Remittances Can Help Credit Unions Serve Hispanics

Posted by on October 1, 2013

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.

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