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  • Credit Unions Build Cultural Bridges, Not Barriers to Serve the Hispanic Community

    Posted by on March 22, 2019

    Hispanic Heritage Month

    Credit unions are known by the communities they serve and their outreach efforts to make members, not customers, an active part of the institution. “People over profit” is, after all, the credit union mantra.

    More credit unions are actively reaching out to Hispanic communities in attempts to include them as valued members of their financial families. The most successful credit unions embrace the Hispanic community’s unique nature in ways that create a blended community of both the Hispanic and credit union cultures. It’s a better methodology than assuming that one size – specifically that of the credit union – fits all.

    There’s a need among Hispanic families for affordable and accessible financial services.  More than 16 percent of the Hispanic population is unbanked, according to data released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. An additional 30 percent of those families are underbanked, meaning they rely on often costly services provided by payday lenders, check cashers and remittance transfer providers instead of financial institutions. But there is a better way.

    With their hyper local roots and service focus, credit unions have a natural advantage over banks when serving the Hispanic community. Credit unions that seek to understand and embrace aspects of those cultures into their own institutional DNA will have the best luck providing Hispanic members with critical financial services.

    At Coopera, we’ve helped numerous credit unions serve Hispanic members and have seen both the most and least successful of those efforts. A credit union that builds its service profile around one Spanish-speaking staff member – no matter what level of employee they are – may have the hardest time merging cultures. The designated individual may be very effective, but the rest of the institution’s culture likely will not have changed to meet Hispanic member needs. What’s more, if the Spanish-speaker were to leave, chances are those Hispanic members may follow.

    We’ve seen other misfires by credit unions that haven’t identified a specific reason to serve the Hispanic community. Clearly identifying a service goal gives the credit union a foundation on which to build its relationship, as well as a distinct identity in the minds of those members. Some credit unions have told us they want to help their Hispanic members build good credit, while others have said they want to assist members in affording their first homes. In either case, the goal builds the foundation.

    In the best cases, ongoing communications between Hispanic members and the institution – and within the institution itself – have resulted in effective service programs and welcoming environments that strategically intersect with the Hispanic community and make those members feel valued, understood and taken care of. As in all cases, the more you understand about the people and culture you’re trying to serve, the more successful that service will be.

    Hispanic community members often define relationships within the context of family and isn’t that what credit unions do as well? The successful blend of those families will benefit all.

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    What Credit Unions Can Learn from the Travel Industry’s Hispanic Experience

    Posted by on February 5, 2019

    With snow blanketing the ground and cold winds swirling the arctic air, few things sound better than summer vacation. Can you feel the sun-warmed sand between your toes?

    Your Hispanic members feel the same way. In fact, summer is when most of them travel for leisure or home to visit family and friends. But now is the time to plan and reserve the services they need to travel comfortably. We’ve noted this before, but the trend is even more prevalent when it comes to travel, Hispanics prefer to research and book their travel primarily online or through mobile applications.

    Hispanic travelers comprise a large market for travel companies. As one of the fastest growing U.S. demographics, Hispanics spend $56 billion annually in leisure travel, according to the National Tour Association. In addition, 79 percent of Hispanics take at least one vacation per year, while 17 percent take three trips per year. Hispanics have many emotional ties to their country of origin, so they are very likely to go back even a couple of times a year when they can.

    So, what are the travel companies doing to win the business of Hispanics?

    The key to usage and growth of the travel industry’s Hispanic market has been to have a Spanish-language website that caters to Hispanic members’ cultural needs. More hotels, airlines and other travel industry members have added these sites, and their profits have grown because of it.

    Take the airline JetBlue. Six weeks after deploying a Spanish mobile website, the airline’s Hispanic traffic grew by 80 percent. Since then revenue from Hispanics visiting the site has grown 300 percent, enrollment in JetBlue’s loyalty program grew 200 percent and nearly 50 percent of all Hispanic customers visit the site via mobile devices.

    The data makes it clear that establishing Spanish-speaking and culturally friendly sites is an investment that pays off. For credit unions, that means creating online sites and mobile applications that segments within their Hispanic membership want.

    In addition, you may want to consider improving your search engine optimization so that Hispanics looking for financial institutions find your credit union first, as well as making localized on-site searches easier. And don’t forget that many legal names include a tilde and/or accent mark. Your site must accept those symbols, especially since exact spellings are important to matching travelers’ valid IDs.

