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  • How JetStream FCU Sent an Important Message to a Hispanic High School Student

    Posted by on February 19, 2018

    In September 2017, we announced seven Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions had received the 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant to continue their Hispanic outreach and community impact efforts. Over the next few months, we’ll be checking in with each of the credit unions and sharing updates on their progress.

    First up is JetStream Federal Credit Union in Miami Lakes, Florida.

    JetStream partnered with a local high school to select a deserving scholarship recipient. To qualify, the student needed to be a member of a Hispanic, low-income family and meet the following criteria: a 3.7 minimum GPA, a college in mind and an area of interest in business or finance.

    As a first step, JetStream chose Barbara Goleman Senior High as a partner. “We chose this high school because of its location, as well as its student body makeup,” said Vanessa Miranda, manager of HR and community outreach for JetStream. “The Barbara Goleman student makeup is 84 percent Hispanic.”

    (Left to right) JetStream FCU CEO Jeanne Kucey, Scholarship Winner Gabriel Hernandez, JetStream HR Manager Vanessa Miranda

    JetStream received many qualified applications, which included essay responses. With the help of several teachers and JetStream staff, they were able to select the winner: Gabriel Hernandez, a senior who will begin an accounting program at Florida International University in the fall.

    “Gabriel’s essay demonstrated his devotion to his academics,” said Miranda. “His long list of extra-curricular activities, as well as his academic achievements, truly stuck out from the rest. He has been an honors AP student since freshman year and has achieved a 4.9 weighted GPA. In addition, he is the captain of the soccer team and part of The National Honors Society.”

    Something else Jetstream says made Hernandez stand out was a strong commitment to his community. He has tutored immigrant students at a local high school, as well as volunteered his time to feed the hungry.

    Long-term, Hernandez plans to be an accountant or financial advisor. “I will be working with people and matching them to financial programs that will assist with their future,” Gabriel wrote in his essay. “Like JetStream’s motto, I believe that people matter most. I think that I could be an asset for both the consumer and the financial institution that hires me in the future.”

    In his essay, Hernandez also shared that he is concerned about how he will pay for college tuition and does not want to create further financial burdens for his parents.

    “We are very thankful that the Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant was awarded to JetStream, which allowed us to give a most valuable gift, the gift of education, to this deserving Hispanic student,” said Miranda. “I know this young man will go on to do amazing things. We feel honored that we were given the chance through this grant to aid him in achieving his goals and helping him see that the American dream is possible for everyone.”

    Hernandez closed his essay by writing, “I know that I will succeed in college, but this scholarship will show me that others believe in me, too.”

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    To Discover What You Have to Give, Put Yourself There

    Posted by on February 12, 2018

    Have you ever felt a calling to help, but you weren’t entirely clear what form that help should take? It’s a puzzle many credit union leaders confront. That’s because the credit union movement has rallied around the collective battle cry of “people helping people.” While most everyone working in or leading a credit union is aware of the mission, quite a few wonder, what exactly does “people helping people” look like in our cooperative? How can we live out the industry’s mission in our community? Who needs our help the most and how do we find them?

    The answers are clearer for some than others. Yet, even those with a solid giving-back plan in place often discover even more ways to contribute after they begin. The key, according to LiFE Federal Credit Union (LiFE FCU) CEO Dustin Fuller, is simply to put yourself in the place you believe you’re needed. The rest, he insists, usually happens naturally.

    Take Fuller’s recent credit union-sponsored mission trip, for instance. Fuller and LiFE FCU’s former chief lending officer (now CU Evolution CEO) Deke Alexander had a crystal clear vision for how their credit union employees could impact the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Modeling their outreach after traditional church-sponsored mission trips, the pair gathered a group of employees and credit union members together and organized a mission trip of their own.

    Fuller and Alexander had traveled to the Dominican Republic before, so they had an intimate understanding of the acute need for access to clean drinking water in many of the villages there. The plan, then, was to mobilize their group around the installation of water filters in two villages. As the group went about making their plans for the trip, one of the soon-to-be missionaries had an idea. A LiFE FCU business member, he is also a doctor who owns and operates Total Eyecare, a vision clinic in LiFE FCU’s hometown of Denton, Texas. What if, the doctor proposed, we bring eyeglasses along for the village elders, many of whom are likely experiencing loss of vision as they age? Everyone agreed it was an excellent idea, so they packed a suitcase full of glasses and brought it along to the Dominican Republic.

