliminate the barriers that stop them from developing emerging markets strategies. By doing the research and then empowering their leaders, credit unions can find tremendous success and growth from among these critical market segments.Leave a comment
The following content was written and provided to Coopera by The Immigration Policy Center.
In Iowa, there is no doubt that immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators play an important role. Immigrant entrepreneurs bring in additional revenue, create jobs, and contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Highly skilled immigrants are vital to the state’s innovation economy, and to the metropolitan areas within the state, helping to boost local economies. Furthermore, local government, business, and non-profit leaders recognize the importance of immigrants in their communities and support immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.
Immigrant entrepreneurs contribute significantly to Iowa’s economy.
- In 2010, new immigrant business owners had total business revenue of $215.8 million, which is 2.8 percent of all business income in the state.
Highly skilled immigrants are vital to Iowa’s innovation economy.
- High-skilled immigrant workers contribute to the success of many Iowa-based companies and institutions with a significant presence in the state, including Aviva USA Corporation, UST Global Inc., NCS Pearson Inc., the University of Iowa, Tejase Technologies Inc. and Rockwell Collins Inc.
- The Des Moines metropolitan area had 767 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 79.9 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations.
- The Iowa City metropolitan area had 320 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 59.2 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in STEM occupations.
- The Cedar Rapids metropolitan area had 252 H-1B high-skilled visa requests in 2010-2011, with 80.6 percent of H-1B visa-holders working in STEM occupations.
- An expansion of the high-skilled visa program would create an estimated 3,200 new jobs in Iowa by 2020. By 2045, this expansion would add around $1.2 billion to Gross State Product and increase personal income by more than $1 billion.
While the numbers are compelling, they don’t tell the whole story.
- In the southeast Iowa town of Ottumwa, Jose Rodas and Elsa Urrutea are examples of new immigrant business owners. Rodas, who originally came to Iowa to work for Cargill, recently opened his own tortilla shop. His tortilleria is one of 25 new Latino-owned businesses in the town. Urrutea, who grew up homeless in El Salvador, now owns her own bakery in Ottumwa.
- In small towns such as Ottumwa, immigrant entrepreneurs have opened small “mom-and-pop” retail establishments, restaurants, auto repair shops, and even pupuserias (which make the Salvadoran corn-dough delicacy). Such business establishments foster local interaction and commerce, helping breathe new life into small towns that might otherwise experience decline.
Some localities have begun recognizing and supporting immigration through local “welcoming” and integration initiatives.
“The ultimate goal of Welcoming Iowa is to create an atmosphere – community by community – in which immigrants are more likely to integrate into the social fabric of their new hometowns.”
- Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration: An initiative to help guide and prepare Iowa communities and businesses as they accommodate immigrant and refugee newcomers living and working in Iowa.
The center provides consultation for community leadership, “conducts research related to issues facing newcomers and communities, develops initiative training programs for business and industry, and educates Iowans concerning the needs, challenges and opportunities of their new immigrant neighbors, co-workers and employees.”
The Center provides programming that “incorporates a strong appreciation for the critical role newcomers play in ensuring the long-term social and economic vitality of Iowa’s businesses and communities.”Leave a comment
This blog contains excerpts from the recently published article “Path to Citizenship Will Lead Members to Your Door” in Credit Union Magazine.
With an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S., immigration reform will have a tremendous impact on the economy — particularly the financial services industry. Like many American businesses and organizations, credit unions stand to benefit from an immigration reform bill, particularly as it relates to helping immigrants as they travel the path to citizenship. Credit union leaders who think strategically about membership growth can’t afford to ignore the important step many Americans are pushing their legislators to take.
In the most basic sense, credit unions will find a completely new market for lending products in the wake of immigration reform.
Here’s how: Today, the filing fee for the application to naturalization through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has reached $680 per person, and families often have several individuals going through the process at once. Unfortunately, this can be the least of the all the necessary expenses, which may include filing fees for temporary residence, permanent residency or legal fees. In fact, some families pay upwards of $10,000 when all is said and done for just one individual to adjust his or her immigration status.
Whereas U.S.-born consumers may not think twice about using traditional financial institutions to save and borrow to pay for fees associated in gaining citizenship, a Hispanic immigrant may not think this is even an option. With check-cashers, money order providers, and friends or family fronting loans, credit unions often are not even considered by Hispanic immigrants.
Credit unions can change this — now is the perfect time for Hispanics to be introduced to the credit union difference.
A critical first step is establishing trust. Credit unions must work within their local communities to begin to build the relationships that will grow over time. Credit unions already working with Hispanic communities certainly have a leg up — grassroots community initiatives often yield a higher return than extensive media campaigns.
One of the best grassroots efforts to start with is culturally relevant financial education sessions that take into account how Hispanic immigrants handle their money today and shows them better alternatives that help them achieve financial success. These are particularly beneficial for credit unions looking to serve immigrant families who are not only going through the immigration and naturalization process, but who are simply going through the stages of life that require a sound financial partner.
It’s this kind of outreach that ultimately allows credit unions to plant the seeds of trust that grow into loyal, life-long memberships.Leave a comment