    Making it easier for Hispanics to learn about your financial services in their preferred language, will make them much more loyal to you in the future. Just ask JetBlue.

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    Let Member Metrics Drive Your Hispanic Market Development Strategy

    Posted by on November 27, 2018

    The most successful credit unions clearly understand the needs of the members they’re serving. In many cases, member analytics are at the heart of the strategies used to reach those members and meet those needs.

    Analytics are especially important when it comes to serving Hispanics – either those who already are credit union members or those who have yet to become members. Understanding those markets through member data collected and interpreted by our team of experts at Coopera, helps credit unions effectively attract, recruit and ultimately, meet those members’ needs.

    We’ve noted before that Hispanics comprise one of the fastest growing U.S. demographic segments, with one out of every six U.S. residents citing Hispanic origins. This group accounts for more than $1 trillion in buying power, and yet roughly half are unbanked or underserved. Hispanics present a prime opportunity for credit union service, one that will only grow over time.

    Moreover, it’s one thing to bring Hispanics through your doors and another to involve them in your full menu of services. Analytics can tell a credit union key characteristics about their Hispanic members that can be used to determine the type of services they need and want the most. Ultimately, the credit union has the information to develop a strategy to successfully foster membership growth and product engagement from their Hispanic market.

    Our team has developed tools that can sort Hispanic members into various groups, ranging from country of origin to socio-economic strata, that enable credit unions to better understand their members.

    Our team of experts analyze the data using a variety of assessment tools. Our Hispanic Target Market Analysis looks at Hispanic populations within a credit union’s various branch areas, making service recommendations for primary and secondary Hispanic target markets based on numerous socio-economic indicators. We also utilize our Hispanic Member Analysis tool to measure the product and service usage of existing Hispanic credit union members, as well as their language preference.

    Many credit unions begin their journey with our Hispanic Opportunity Navigator, which uses analytical data to create a literal roadmap for serving Hispanic populations. The data collected helps us create a suggested strategic development plan customized for each individual credit union.

    These tools and the strategies reach beyond a credit union’s marketing initiative and helps executive teams establish success metrics that can help drive the institution’s future growth. Individualized guidance and the ability to approach the Hispanic market on a more holistic level is where our services differ from those of mere data collection firms.

    Some credit unions still harbor concerns about the time, cost and effort it will take to serve what may be for them an unfamiliar market, many of whose members speak a different language. But with the right analytic tools this can be less of a challenge than they might think.

    Serving Hispanics is something many credit unions have yet to understand, but it’s not something they will never understand. Because of the cultural and language differences, that service may require an augmented development strategy that operates a little differently than the institution’s mainstream strategic plan.

    Fortunately, the return on investment for credit unions that have pursued the Hispanic market has been the most successful segment of the institution’s overall development plan. Using analytics is the best way to start that journey, or support a journey already underway to reach and serve this rapidly growing demographic.

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    Enhance Your Service to the Hispanic Market by Learning Something New During Hispanic Heritage Month

    Posted by on September 24, 2018

    Hispanic Heritage MonthThe theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 to October 15, is “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions.” Hispanic Heritage Month is an ideal time to check in on your credit union’s plans to enhance its service to the increasingly influential Hispanic market.

    During Hispanic Heritage Month, make it a point to learn something new about the Hispanic members in your cooperative, as well as those who have yet to be exposed to the credit union difference.

    Below are a few questions you may consider asking consumers on your quest to learn more. 

    Is the immigration process part of your financial journey?

    Although most of the 58 million Hispanics living in the U.S. are native-born Americans — and nearly three in four are U.S. citizens — there are nearly 20 million foreign-born Hispanics living and working in the U.S.

    Many foreign-born Hispanic individuals have gone through the immigration process to obtain U.S. citizenship, and many others are working on adjusting their status. Others may not be eligible for U.S. immigration status at this time.

    The immigration process is a time-intensive and costly one, as well as a major part of the lives of many Hispanic immigrants. Credit unions are in an ideal position to help members going through this process with both financial tools and education.

    In addition, simply understanding how complicated the process is and welcoming individuals of all backgrounds at your credit union can go a long way toward building lasting relationships, establishing trust and making people feel welcome and comfortable becoming part of your cooperative.