    The five-day mission trip was, as Fuller describes it, “an awesome experience that did some amazing things for the hearts of employees and members.” By the time the group was ready to head back to the U.S., they had installed two LifeStraw filters that were producing enough clean drinking water for 400 people in three villages. And, they had outfitted 72 elders with reading glasses.

    Even more exciting, however, were the unanticipated ways the group was able to impact the lives of the villagers. As they moved about the people and the environment over those five days, they discovered three other, absolutely unexpected, ways they could impact the lives of the people they came to help.

    The first surprise came as their van was leaving one particular village. From inside the vehicle, the doctor spotted a young girl sitting alone in front of her family’s home. He asked the driver to stop so he could go and talk with her. As it turns out, the girl had trouble seeing because one of her eyes wasn’t focusing properly. The impairment also affected the way she looked, and she was being teased by her schoolmates. The doctor had with him a lens he believed would help. When the little girl tried on the glasses, her eye immediately responded, straightening out instantly. “Her little face just lit up,” said Fuller, who witnessed the moment. “And her mother… you should have seen her. She hit her knees, bawling. She had never seen her daughter’s eyes straight in her entire life.”

    The second surprise came out of a conversation the LiFE FCU missionaries were having with a few of the village pastors. The topic was how to help people in these desolate villages develop their own healthy economies. The group began to talk about the cooperative financial model and how supporting them in the build of a community-based financial network could work. They also discussed the development of a micro-lending pool to finance a motorcycle. If equipped with a crate or two, the villagers could sell their now-clean drinking water in nearby villages. The income could be pooled and used in the case of a health emergency, to finance additional motorcycles or for any other needs that came up. According to CU Evolution’s Alexander, the elders in the village were excited about the concept and are beginning to work toward bringing the vision into reality. LiFE FCU is also looking forward to supporting them as they develop the micro-lending network.

    Lastly, the group learned that pastors in nearby villages were forced to travel 10 hours every month to get the proper training they needed to support their villages. If they had mobile devices, however, they would be able to participate in training sessions digitally, staying close to the people in their villages while also learning what they needed to become even more adept at serving them. Fuller called back home to another of LiFE FCU’s business members, SNAG Management, and asked if there was anything they could do. The member gave an emphatic yes, and shipped off five iPhone 5s to the village pastors within a week.

    What was so special about each of those three moments, Fuller points out, is that they could never have been predicted. They happened as a natural outgrowth of the group being physically present in a space and being open to the opportunities that presented themselves.

    “The pastor at our church often says, ‘You have to go through to grow through it,’” said Fuller. “What he means is you have to experience first-hand how the people you want to help are moving through their days. And it’s not just about experiencing the poverty; it’s about experiencing how the people live and then discovering how you’re uniquely gifted to help.

    “Too often, in our personal lives and in business, we get so wrapped up in the way things have always been done,” continued Fuller. “The same is true for giving. Unless we look out at the horizon and think about exploring something new, we can’t grow. We have to go through it to grow through it.”
    As credit unions and other organizations ponder how they may be able to have a positive impact on their communities this year, it may be wise to strategize by physically moving into a new space. Maybe it’s holding strategic planning sessions alongside a local church in an underserved area of town or hosting a financial education session at a shelter. By getting into a different space, you may discover entirely new ways to give back in 2018.

    Alexander acknowledges that “putting yourself there” can be scary. But, he says, acknowledging the fear and pushing past it is worth the effort. “The first time I was approached about going on a mission trip, I didn’t know if I wanted to go. It seemed like an incredible amount of work. I didn’t know the language. I wasn’t comfortable with the environment. Mostly, I didn’t understand how I was going to be able to contribute or what I even had to give. But I did it, and it changed me. I just had to sit there and let the people impact me. It’s not what you know, it’s how open you are to the experience.”

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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.


