By helping reevaluate the rules, the regulatory experts at your CU can open entirely new pathways for entirely new members.
COVID-19 made life extraordinarily difficult for a lot of people in ways they never anticipated. Adults that had never experienced a job loss, an inability to pay their bills, even homelessness or food insecurity, found themselves navigating unfamiliar financial territory. Many are still very much in the throes of their struggles and searching for support and resources.
Credit unions were built to offer hope in exactly these circumstances—to give their neighbors, all of whom were traditionally excluded from banking services, a safe, trustworthy way to access financial resources—especially during times of economic downturn.
That said, credit unions must also keep themselves out of financial trouble. Doing so requires them to adhere to a set of rules and regulations. It’s a rigorous, complex process made possible by the establishment of policies and procedures that leaders can train staff to follow. The trouble with many of these policies and procedures is they are built to address the mainstream, the traditional, the usual.
But, if we learned anything in 2020, it’s how quickly the usual can change.
Reevaluating the Rules
As the industry confronts a new normal in which members’ needs—and members themselves—begin to look different, compliance and risk leaders have a sizable opportunity to contribute. That’s because they are the chief owners of policies and procedures, not to mention the resident experts on all things regulatory in nature. By helping colleagues reevaluate the rules they’ve been following, compliance and risk leaders can open up entirely new pathways for entirely new members.
This is particularly true for consumers struggling with pandemic-related impacts that have pushed them out of mainstream financial services.
Expanding What’s Permissible One Policy at a Time
Take an individual who is experiencing homelessness, for example. Especially as economic forecasters warn of a foreclosures wave due to the pandemic’s impact on jobs, this is a circumstance that credit unions must be prepared for. Account opening procedures mandate that a credit union collect a physical address, which could be difficult for a prospective member experiencing homelessness to provide. Compliance and risk pros can review existing polices to be sure they encompass the full scope of permissible physical addresses. For instance, Title 31 Chapter X concerning customer identification programs states that an address must be collected. However, the regulation also allows for individuals without an address to provide one belonging to next of kin or of another contact individual.
Acceptable ability-to-pay documentation is yet another area compliance and risk leaders can help credit unions adapt for a broader range of assistance to a broader group of people. Methods and technology for evaluating creditworthiness are evolving, and plenty of alternative providers are taking advantage of them to prey on desperate people turned away by banks. With guidance and support from compliance and risk colleagues, credit union lenders and their teams can use the same strategy, except for good.
Members who are not U.S. citizens are another group of people in great need of financial assistance and guidance as the nation moves toward COVID-19 recovery. Many were left out of the stimulus package relief because of the lack of a Social Security number. Higher degrees of poverty and a higher level of employment in jobs that can’t be done remotely has put immigrants and their families at higher financial (and health) risk during the pandemic.
Compliance and risk pros can reevaluate policies and procedures to ensure identification forms other than a Social Security number are not only allowed but welcomed. A major part of executing an inclusive approach is going beyond acceptance to enthusiasm. If credit union staff are familiar with and comfortable checking international passports, ITINs or Matrícula Consular ID cards, for example, they are much more likely to nurture a welcoming atmosphere for people who want to join the cooperative.
Reengineering Escalation for a Better New Member Experience
Speaking of a welcoming atmosphere, compliance and risk leaders can have an impact in this area by helping design an escalation process that feels smooth and hospitable. When frontline staff understand what to do and to whom to go when they are presented with an unfamiliar form of identification, the prospective member feels accommodated and accepted. Particularly in underserved, close-knit communities, that kind of experience can kick off a highly successful word-of-mouth campaign that brings many new members to the credit union’s doorstep.
Involving Compliance and Risk Early On
Change is hard for many people, and it can be even harder when hindered by fear of running afoul of the law. This is where experts in regulatory compliance can step in. For those leaders to have the greatest impact, however, they should be involved in strategic discussions around growth and evolution as early as possible. It’s not uncommon for a credit union to build a financial inclusion plan without the upfront input of their compliance and risk folks. This, unfortunately, perpetuates a misguided stereotype compliance pros continuously battle—that they lead the “No” department. Getting these folks involved from the outset ensures financial inclusion programs are in alignment with the credit union’s regulatory obligations and strategic compliance aspirations.