    Although credit unions exist to serve, they must also be sustainable. And, as many are discovering, the immigrant Hispanic profile exemplifies the ideal credit union member. This is especially evident when you consider how Hispanics in the U.S. are driving economic growth.

    Which is your preferred language?

    Often, credit union leaders interested in adapting their programs for Hispanic consumers are overwhelmed by the misperception they have to begin by translating into Spanish every piece of communication, including websites and disclosures. Thankfully, this is not the case.

    It’s true many Hispanics, both U.S. and foreign born, prefer to speak Spanish. In fact, more than 37 million Hispanics speak Spanish at home. Yet, a strategic Hispanic growth plan begins by identifying the specific needs of the community and the particular target market a credit union is trying to reach. Initial Spanish-language materials (or better yet, bilingual materials) will only be required for those introductory products and services, and of course, member communications deemed essential to the strategic Hispanic member growth plan.

    Often, Spanish-speakers tend to be the foreign-born population, which is also the most untapped and unbanked group. There is a reason large financials like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank offer Spanish-language services across all of their channels and even why the government continues to introduce more Spanish-language services and materials. Everyone is trying to reach the most untapped groups because they present the greatest growth opportunity for the majority of businesses.

    How can our products improve your financial life?

    Hispanic use of top financial products has grown by double-digits over the past five years and outpaced non-Hispanics. Mortgages have grown 30 percent among Hispanics (compared to 9 percent among non-Hispanics) and auto loans have grown 31 percent among Hispanics (compared to 1 percent among non-Hispanics).

    Hispanics are the only demographic in the U.S. to have increased their rate of homeownership for the last three consecutive years. What’s more, 9 percent of Hispanics are planning to buy a house in the next 12 months, compared to 6 percent of non-Hispanics.

    The number of cars purchased by Hispanics in the U.S. is projected to double in the period between 2010 and 2020. It’s estimated that new car sales to Hispanics will grow by 8 percent over the next five years, compared to a 2 percent decline among the total market.

    In short, there are many present and future needs among Hispanic communities for the types of products and services credit unions are uniquely positioned to provide. Understanding those needs can go a long way toward crafting an effective onboarding program.

    Being all things to all people is rarely a good strategy, particularly for credit unions that pride themselves on truly knowing their members and providing custom, personalized experiences. The key is to ensure your products and services are culturally relevant and meet the needs of the community. If products aren’t adapted to the market, they will not resonate. The good news is you only have to repackage what you have instead of starting from scratch

    To grow, credit unions must make a strategic effort to learn as much as possible about the youngest, fastest growing and most untapped consumer segment in the U.S. The celebration of Hispanic heritage going on right now presents the perfect opportunity to do precisely that.

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    Helping Hispanic Students Pursue STEM Careers

    Posted by on August 27, 2018

    STEM Careers

    According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are booming, with 24.4 percent growth over the last decade. Yet, not enough students are pursuing degrees and careers in the STEM fields to meet the increasing demand. There are currently two STEM job openings for every qualified job seeker.

    The lack of STEM representation is even more prevalent among Hispanics, who although account for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population, only represent about 7 percent of the STEM workforce.

    STEM workers enjoy a pay advantage compared with non-STEM workers with similar levels of education. Therefore, increasing the number of Hispanic students pursuing STEM degrees is one way to promote the continued socioeconomic mobility of Hispanic families in the U.S.

    There are likely many factors that play a part in the underrepresentation of Hispanic students pursuing STEM – lack of information or academic resources, unfamiliarity of STEM opportunities among parents, etc.

    However, according to a July 2018 study from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, a lot also has to do with finances. The study found that university students from low-income families who were offered need-based grant aid were 7.87 percentage points more likely to declare a STEM major than similar peers, representing a 42 percent increase.

    What does this mean for credit unions?

    The Hope Center study means credit unions have the opportunity to impact the number of Hispanic students who are pursuing STEM careers. This can be accomplished by connecting members with a variety of college savings products and opportunities – supported by culturally relevant financial education for parents and children. Consider the following opportunities:

    • 529 college savings plans. These savings plans are tax-advantaged college savings vehicles and one of the most popular ways to save for college today. Much like the way 401(k) plans revolutionized the world of retirement savings a few decades ago, 529 college savings plans have revolutionized the world of college savings.

    • Coverdell ESA plans. These savings vehicles are often used as supplements to 529 plans or other savings vehicles because they only allow parents to invest a maximum of $2,000 in them each year.