    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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    Finding Creative and Relevant Ways to Encourage Saving

    Posted by on December 18, 2017

    On a recent Freakonomics podcast episode, Is America Ready for a No-Lose Lottery, a professor at the Saïd School of Business specializing in consumer finance shared some interesting insights about consumers’ savings habits (or lack thereof). He surveyed nearly 10,000 people to see if they could come up with $2,000 in 30 days.

    “Why $2,000?” Tufano asked. “Because an auto transmission is about $1,500. Most estimates of everyday emergencies are about that order of magnitude… And then, why this language ‘come up with’ as opposed to ‘save?’ Because we wanted to see if people had access to resources between savings, credit, friends and family.

    What he found was that nearly half of Americans are not able to come up with $2,000 in 30 days. That means they are just one emergency or crisis away from dire circumstances.

    The study highlights the need for credit unions to encourage their members to save, really save. A number of financial services providers are finding creative ways to do just that by adapting to consumer behaviors, particularly those of low-income communities. Below are a couple examples.

    Prize-Linked Savings

    Twenty states currently allow prize-linked savings accounts as a way to encourage their residents to save. With this model, consumers deposit money in an account with an understanding they won’t receive interest on their deposits. Instead, the interest of all participants is pooled together and awarded as a large cash-based prize.

    This type of account appeals to certain segments of the population because of a phenomenon economists call “skewness.” Skewness is the idea that despite really poor odds, there is an almost irresistible appeal to the idea that with a low upfront investment, one big win could change your life. This phenomenon is illustrated by the nearly $60 billion Americans spend on lottery tickets every year.

    Prize-linked savings does carry a few roadblocks and concerns – namely, such a product is not yet legal in every state. Also, the product may be difficult for consumers to understand, particularly for underserved populations who may not even be familiar with the role of traditional financial institutions.

    However, if we can overcome those barriers, it may be an interesting product. As Freakonomics host Stephen Dubner said, “In a country where it’s easy to borrow your way to bankruptcy, where you can buy lottery tickets anytime you buy a loaf of bread, prize-linked savings is like a big neon billboard that turns a boring old savings account into an exaggeration of itself. Stick some money in here, it says, and you just might hit a big payday. And even if you don’t — well, your money still belongs to you.”

    Next-Generation Tandas

    Tanda is a Spanish term used to describe a savings and lending circle among family and friends that helps people reach financial goals. With more than 200 different names that vary from country to country, the concept of an “informal loan club” has been around for hundreds of years.

    Here’s an example of how it works: 10 friends and family members form a tanda. Each member gives $100 every week to the group’s organizer. At the end of 10 weeks, one participant gets the payout of $1,000. This continues until each member has received the payout. By working in a group in which others are counting on them, participants have motivation to stick with the plan. Tandas are particularly popular in Hispanic and immigrant communities in which a high level of value is placed on mutual trust among family and friends.

    To appeal to today’s increasing digital consumers, organizations such as eMoneyPool and PayPal are bringing the concept of a tanda into the digital world.

    eMoneyPool is a sharing community that operates much like a tanda except anyone can join in less than five minutes using a connected device. Unlike a traditional tanda that only includes family members and close friends, eMoneyPool offers a marketplace where participants can take part in a pool anytime with people from across the country. This means there will always be a pool available to meet their needs. With PayPal Money Pools, participants can create a page that lets others easily chip in for group gifts, special events and more.

    Whether prize-linked savings or next-generation tandas are the right path forward for your credit union, one thing is clear: There exists a real need among consumers, and particularly among Hispanics and other underserved communities, for creative and relevant savings options.

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    4 Credit Unions Apply Grant Funds to People, Partners & Education

    Posted by on November 27, 2017

    In October, I shared the plans of three Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant recipients specific to how they will use the funds earned. This post will take a look at four additional recipients of the grant, which is made possible by Coopera, CUNA and the National Credit Union Foundation. Each of the recipients is a Juntos Avanzamos-designated cooperative, a program taken to the national stage by the Federation.

    Ascentra Credit Union
    Ascentra will use the grant funds to continue growing and evolving its Hispanic outreach program and building community partnerships. This includes translating materials needed for upcoming presentations that will benefit the Esperanza Legal Assistance Center, a low-cost immigration services provider.

