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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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    Connect With Hispanic Members and Staff During National Hispanic Heritage Month

    Posted by on September 10, 2018

    National Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), a celebration of Hispanic and Latino culture, heritage and contributions, begins September 15 and continues through October 15 each year.

    The celebration starts on September 15 because on that day in 1821, five Latin American countries declared their independence: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18 and September 21, respectively.

    HHM presents a great opportunity for credit unions to connect with and support their Hispanic members and staff. Here are a few examples:

    • Altura Credit Union in Riverside, Calif., recognizes HHM by promoting a variety of community festivals, contest and events on its website. The credit union also made a $600,000 pledge to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry at the Riverside Art Museum earlier this year.
    • Idaho Central Credit Union in Chubbuck, Idaho, sponsors several activities during HHM, including Fiestas Patrias (Mexico’s Independence Day celebration), an All About the Dress Expo and a Latino Expo.
    • 1st Bergen Federal Credit Union in Hackensack, N.J., hosted a HHM celebration where the credit union shared its commitment to serve and empower members of the Hispanic community. The event included music and dancing, refreshments and special promotions, including low-interest loans, savings accounts and checking accounts.

    Another way to celebrate HHM is to create a way for your Hispanic staff and members to share stories about their favorite traditions from their countries of origin. Along those lines, we thought it would be fun to share a bit about where the Coopera team came from and our favorite traditions from those countries.

    Kenia Calderon, Coopera’s Client Relationship Consultant

    El Salvador Peace Band

    El Salvador’s peace bands play during the Independence Day parades.

    What is your country of origin?
    I was born and raised in El Salvador.

    What is your favorite tradition?
    My favorite tradition from El Salvador is our Independence Day celebration.

    On September 15, K-12 students participate in the Independence Day marches/parades that take place across the country. People line up along the sidewalks to watch the parade. Each school has its own theme, uniform, music and acts. My siblings and I participated every year. The first time I participated, I was in charge of holding our national flower. The following year, I was a tambourine player. The marches typically take place downtown, and we probably marched more than five miles.

    What do you enjoy most about HHM?
    I miss El Salvador a great deal, so HHM is very important to me because I get to celebrate where I come from along with other Latin Americans. Every year, I learn something new from other countries’ traditions and history. HHM is also our opportunity to teach Hispanic Americans about their family’s culture to develop a sense of pride and celebrate their roots.

    Tania Perez, Coopera’s Client Support Specialist

    Mexico Bullfight

    The bullfight is one the main attractions at the traditional San Marcos National Fair.

    What is your country of origin?
    I am both Mexican and Salvadoran.

    What is your favorite tradition?
    It’s so difficult to choose one but La Feria de San Marcos has always piqued my interest.

    My father is from Aguascalientes, Mexico, host of the San Marcos National Fair. It started off as a cattle and harvest fair and is now an international event. There are many exhibitions to enjoy, including bullfighting, which has an important history in the city of Aguascalientes. The fair takes place in April and May. My family who owns a taco business in the city says that many businesses close earlier in the day or close for a couple days to celebrate the fair.

    What do you enjoy most about HHM?
    What I enjoy most is the simple fact that it is a month dedicated to all Latino cultures. We often forget to include representation of many Latin American countries. HHM is a time where you see celebrations with various countries being represented, either through food or dances.

    Victor Miguel Corro, Coopera’s Client Relations Director

    Panama Water Soak

    La Mojadera is a water hose soak during Los Carnavales in Panama.

    What is your country of origin?
    Panama

    What is your favorite tradition?
    Los Carnavales (Carnival)

    During the four days prior to the start of Lent, the Catholic holiday, the whole country comes to a complete stop for Los Carnavales. In many towns, large and small, there is is a full-throttle celebration with parades, floats, queens, music, dancing and costumes.

    Festivities include both traditional Spanish and Panamanian customs. The most distinct and fun tradition is “La Mojadera” – a water hose soak. Water tank trucks soak the crowd for hours, along with loud music, entertainment and plenty of Seco, a sugarcane-based spirit and Panama’s national drink. The tradition is undoubtedly inspired by the hot tropical weather. La Mojadera goes on until the early hours of the afternoon, when the crowds go home to take a short nap before preparing to dance the night away and start all over the next day.

    Miriam De Dios Woodward, Coopera’s CEO

    Jalisco Fair Queen

    The fair queen is crowned during the annual Fiestas in El Grullo, Jalisco.

