As the child of Mexican immigrants, I grew up in a household that was unique in many ways from those of my friends and peers. One of the differences was that my parents paid bills, saved money and accessed credit outside the traditional financial system. Hindsight being what it is, I can now see how much of an influence those financial choices had on my eventual career path.
Although it came with challenges, my non-traditional American childhood absolutely empowered me. Today, I feel so fortunate to be living out my passion – introducing more Hispanic consumers to the life-changing benefits of becoming a credit union member.
What’s equally exciting to me is introducing more organizations to benefits of serving Hispanic consumers. As I travel the country, talking with credit unions, colleges and other consumer-centric organizations, I’m learning so much about how perceptions continue to shape reality.
One of the perceptions that Coopera colleagues and I are working hard to reshape is this idea the Hispanic market is homogenous. In fact, there are many nuances to the culture. Let’s take a look at a few…
Acculturation, Language & Immigration Spectrums
Acculturation describes how quickly an individual or set of individuals adopts the behaviors, beliefs/values and attitudes of a new culture in addition to their native culture. The spectrum goes from un-acculturated through semi-acculturated to fully acculturated.
It’s critically important for marketers and others to understand where their target market resides on the spectrum. For instance, a credit union that believes it is best suited to serving semi- or fully acculturated Hispanics will want to know members of these two segments prefer TV and print media outlets, while radio is important for the un-acculturated. In terms of product development, credit cards are common among fully acculturated Hispanics, but that is far from true for un-acculturated individuals.
In addition to behaviors, values and attitudes, there’s also a spectrum of language preferences that vary from Spanish to bilingual to English. Immigration status, too, changes from recent arrival to established resident to U.S. born. All of these characteristics and preferences impact the way Hispanic consumers value (or don’t value) financial services to the quality of their lives.
Financial Attitudes and Behaviors
There is tremendous opportunity for credit unions to foster trust and expand the financial education of some Hispanic community segments. Saving for retirement, seeking financial advice, long-term goals, personal debt and financial confidence are areas that require special concentration across segments of the Hispanic market. Here again, however, there are differences between groups within the culture.
This is why it’s so important to view the results of national studies, surveys and indexes with a grain of salt. Take, for instance, an extensive study of more than 1,000 Hispanic individuals between 25 – 70 with incomes of $25K or higher.
Here are just a few of the findings from that particular national study:
–More than half indicated a poor or very poor understanding of workplace-based retirement plans.
–Half of respondents expressed a preference for Spanish communication and materials.
–Respondents with lower incomes and those born outside of the U.S. place higher priority on funding near-term goals such as education for their children.
When reviewing national studies, be mindful of the word “half.” Let it serve as a reminder of the great diversity that lies within the U.S. Hispanic community. If a particular study finds half of its respondents prefer Spanish, for instance, that could mean the other half did not.
The biggest take away: It’s critically important to understand your local market needs. Like much of the general population, Hispanic consumers strive to improve their financial situation. At the same time, acculturation, language, immigration status and other characteristics such as age, income and country of birth, have a huge influence on how that value is applied day-to-day.
While the Hispanic population continues to grow, it will continue to change. As you approach strategic planning season, consider whether your credit union could benefit from a local market study of the influential Hispanic consumers in the communities you serve.Leave a comment