    “We have been building and evolving our program to accommodate our successful growth of Hispanic members,” said Alvaro Macias, Ascentra AVP of community development. “We also have an internal group of bilingual staff that meets 3-4 times a year and a community development advisory group that evolved out of our Latino Outreach Advisory Group. Today, we are positioning the credit union to build community partnerships that are mutually beneficial to members, other organizations and long-term sustainability of the credit union.”

    Santa Cruz Community Credit Union (SCCCU)
    With the grant funds, SCCCU will develop a new website and mobile access, offer more financial education sessions and Spanish-language seminars and help local Hispanic nonprofits with their financial inclusion efforts.

    “The Warren Morrow Grant will help us close the outreach gap by supplementing our budget for providing financial education to the Spanish-speaking community,” said SCCCU President/CEO Beth Carr. “Additionally, more nonprofits serving the Hispanic community here are being required by grant funders to include financial literacy and training in their grant proposals and programs. As a Juntos Avanzamos-certified credit union, we feel it is our responsibility to assist our community non-profits.”


    DC Federal Credit Union (DGEFCU)
    The grant will allow a young, Hispanic member service representative at DGEFCU to participate in the Cooperative Leaders Scholars Institute at this fall’s National Co-op IMPACT Conference.

    “This enhances our credit union’s current Hispanic growth strategy in a couple ways,” said DC FCU President/CEO Carla Decker. “First, it grows our staff’s professional competency and serves to retain talent. Second, the training will add another resource to a budding partnership opportunity with the potential for tremendous impact and further expansion of DGEFCU’s footprint.”


    JetStream Federal Credit Union
    JetStream will partner with a local high school to select a deserving scholarship recipient who is a member of a Hispanic low-income family and meets the following criteria: a 3.7 minimum GPA, a college in mind and an area of interest in business.

    “At JetStream, we feel the need to help the professionals of tomorrow by providing them with the tools they need today for a better future,” said Vanessa Miranda, manager of HR and community outreach for JetStream. “The grant will go directly into the hands of a deserving local Hispanic low-income student.”

    This collective of credit unions is proof the industry sees the Hispanic community as important to the future of the movement. Kudos to each of you for the continued effort to reach and serve this influential and growing segment.

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    Get to Know Kenia Calderon

    Posted by on November 6, 2017

    Continuing our get-to-know series, this blog post features Kenia Calderon, client relations associate for Coopera.

    How did you end up working for Coopera?

    In 2014, I participated in the Latina Leadership Initiative, a leadership program for young Latina women in Iowa. Miriam De Dios Woodward, Coopera’s CEO, presented about the opportunities in the underbanked and unbanked Hispanic market. I could relate to her presentation, as I grew up in an underbanked household. I was intrigued by the topic and by her personal story.

    I reached out to Miriam because I was interested in learning more about Coopera and her career path. I was a sophomore in college, unsure of what I wanted to do after graduation, and meeting Miriam gave me hope of someday finding a job that would make a positive impact in the Hispanic community. She was looking for a summer intern at the time, and I applied. Fortunately, I was offered the internship, and I’m still here, now serving as a client relations associate!

    What does your typical day look like?

    I work to ensure we are exceeding our partners’ and our own expectations. Assisting our clients through their Hispanic Growth Strategy is by far my favorite part. This comes in different forms, such as helping them find local resources, sharing my personal experiences and expertise during a consulting meeting or working together to create new staff training materials.

    I am constantly learning about our clients’ needs, objectives and culture. My daily goal is to help our clients get a step closer to becoming the preferred financial service provider for their local Hispanic community.

    What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

    “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

    This is a great reminder for someone like me who likes to be challenged and embraces change. My mind is always running too fast for my body to keep up. Therefore, I need to remind myself to slow down and ensure that I have the necessary resources, health and energy to keep going on this marathon called life.

    What gets you out of bed in the morning?

    My love for life and humanity. I’ve always devoted my time and energy to causes that matter. My position at Coopera is no different because we help our partners grow their organizations and improve the lives of my Hispanic community. Fortunately, I found a job that I love and enjoy every day.

    I also can’t stay still for very long, so staying in bed all day is not an option.

    What excites you the most about the future of financial services in the Hispanic market?