    • UGMA/UTMA accounts. Parents or grandparents can also set up custodial accounts available under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) or Unified Gift to Minors Act (UGMA). These accounts allow parents or grandparents to invest as much as they would like each year and in total. However, these investments are not tax-free like they are with 529 plans and Coverdell plans.

    • College savings reward programs. Consider ways you might be able to help members save for college through purchases they’re already making. Can you offer credit card points or cash back that go toward a 529 plan or college savings account?

    • Separate savings accounts. Perhaps the easiest solution for members is to set up a savings account dedicated to college savings and keep it separate from other accounts. Encourage members to set up automatic contributions and bolster the contributions anytime they receive a raise, bonus or other financial influx.

    • Scholarships. Providing a scholarship may be just the financial – and confidence – boost a deserving high school student needs to attend college and pursue a STEM career. Just look at Gabriel Hernandez, who received a scholarship from JetStream Federal Credit Union, made possible by the Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant. In his scholarship essay, Hernandez wrote, “I know that I will succeed in college, but this scholarship will show me that others believe in me, too.”

    No matter how your members plan to pay for college, it’s important that they save early and often. Consider offering educational classes and information – in both English and Spanish – to communicate the importance of saving for college and share resources to make it easier. The more financially prepared they are, the more likely it is they will go to college and pursue their dream career – STEM or otherwise.

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    Optimizing the Hispanic Digital Experience

    Posted by on July 31, 2018

    Digital transformation is the new buzz phrase across many industries, including financial services. And while optimizing consumers’ experience should be the focus of digital transformation, a successful strategy isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s important for credit union leaders to recognize that different consumer segments have different needs and wants when it comes to their use of digital tools.

    A new eMarketer study, U.S. Hispanics and Digital, reveals some of the unique digital characteristics of the Hispanic consumer segment. According to the study, the Hispanic “digital divide” has mostly closed, with about eight in 10 Hispanics now using the Internet.

    However, fewer than half of Hispanics have home broadband and nearly a quarter of Hispanic Internet users don’t own a computer. Meanwhile, nearly seven in 10 Hispanics have a smartphone, and their daily time spent using mobile (3 hours) is more than an hour higher than non-Hispanics.

    Digital video is popular among Hispanics, with 47 percent (vs. 32 percent of total respondents) saying they use streaming services such as Netflix more than they watch traditional TV. Additionally, Pew Research Center’s January polling identified 78 percent of Hispanic adults as YouTube viewers, compared to 73 percent of total adults.

    Hispanics also tend to be active on social media. Nearly two-thirds use social media, and about half are on Facebook. Data also suggests Hispanics are less likely than others to have a negative view of digital advertising.

    With these findings in mind, below are some best practices for credit union leaders to consider for enhancing the Hispanic digital experience.

    Optimize for mobile. Make sure your website and digital banking tools are mobile-friendly to accommodate Hispanics’ smartphone-centric behaviors. If your credit union doesn’t have a mobile app, consider implementing one.

    Opt for speed over complexity. Because many Hispanics don’t have home broadband and likely rely on their smartphone carrier data to access the Internet, make sure your website and digital banking tools aren’t overly complex. Large photos and fancy animations are fun but can be difficult to load on a phone that’s not connected to WiFi.

    Prioritize video. Video’s ability to grab consumers’ attention, create immersive experiences and spark engagement makes it a powerful means of communication, especially with Hispanics who over-index on digital video usage. Consider making video a key focus of your Hispanic marketing efforts.

    Adjust advertising budgets. Because Hispanics tend to use digital video and social media more than they watch traditional TV, advertising on places like YouTube, Facebook, and other mobile channels may be a better use of advertising dollars. The average cost of a 30-second primetime television commercial during the 2016-2017 season was $2,500. Think for a minute (or 30 seconds) about how many mobile and social media ads your credit union could deliver with that kind of investment.

    As with any Hispanic outreach strategy, the most important thing to keep in mind in your digital transformation journey is that different segments should not be treated as a single, undifferentiated market. Understanding various consumer segments and how they engage digitally is the first step to providing an exceptional consumer experience.

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    Through Partnerships (and Great Videos) Ascentra Credit Union Accelerates Financial Education Initiative

    Posted by on June 18, 2018

    Continuing our series of blog posts providing updates on 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund grant recipients, today we’re following up with Ascentra Credit Union in Bettendorf, Iowa.