Keep in mind, too, that compliance and risk leaders can serve as influential champions of inclusion. Because they touch so many areas of a credit union’s operations, they typically have a large internal network. Allowing them to be a part of developing a financial inclusion strategy and associated program may mean more team members see the value of the initiative and get involved to an even greater degree than expected.Leave a comment
Credit union partners developed new strategies and resources to reach Hispanic membership during the pandemic in 2020. Watch the vlog to hear Kenia’s forecast for the upcoming year and her tip to being prepared.
As first seen on cuinsight.com.
Nearly nine months into what has been one of the most challenging years in our lifetimes, COVID-19 continues to ravage the health, finances and spirits of many. In addition to disrupting everyday life, the novel coronavirus has brought to light long-standing societal and structural problems that especially predispose marginalized communities to dire consequences. One does not need to go far to see the alarming impact that the coronavirus has had on minoritized communities. The American Medical Association (AMA) has published a series of articles on health equity highlighting how some communities will suffer more acutely during the crisis. In terms of personal finance, Pew Research Center finds that economic fallout is hitting people of color the hardest. Mental health is profoundly impacted, especially with a situation that has no immediate end in sight.
Why are people of color being impacted in greater numbers?
Black and brown Americans are disproportionately represented in the service sector, where they are among the lowest paid, most likely to be laid off, least likely to be able to engage in work from home, and most likely to be exposed to the virus. New evidence also suggests that Black Americans face higher rates of coronavirus infection and mortality. Similarly, many Hispanics have been deemed essential workers who need to treat the ill, grow produce and stock shelves.
As noted in a Filene blog post earlier this year, one of the initial ways people talked about the coronavirus was that it “did not discriminate”, that it was an “equalizer” or an “equal-opportunity” threat. We now know that this could not have been further from the truth. Instead, the pandemic has disrobed the ugliness of inequality in the United States. COVID-19 is shining a light on what it means to have less income, less savings, fewer benefits like paid sick leave, and less access to insurance and healthcare.
Within the credit union community, we see a positive outcome: a renewed attention and support for storied system organizations that for decades have helped with the financial inclusion of marginalized populations in the United States. Even before it was called “DEI”, the African American Credit Union Coalition, Inclusiv, the Juntos Avanzamos Program, National Association of Latino Credit Unions & Professionals and Coopera had been helping the system understand what it means to “do good by doing well”. And we see the industry crafting new initiatives to support the vast jurisdiction of DEI. Recently Filene created the Center of Excellence for DEI, and Superbia and CU Pride have joined the inclusion effort to bring light to LGBTQ+ community needs. Additionally, a group of credit union partners have organized to create the CU DEI Collective, a collaboration to advance the understanding and adoption of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. I am proud to chair this new initiative.
This list is by no means all-encompassing, rather, it highlights the growing concern, interest and support for DEI. There is an industry pledge that calls attention and encourages action so that we as a movement commit to change. Has your organization committed to change? This pledge outlines a number of actions to be taken by credit unions on their path toward fulfilling their mission to relentlessly include.
What other actions can be taken at the state and local levels if you are a member, a leader or a staff member of a credit union?
At the state level, community-based organizations are natural partners for credit unions. Together, they are deploying educational resources to help with understanding the societal and systemic structures that keep certain populations marginalized. Case in point, the 21-day Challenge from the United Way. Over the 21-day Challenge, you will take a self-guided learning journey that examines the history and impacts of racism and how it shapes people’s lived experiences. Many United Way state chapters are encouraging participation in the challenges.
At the local level, we see credit unions responding to unique homegrown challenges, depending on the intensity and particular characteristics of the pandemic in their neck of the woods. The cycle that we see spans from crisis management, emergency relief, to staff health, and keeping operations up and running to support members through varying degrees of financial stress.
As the COVID-19 challenges continue, credit unions should stay focused on connecting and using their mission of inclusion to help ALL, but place a special interest and focus on marginalized and underserved segments of society so they start feeling a sense of belonging. Deliberate action and clarity will guide our movement to achieve it. The “people helping people” stated mission of credit unions has once more become a call to action and motivator to do good. This mission can certainly help in aiding relief amid the wretched 2020 pandemic. Let’s be a force for good.Leave a comment
As first seen on cuinsight.com.
Experts have predicted that this is the year the U.S. Latino population will comprise the majority of new household formations and, correspondingly, new home purchases.