    The impact credit unions have yet to make. By meeting the needs of Hispanics in their communities and becoming their preferred financial services provider, credit unions will not only help Hispanics reach economic stability, but credit unions, themselves, will experience growth in membership, product usage, market penetration, etc. The opportunity is knocking on their doors; it is up to them to embrace this community in need.

    Where do you go/what do you do to get inspiration?

    Remember how I said I couldn’t stay still? Well, I coach an eighth-grade volleyball team, direct a Hispanic youth choir, volunteer with immigrant service organizations and meet with Hispanic high school students to talk about their college plans.

    I’m active in my local Hispanic/immigrant community because it took a village for me to graduate from college. Therefore, it is my duty to give back and invest my time in the future generation of Hispanic leaders. My community inspires me to continue moving forward as we reach new opportunities together.

    What is something unique about you most people wouldn’t know?

    I have a great appreciation for art. When I was younger, I took any opportunity I had to create things with my hands from pottery to paintings. My senior year in high school, I made All-State in Iowa for my diverse art portfolio. Art is the one aspect of my life that I enjoy the most as it forces me to slow down and relax. Most of my pieces showcase my culture, life experiences and Salvadoran background.

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    3 Credit Unions Set Sights on Next-Level Community Outreach

    Posted by on October 16, 2017

    The 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant will help seven credit unions continue their Hispanic outreach and community impact efforts. Named in honor of the late Warren Morrow, who dedicated his life and career to helping the underserved and empowering the Hispanic community, the grant is made possible by Coopera, CUNA and the National Credit Union Foundation. Each of the grant recipients is a Juntos Avanzamos-designated cooperative, a program taken to the national stage by the Federation.

    This post details how three of the grant recipients plan to allocate the funds. We will cover plans of the remaining four recipients in an upcoming post.

    Members Credit Union (MCU)
    With its grant funds, MCU will purchase two Spanish electronic seminar kits from CUNA and materials for financial education sessions with Hispanic youth. The credit union will then partner with local organizations to conduct the seminars.

    “Along with financial education, we will bring opportunity for membership in a safe, Hispanic-friendly financial cooperative where they will receive low-cost services that are relevant to their lives and financial counseling to help them meet their goals,” said Kathy Chartier, MCU president/CEO. “We often see members and potential members who are taken advantage of by large banks and predatory lenders. This program is specifically directed toward the Hispanic community with the goal of helping them improve their financial understanding and well-being.”

    Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union (NECCU)
    NECCU will use the grant funds to serve more of the Hispanic population within its community, including expanding outreach efforts to local schools and local organizations to help promote financial education.

    “NECCU offers a comprehensive level of bilingual financial services to impact the needs of our target market,” said NECCU President/CEO Sue Cuevas. “We integrate financial services with education to improve members’ financial competency. In addition to basic financial services, staff deliver one-on-one orientations to new members when they inquire about share savings or share certificates of deposit. This empowers members with tools to understand their financial situations, set goals and develop paths to asset building/ownership.”

    Point West Credit Union
    Point West has partnered with a local organization serving Hispanic families with a range of programs. The grant funds will allow a Point West employee to hold regular hours at the organization’s headquarters to assist Hispanic clients with account opening, lending needs and basic financial services and fiscal management.

    “Point West is endeavoring to engage the local Hispanic community where they live, work, socialize and seek assistance and services, while also testing a branching model outside of the traditional brick and mortar solutions,” said Steve Pagenstecher, Point West vice president of member experience. “By providing a full-service ATM coupled with an experienced and educated Point West employee, the goal is to increase access to an underserved community while driving Hispanic membership growth and financial outcomes for the community.”

    Please join me in congratulating each of these cooperatives for recognizing that serving the Hispanic community is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart business, as well.

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    Get to Know Miriam De Dios Woodward

    Posted by on October 2, 2017

    Although they have taken their own paths to get to Coopera, all of our employees share a common passion: reaching and serving the Hispanic market. Hear their stories and learn what makes them tick through this series of get-to-know blog posts, starting with our CEO, Miriam De Dios Woodward.

    How did you end up working for Coopera?

    By happenstance. I was working at John Deere Financial when I received a call from my former supervisor at State Farm Insurance. Her husband had started a company working with credit unions, and he was recruiting for the company’s first open position. I applied for the job, and that’s when I met Warren Morrow, Coopera’s founder. Warren’s vision for the future of Coopera was so captivating I felt I needed to become a part of what he was building. I was hired as the first employee of Coopera more than 10 years ago, and the rest is history.