    What is your country of origin?
    Mexico

    What is your favorite tradition?
    My favorite tradition is the annual Fiestas of my hometown of El Grullo, Jalisco. The festivities begin with a religious celebration on January 1 dedicated to Santa Maria de Guadalupe, followed by a two-week fair. The religious celebration includes a processional to the church at the top of the hill in town, singing “las mañanitas” to Santa Maria de Guadalupe, a parade with religious floats and other festivities.

    As the religious celebration draws to a close on January 12, a special pilgrimage is held to welcome back “los hijos ausentes” or the “absent children” who live away from town. That night, “la farola,” a cart with a lamp post symbolizing an old way of making public announcements is pushed down the streets of town with a live band and processional of people, announcing the start of the fair. The fair activities that follow include bull riding, concerts, enjoying a variety of food stands, carnival games, parades, traditional dances and the crowning of the fair queen.

    Las Fiestas represent a time for family and friends to gather from near and far to share in the tradition that was started many generations ago. To this day, my family continues the pilgrimage to El Grullo during the time of Las Fiestas.

    What do you enjoy most about HHM?
    I enjoy attending the various events that celebrate the diversity in the Hispanic culture and the opportunity to highlight the contributions of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S.

    As you can see, Latin American countries are rich with culture and traditions. Finding ways to celebrate HHM and giving your members and staff an opportunity to share stories from their countries of origin are great ways to learn from each other to build a more inclusive community.

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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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    Creating a More Inclusive Industry: Lessons for Credit Unions

    Posted by on January 22, 2018

    In its 2017 Diversity Report, Financial Solutions Lab (FinLab) provided an update on its efforts to create a more inclusive financial services industry. Managed by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) with founding partner JPMorgan Chase & Co., FinLab seeks to identify, test and bring to scale promising innovations to improve financial health in America. The program is dedicated to supporting and encouraging diversity within the early-stage fintech space.

    “As an investor and supporter of early-stage startups, we believe that diverse teams simply build better products,” writes CFSI FinLab Senior Manager Maria Lajewski in the report. “By having a more comprehensive understanding of the market, diverse teams are more likely to build products that address the needs of a broad swath of consumers, including those who are historically underserved. And it’s those companies that are much more likely to grow and scale to reach millions of customers.”

    Below are a couple interesting findings Lajewski shares in the report:

    Of the 57 percent of Americans who struggle with their financial health, some segments of the population – including low-income women and people of color – struggle disproportionately.

    Of the 78 FinLab applicants who self-identified as targeting at least one underserved community, 32 had not yet raised any capital and 22 had raised less than $500,000. However, the average amount of capital raised across the total applicant pool was $630,000.

    LESSONS FOR CREDIT UNIONS

    FinLab’s findings and work to create a more inclusive industry are relevant to credit unions in several ways. Here are a few key takeaways:

    Consider extending credit to startups. The FinLab report reveals many early-stage companies, especially those serving underserved communities, struggle securing investment capital. With their community focus and “people helping people” philosophy, credit unions are well-suited to help meet that need. As reported in Inc., Apple may exist today because co-founder Steve Wozniak was able to get a loan from his credit union while the company was still based in a garage. Talk about a feather in that credit union’s cap.

    Educate staff and community. Throughout FinLab’s eight-month program, the organization brings in a wide range of people and experiences to help founders deepen their understanding of the financial challenges low-income and underserved consumers face. FinLab also organizes dinners to discuss how to build diverse organizational teams and culturally relevant products for underserved communities. Credit unions could easily adopt similar models to educate their employees and community members.

    Host “day-in-the-life” events. During a workshop called FinX, FinLab participants go into a local community to perform a series of real-time financial transactions, such as cashing a check, buying and loading a prepaid card and sending a money order. Here again, credit unions could organize similar activities to help their staff better understand the challenges faced by the underserved in their communities. Coopera coordinates similar activities through its Coopera Immersion Program. Our staff guide credit union team members through a series of exercises designed to give them a better idea of what life is like for the underserved in their communities.

    “While we understand these issues are multifaceted and will never be solved in a single conversation over dinner, creating a safe space and the opportunity to have these discussions is one way that we can regularly check our individual and collective blind spots,” writes Lajewski. “Where are the missed partnership opportunities or design decisions that could open up your customer base to those who have the most to gain from your product? It takes a little extra effort to make sure we’re creating a safe space to discuss these kinds of questions, but it’s an investment we’re willing to make.”

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