The last decade has seen the U.S. Latino population emerge as the fastest-growing demographic in an increasingly diversifying nation. We know that the 59.9 million Latinos who currently call the U.S. home account for one in every five members of the U.S. population. Thanks to anticipated continued growth, Latinos will comprise one in every three members of the U.S. population by 2050.
Along with population growth comes an escalating and formidable financial impact. We’ve already seen it happening nationwide, with significant increases in savings and buying power and a dominant growth rate in labor force participation. For most of us, our ultimate financial goal is home ownership, and more Latinos than ever before are participating in the housing market. Their participation will only increase as the population continues to grow.
Research data from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) bears this out. In 2018, Latinos represented a net gain of 362,000 new homeowners. This raised the rate of new Latino homeownership to 47.2 percent of all new homeowners, compared to 46.2 percent in 2017. Over the past decade, Latinos have accounted for 62.7 percent of all new U.S. homeownership gains, NAHREP reports, growing from 6.3 million homeowners during the period to nearly 7.9 million homeowners by 2018. By 2030, researchers anticipate that 56 percent of all new homeowners will come from the Latino market, which will then dominate the sector.
Plainly put, this is a sea of change in the market that could sink mortgage lenders who are not prepared to tap into it. Credit unions, known for working with their members, may be in a better position than other lenders to ride the wave to increased success. However, not all institutions are well prepared in reaching out to Latinos in meaningful ways. Lose enough of these opportunities among Latino borrowers, and rest assured their other business will follow.
To reach this growing market, you must understand and respect the ways in which the Latino community differs from the more traditional market your credit union may already be serving. And even within the Latino market, there is diversity based on age, family structure and country of origin. My team analyzes geographical Latino markets to determine potential-member product needs and growth strategies to attract what is often an underserved or unbanked community.
Understanding is the key to everything – from marketing approaches to operational success. The more specialized your efforts are, the more successful they will be. The basics, of course, include involving bilingual staff at all levels who are well trained and culturally sensitized to the needs of Latino members. Creating a corporate culture from the board of directors to the teller line that not only accepts, but embraces this market is a necessity for success.
For a more nuanced approach to marketing, NAHREP again offers some research-based observations. Research data has shown that Latinos believe advertising is meant for them when it includes people who look like them (52 percent), reflects their cultural values (59 percent), and recognizes their cultural background (61 percent). Integrating those sensitivities in all member communications as well as exploring other operational alternatives [including making loans using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs)] are critical steps in reaching this market.
Not every credit union is comfortable making such changes at first, but those that do are already seeing an increase in Latino home mortgage business. Reach out to your Latino community to help more members join the swell of new homebuyers. Explore holistic secondary market options like Inclusiv’s Mortgage. Create an environment in which everyone – lenders and members – can ride the wave of financial success.Leave a comment
One of the world’s most influential writers, Victor Hugo, once said, “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.” And when it comes to embracing diversity as one of the credit union movement’s guiding principles, not only has its time come, but we risk having the opportunity pass us by if we fail to wholeheartedly embrace it.
Fifteen years ago, the leadership of the Iowa Credit Union League had a vision of how to better serve a rapidly diversifying population. Out of that vision and, in partnership with Warren Morrow, came Coopera, an organization specifically designed to tear down walls and build bridges between credit unions and the Hispanic community.
Since that time, Coopera has reached beyond Iowa’s borders to help credit unions nationwide serve the largest minority population segment in the United States. Ask any of those early adopters today, and it’s clear just how positive the impact of those efforts have been, both for the credit unions and the Hispanic members they serve.
But the past is only prologue to what lies ahead. Even with every credit union’s best intentions, previous efforts to increase diversity may have missed a critical need for representation at the highest levels, including the creation of diverse management teams and boards of directors. Such gap can certainly hinder our best efforts to continue broadening services to an increasingly multicultural membership base. In worst-case scenarios, credit unions run the risk of being less, rather than more inclusive, not only in providing services, but also in their governance and leadership structures. In the end, it is a matter of relevance.
Historically speaking, the global credit union movement has been guided by seven cooperative principles first drafted in 1844 by the Rochdale Society in England. These principles have been revisited over the years by other cooperative groups, but today include voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, members’ economic participation, autonomy and independence, education and training, cooperation among cooperatives and concern for community.
Although those principles do not specifically use the words diversity, equity and inclusion, each one of them touches on it in one way or another. All seven principles address the power of financial self-determination among members, but do not directly reflect the growing diversity of those members. Perhaps it’s time to make the credit union movement’s commitment more explicit. This is something that CUNA’s board addressed within the last month. It’s time to create leadership structures that better reflect the country’s changing demographics.