    What does your typical day look like?

    My days can vary quite a bit, which I love. I might be traveling to visit one of our clients to facilitate a planning session with their leadership team. Or I might have a couple conference calls with our clients or one-on-one meetings with my team. I might review some of our communications drafts before they are published or talk to a reporter. I have exposure to all aspects of our business. I also really enjoy the time I have to think about the company’s future. How we can continue to stay ahead of our clients’ needs is always on my mind.

    What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

    I’ve received lots of great advice over the years. Some of my favorites have been: Be a selfless leader.Be humble.Remember that as a leader, people are always watching you. Have fun.

    What gets you out of bed in the morning?

    Sometimes it’s our cat meowing at the crack of dawn. Joking aside, it’s knowing that it’s a new day in which I have the opportunity to make a difference. I am fortunate to work for a mission-based organization where I can see how our work impacts the lives of people every day. My presentation to an organization can spark someone’s interest in becoming a champion for inclusion. Our consulting advice can prompt a client to offer a new lending program that serves people not served before. Possibilities like this motivate me.



    What excites you the most about the future of financial services in the Hispanic market?

    The vast opportunity at hand. Although we have worked with a variety of organizations over our decade of service, we really have yet to scratch the surface. Access to financial services is the key to empowering our Hispanic community, and we have a lot of work to do. Credit unions continue to have a unique disposition to serving the Hispanic community and becoming the preferred financial services provider for the Latino community. I am excited to help our industry pick up the pace and position credit unions as leaders in this space.

    What do you do to get inspiration?

    I love to travel with my husband, especially outside of the country. Going somewhere new inspires me to step outside of what I do every day, try new things, think more clearly and be more curious. I also like to read and listen to all sorts of content, from Simon Sinek’s daily notes to inspire to the Harvard Business Review’s publications. I also love to meet people for tea or lunch and connect with them, especially people outside of my industry.

    What is something unique about you most people wouldn’t know?

    Growing up, my family moved close to 20 times as we settled from our move from Jalisco, Mexico, to the U.S. Through my travels, I’ve been fortunate to see Pope Francis, climb a volcano, walk on a glacier and ride in a helicopter, among other adventures. On my bucket list is visiting every continent at least once.

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    This Is What Happens When Small CUs Think Big

    Posted by on September 26, 2017

    This article originally appeared on CUinsight

    Some of their best ideas come to them after hours, when the halls of the credit union are quiet and they’re free to think beyond the day-to-day business of serving members. That’s precisely when Dustin Fuller and Deke Alexander, executives for Living in Fulfillment Everyday (LiFE) Federal Credit Union in Denton, Texas, began to wonder aloud about a credit union mission trip.

    Deke Alexander and Pastor Kelvin meet with a church elder in a sugar cane village outside of Haiti.

    No strangers to the life-changing impact of church-sponsored mission trips, Fuller, LiFE’s CEO, and Alexander, the cooperative’s chief lending officer, envisioned immediate potential. Not only would a trip like that impact countless lives in poverty stricken countries, it could also create a completely immersive and fulfilling experience for both staff and the credit union’s members.

    “Credit unions have an outstanding opportunity to change the employee experience that goes far beyond the 9-to-5,” said Alexander. “As employers, we’re often focused on tangible employee benefits, like dental and vision care or sales incentives and PTO. Yet, creating a culture that allows employees to improve lives in villages thousands of miles away – that’s hugely beneficial. You then transform everything. Suddenly a run-of-the-mill transaction at the teller window brings about the realization that serving this member allows our credit union to serve someone else in the third world.”

    The Plan Takes Shape

    That night, before the after-hours brainstorm had concluded, the two solidified a plan to coordinate two mission trips in two years. The first will take place in the Dominican Republic this November; the second in Mexico during 2018.

    For each mission trip, LiFE will partner with area churches experienced in the local cultures and versed in the specific needs of the people. Their focus will be on helping villages gain access to clean drinking water. They will also work to develop longer-term relationships with the villagers, many of whom Alexander says have access to Facebook, affording LiFE staff the opportunity to maintain those connections once back in the states.

