Success Happens Over Time

Posted by on September 10, 2013

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.”

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