There’s been a lot of talk recently among credit union groups and individuals about taking action and making that commitment public. There will be even more conversations in the months to come. Given the current social and political struggles around these issues, credit unions – institutions that have been built on principles, not profits – must revisit, revise and restate those principles in ways that speak specifically to the 21st Century. These efforts start with each of us as individuals.
The Greek philosopher Democritus once said, “A wise man belongs to all cultures, for the home of a great soul is the whole world.” It’s clear the credit union movement was founded by wise men and women based on sound and equitable democratic principles. Let’s take those principles to decisively take the next step and make sure they include every member of our increasingly diverse population who needs and wants to participate equally and inclusively at all levels of their credit union, and, by extension, society.
Now, not later, is the time to act on an important idea whose time truly has come.Leave a comment
Posted by Kenia Calderon on May 15, 2019
Coopera is dedicated to helping both credit unions and Latino communities across the country grow together to realize their dreams and successes. We’re always pleased and excited to see and support such efforts in action.
When we come across a credit union that goes above and beyond in helping Latino communities, especially the most vulnerable ones, we’re absolutely thrilled. That happened in April when $55.7 million Des Moines Metro Credit Union (DMMCU) stepped forward to financially support its staff members participating in the second annual 5K run and fundraiser in support of DACAmented students on the Iowa State University campus.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allows youths under the age of 16 entering the United States to work in country for two years before having to reapply for a work permit. The current political environment poses a threat to the future of the DACA program, which primarily affects Latino immigrants. The program’s success is critical to the Latino community’s growth and personally important to me since I, too, am a DACA recipient.
DMMCU had already provided exemplary service to its Latino members and critical support to its DACA community. The credit union offers a Credit Builder loan program that enables DACA recipients to pay application fees and other costs associated with their immigration processes.
DMMCU also offers loans for members using ITINs and supports local community events such as the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival and the Warren Morrow Latin Music Festival, an event named for Coopera’s late founder. More than half of the credit union’s staff members are bilingual, and some are DACA recipients themselves or have friends who are.
By supporting staff participation in the DACA 5K run, DMMCU took its message of support directly to the streets, or at least the Iowa State campus, to stand in solidarity with DACA recipients and promote how financial institutions can support the community outside of their branches. Funds raised by the run will help support the financial needs of DACA students attending the university, none of whom are eligible for government aid such as FAFSA.
As the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, Latinos are playing a weighty role in the present and future of this country. DACA recipients are the Latino community’s next generation, and their ability to fully participate in the American society is critical not only to their success, but that of the country at large.
According to a University of California – San Diego study, 95% of DACA recipients are either working or in school, 63% worked their way up to a better job, 54% bought their first car and 12% bought their first homes. They are active participants in the U.S. economy, in many cases thanks to help from their credit unions.
Supporting DACA recipients will be critical to the continued growth of both the Latino community and the credit union movement. What is your institution doing to foster and support the process?Leave a comment
Few things are more important to Hispanics than family. In fact, both the nuclear and extended families – las familias – are highly valued by the vast majority of Hispanics both in the U.S. and throughout Latin America.
It comes as no surprise that remittances, those funds sent to support family and sometimes friends, are an important part of many Hispanic household budgets. Credit unions that provide remittance transfer services are discovering how important and vital those services can be, especially given the growing U.S. Hispanic population and rising number of immigrants.
Some 58 million Hispanics live and work in the U.S. according to the Pew Research Center, comprising roughly 18 percent of the U.S. population. Add to that the growing number of immigrants and you have a very large number of people seeking to send remittances home to family members.
After a slight downturn in recent years, remittance activity among Hispanics has spiked with even greater growth anticipated. This provides credit unions a chance to serve more Hispanics and realize greater economic opportunities. In many Latin American households, remittances constitute a primary source of income, making the transferred money vital to those families’ financial wellbeing.
The remittance numbers are worth noting. According to a study led by the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (CEMLA), 2017 remittances from the U.S. to Latin American and Caribbean countries totaled $77.02 billion, with an anticipated increase in 2018 to nearly $90 billion.
Remittances are sent through a variety of merchants, from banks to cafes to convenience stores, often at a cost of 7 to 9 percent of the total remittance amount. Credit unions, can process remittances at a more economical rate, easing the financial burden on senders and putting more money into the hands of the Latin American families who need it the most.