    To fully understand the reason Ascentra Credit Union is using its grant funds the way it is, it’s helpful to consider two important stats:

    •  90 percent of Hispanic consumers stream video on their mobile devices.

    •  7 in 10 Hispanics regularly use YouTube.

    With the grant funds, the credit union has translated 16 video scripts into Spanish for a series of financial education videos. Not only are these videos available on Ascentra’s YouTube channel, they have also been airing on its local NBC affiliate, KWQC-TV, serving the Quad Cities area of southeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois. The videos are available on the television station’s website, as well.

    In addition, the grant funds enabled Ascentra to add Spanish subtitles to their existing financial education videos.

    “The Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant has been instrumental in providing lasting and ongoing content in Spanish for Ascentra’s Financial Wellness program,” said Alvaro Macias, Ascentra AVP of community development. “We are now in the process of working with our local Spanish/English newspaper Hola America News to use their social media channels to share these informative one-minute videos to effectively reach local Spanish-speakers.”

    Ascentra is also offering a series of financial education presentations in partnership with Esperanza Legal Assistance Center, a low-cost immigration service provider. The grant provided the funds needed to translate three presentations into Spanish. Spanish-language flyers were distributed throughout the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in which the center is located, and the content was also used to promote the seminar on Facebook.

    “We have plans to further utilize the translation services; we have some brochures that need to be translated and are planning to re-launch our website later this year,” Marcias said. “Our goal is to have the entire website available in Spanish.”

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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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    Credit Union Adds Three Fresh Perspectives in One New Board Member

    Posted by on August 2, 2016

    Achieving a variety of inclusivity and diversity objectives is becoming more important for credit union boards of directors. One such board is that of Community 1st Credit Union in Ottumwa, Iowa. The Juntos Avanzamos-designated credit union recently welcomed Edith Cabrera-Tello to its board.
    Edith brings a unique perspective to the credit union’s leadership as the youngest director, as well as the only female and the only Latina on the board. We had the chance to sit down with Edith to chat about her appointment, as well as her insight on the important role credit unions play in the formation of good financial habits for today’s consumers.

    Eidth Linked InHow long have you been a member and board member of Community 1st?

    I’ve been a member of the credit union since 2011 and a board member since January 2016.

    What is your view of credit unions as a financial option for the Hispanic community?

    When my husband and I wanted to start our own business, we asked our bank for help. They denied our application for a loan. We then went to a credit union and received the support we were looking for. That’s when I learned more about credit unions and the services they offered.
    I also worked for a school as the Hispanic community outreach coordinator at the time. We would offer workshops and occasionally had someone from a credit union come talk about personal finances. That was a great opportunity for those in our community who are immigrants learn how credit unions could help us. They open doors for individuals simply by accepting an ITIN number (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). The credit union we worked with also provided financial support to make the workshops happen. That’s something no bank had offered to do.

    What changes have you seen in how Community 1st serves its members and specifically its Hispanic members since you’ve been a board member?

    I have noticed how many more services the credit union is working to make more inclusive for our community. ITIN lending has been quite beneficial, but they are not stopping there. They are continuing to look for ways to improve. The leadership has hired the right people to assist the community, too, which is incredibly important.

    How has the work with Coopera and receiving the Juntos Avanzamos designation impacted outreach to the Hispanic community?

    The designation is not only helping the Hispanic community; it’s helping everyone in our area. A lot of that has to do with awareness and exposure to new things. Take for example, board members working to properly pronounce Juntos Avanzamos. You can see their desire to do so correctly. They have seen the importance of the designation and all the efforts that come with it. They understand that the better we serve our community, the greater return there will be on the investment.

    Could you describe your experience as a board member of a credit union from the moment you decided to volunteer until now?

    It’s been pretty good. I am the only woman, the youngest and the only Latina on the board. I feel comfortable, and the other board members help me when I need it. They have so many years combined experience, I am learning from them while hopefully they are learning from me. It’s been incredible to see how they take the time to help the credit union grow.

    What advice do you have for any potential Hispanic board members thinking about or having been approached to serve on the board of a credit union?

    We need diversity on credit union boards. Being involved on the board not only allows directors to have a say on decision making specific to the credit union; it also allows that individual to support the larger community.

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