    Engaging LiFE Members in the Mission

    Beyond employees, Fuller and Alexander, both of whom have participated in several mission trips to the Dominican Republic, are also intent on bringing the credit union’s members into the initiative. After working with Coopera to learn more about the credit union’s Hispanic membership, LiFE executives learned a significant portion of the member base has ties to the Mexican culture. Therefore, Fuller and Alexander believe, the second of the planned mission trips will be particularly important to the membership.

    “Our first mission to the Dominican Republic will include credit union members who know the trip and the culture extremely well,” said Alexander. “They will serve as guides to help train our staff, some of whom will actually lead the second trip to Mexico.

    “We’d love to open up the trips to even more members in the future because we see it as a way to bond employees and members over something other than financial matters,” continued Alexander. “This will create a more intimate understanding of what can really happen when we put our hands and feet to work together. There’s a multiplying effect.”

    To raise funds for the mission trips, LiFE is coordinating a golf outing called the Impact Life Golf Tournament Oct. 14, 2017 in McKinney, Texas. With the money raised, the credit union and its partner churches will buy the water filters they need to install once in the villages.

    The Multiplying Effect of Living Our Purpose

    “When you think about it, these trips strike right at the heart of what we do,” said Alexander. “For us, LiFE is about ‘Living in Fulfillment Every Day.’ A big piece of that is helping our employees see the fruits of their labor. We want to show our staff what it really means to make an impact, and to be a blessing to others.

    “Our hope is this will inspire other small credit unions to think big,” said Alexander. “We want everyone in the movement to see it’s possible to get outside the 9-to-5, outside the SEG group, even outside their local communities. Let’s go on an adventure together, make lives better and come back changed people.”

    For more information concerning supporting this event, email info@lifefcu.com.


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    Small Ideas, Big Change: Ways to Make Your Organization Stronger

    Posted by on September 19, 2017

    Earlier this month, I had the privilege of joining eight other local leaders in sharing 10 ideas for the Des Moines Business Record’s “90 Ideas in 90 Minutes” event. The experience was truly inspiring and educational.

    From Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert’s reminder to applaud others and not take our employees for granted to Des Moines University President Angela Franklin’s advice to embrace change and maintain open minds, the ideas shared will strengthen organizations of all sizes and in every industry.

    Below are a couple ideas I shared during the event that are near and dear to my heart. (To watch the entire presentation, check out the recording on YouTube.)

    Encourage Personal Development Plans
    Employees who are not engaged and growing professionally not only challenge an organization’s ability to innovate and grow; they can be incredibly damaging to the business. A Gallop poll found nearly half of employees are disengaged. Another 18 percent are actively disengaged, meaning they are purposefully undermining their coworkers and sabotaging projects.

    At Coopera, we have found that one successful business practice to help avoid this situation is to ensure all employees have personal development plans. These plans are not complicated. We have a simple template with three sections:

    ● Objectives employees want to accomplish
    ● Strengths they want to work on
    ● How they’re going to accomplish it and by when

    As leaders, in addition to having our own personal development plans, our roles are to make sure employees are accountable to their plans, help them find the resources they need to accomplish their objectives and coach along the way to help them renew their goals. Resources can include anything from internal and online trainings to live events and mentorship opportunities.

    Champion Inclusion
    Our nation’s workforce is undergoing a rapid and significant transformation. We are more ethnically and racially diverse than ever before. And the verdict is in: As we look at studies, diversity and inclusion in the workplace benefit the bottom line of any organization.

    As the world becomes more multicultural, and the more untapped and underserved markets emerge, it’s essential to be more representative of the constituents we serve. No matter how small or large an organization, there are simple ways to champion inclusion every day:

    ● Ask questions. Challenge the status quo.
    ● Promote diversity with your suppliers, vendors and partners. For example, break the mold by bringing in caterers that represent different parts of your community.
    ● Celebrate differences. We just entered National Hispanic Heritage Month. This celebration and others like it are great opportunities to provide information about cultural and ethnic differences.
    ● Think about the underrepresented and emerging populations within your community. Is there an opportunity to provide them with more access to your services?

    For more ideas and inspiration, check out the 2017 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes e-book and videos.

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