In recent years financial institutions have started partnering with fintechs to provide remittances. As many Hispanics are young digital natives, they use digital touchpoints to send money abroad. It is important to develop a digital strategy for remittances.
If you already serve or seek to serve Hispanics, consider ramping up your remittance program to help service the growing demand. As a source of transfer fee income and a member service opportunity, fulfilling this need can be unmatched among the services your credit union offers.
It also is an effective way to increase the number of Hispanic members and their loyalty to your institution, as well as help them preserve their cultural traditions of helping la familia.Leave a comment
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.Leave a comment
Every new year brings new opportunities to create healthier lifestyle habits, establish goals and objectives for the coming year, and in some ways start life over. Unfortunately, most new year’s resolutions focus on physical health, rather than fiscal health. That’s an oversight few credit union members – or anyone, for that matter – can afford on their journey to long-term financial well-being.
Now is an excellent time for credit unions to help their Hispanic members improve their financial practices, foster wise money spending decisions and more effectively manage their own financial futures.
The first step is to help Hispanic members identify their financial goals for the new year. Here are a few questions credit unions can ask their members to help them chart the right course.
Is there anything you would like to stop or start doing financially? It is a simple yet powerful question that could make a member ponder. It is worth asking.
Asking these and other questions can be important in helping members set the course for a brighter financial future, one that might even give them the opportunity to take that long awaited vacation they have always wanted or make a larger purchase of something they need. It is difficult for credit unions or their members to understand or know how to reach their financial goals until those questions are answered.Leave a comment
When I accepted the position of CEO of Coopera earlier this month, my team gave me a framed quote that, in terms of the organization’s mission and my own personal career trajectory, couldn’t have been more profound.
The quote reads, “Hispanics need credit unions as much as credit unions need Hispanics.” It is attributed to Warren Morrow, the founder of Coopera.
To say that I was as moved by the gift as I was by the sentiments it expressed would be a significant understatement. In a mere 11 words, Warren’s statement outlined the future of both the credit union movement and that of Hispanics seeking to economically thrive in the United States. It also provides all of us with guidance in helping both communities cooperatively move forward in the new millennium.
Warren was born in Mexico City to an Anglo father and a Mexican mother, moving to Tucson, Arizona, while still in grade school. The need to assimilate helped define Warren’s character, but he never forgot nor abandoned his Hispanic roots. Providing higher education opportunities and helping create financial stability for Hispanic families became the mission and the passion of his too-short life.
Warren died unexpectedly in 2012 at age 34. Both Miriam De Dios Woodward, my predecessor at Coopera, and I had worked with Warren and are committed to following his guidance.
Warren realized early that credit unions’ cooperative nature aligned with the different Hispanic cultures. As the number of U.S. credit unions continues to decline and more nontraditional vendors fight for our financial business, it’s not unrealistic to believe that Hispanic communities may be the best and most likely hope for the future of the credit union movement.
Think for a moment about the parallels between the two entities. Despite their differences, the social cultures of various Hispanic countries are built on the strong foundation of family and community. Nothing is more important, and nothing else gives both the various cultures and their people their solidarity and strength.
It’s also fair to say that of all financial institutions, credit unions come the closest to establishing “communities” among their members. Their emphasis on member service helps foster the financial growth among those communities, much like Hispanic communities and families foster the social and emotional growth among their members.
Coopera exists to create a link between credit unions and the Hispanic communities they seek to serve. Through analytical study we can define exactly which Hispanic cultures predominate in each city, town or rural area. Our emphasis on digital and remote services can help credit unions reach those groups economically and address their needs in ways in which members themselves prefer to be served.
Hispanic members are like anyone else in terms of the products and services they need and want to survive and thrive in today’s economic environment. The difference is that, unlike other member groups, Hispanics put greater faith and trust in their communities, and credit unions that align with those communities will see greater loyalty and higher levels of service usage among those community members.
Warren Morrow knew that. Through Coopera and previous enterprises that he managed, Warren sought to strengthen the bond between Hispanics and credit unions through considerable effort and, probably, no small amount of prayer. His efforts and their effect are to be lauded.
Warren’s message still lies at the heart of Coopera’s primary mission, and it’s a promise we plan to keep to both credit unions and the Hispanic communities they seek to serve.Leave a comment