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.
“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.Leave a comment
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)
“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 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 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.Leave a comment
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.Leave a comment
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.
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.”
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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
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
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.
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.
For more ideas and inspiration, check out the 2017 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes e-book and videos.Leave a comment
Hispanic consumers are significantly more likely to be mobile banking users – and significantly more likely to stay members because of it.
Walk down any street in your community, and it isn’t hard to find evidence that Americans are using their smartphones to manage more aspects of their lives. Their financial lives are certainly no exception, and community banking leaders are taking notice.
According to a 2016 survey of financial institution leaders, their number one priority for 2017 was enhancing the digital and mobile experience. That’s what consumers are looking for as well. An earlier study from Bain & Company showed consumers are one-third more likely to enjoy a mobile transaction than a branch visit. What’s more, those surveyed anticipated a branch visit was 2.3 times more likely to end with annoyance.
Mobile banking is clearly the way consumers are headed when it comes to meeting their financial needs. Yet the adoption of mobile financial services isn’t the same across all the demographic groups that make up your member base. Notably, Hispanic consumers are significantly more likely than other groups to use mobile banking technology.
The Federal Reserve found in a 2015 study 82 percent of Hispanic consumers own a smartphone (compared to 74 percent of non-Hispanic white consumers). In addition, the study revealed Hispanic consumers with smartphones are more likely to be “high-intensity” mobile banking users – consumers who conduct mobile banking tasks more than 10 times a month.
According to the Federal Reserve’s report, “High-intensity users include greater shares of younger and Hispanic mobile banking users, relative to all mobile banking users.” These users are transferring money between their own accounts, making bill payments through an app, receiving alerts about their accounts, locating ATMs – all the things that highly-engaged and connected credit union members do. That could easily translate to high levels of loyalty to their cooperative.
If credit unions aren’t ready to appear in app stores now, there are plenty of other players on the financial services sector that are already there. Uulala, a fintech mobile app developed by Hispanic entrepreneurs specifically to serve unbanked Hispanic adults in the United States, is positioning itself as a way for Hispanic consumers to send money, build credit and make purchases – all without a traditional banking relationship. Uulala is launching later this year, and joins an increasingly crowded field of fintech developers looking to connect with a growing market hungry for digital banking options.
When it comes to maintaining strong connections with your members, you know you can’t ignore their increasingly digital preferences. By creating and enhancing an app that connects with Hispanic consumers, you may find your credit union enjoying longer relationships with this increasingly influential segment.Leave a comment
In just a few years, more than half of college students will be part of a minority race or ethnic group. That means they’ll need financial services from credit unions that understand their unique backgrounds and needs.
It’s graduation season all across the country. Thousands of students are donning caps and gowns, and thinking about what’s coming next in their educational and career plans. And the changing demographics of America’s population means more of those students are coming from Hispanic families.
By 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates more than half of the nation’s children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group. That means an increasing number of students heading to colleges and universities in the coming decade will be from Hispanic communities. What’s more, the graduation rates for Hispanic students are on the rise, and many minority students are opting to continue their education at community colleges close to their homes.
This growing number of Hispanic students represents a tremendous opportunity for credit unions that want to help them reach their educational goals and successfully manage their finances long after graduation day.
How are you preparing your credit union for the increasing numbers of Hispanic college students in your communities? Here are a few suggestions on products, as well as cultural readiness to serve this influential segment of young people:
Student loans with affordable rates and repayment plans can help many Hispanic students bridge the gap between the funds they and their families can provide and what colleges require.
Students balancing the demands of family, work and school can benefit from money management tools like online and mobile banking, checking accounts tailored to their needs and low-interest credit cards.
And for Hispanic students, partnering with a credit union with particular expertise in the cultural nuances of the community (like those who’ve earned the Juntos Avanzamos designation) can be incredibly valuable. The designation means the student will get the financial tools and education they need from credit unions that understand how to deliver products and services in ways that truly connect with Hispanic students and their families. For example Hispanic students will most likely be bilingual and able to connect with CU staff in either Spanish or English; their families, however, may need Spanish-speaking staff to help them understand their financial planning options and make the best use of a CU’s products and services.
By connecting with Hispanic students and helping them reach their educational and career goals, credit unions can strengthen their ties with their communities and create long-lasting relationships with those students as their financial needs grow and change. And it certainly doesn’t take an advanced degree to know that’s a combination that benefits everyone.Leave a comment
A decade ago, the roots of Coopera were planted by a visionary credit union leader with big dreams for the future. Warren Morrow saw more than 45 million Hispanic people, each working to enrich their communities across the country.
He asked, “How can credit unions become providers of choice for dignified financial services in this emerging community? How can the credit union industry better serve this segment – the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most financially underserved minority group in the United States?”
Rather than wait for those questions to be answered, Warren set out to answer them. His enthusiasm for improving the financial lives of Hispanic consumers was contagious. As more leaders in the credit union movement saw the opportunities, Coopera began to grow.
Over its 10-year history, Coopera has worked with more than 200 credit unions, credit union system organizations and non-credit unions located in 30 states across the country and has served more than 1,000,000 Hispanic consumers. The firm applies the diverse expertise and skill sets of its leadership to carry out the vision of Coopera’s founder.
Within its first year, Coopera, in partnership with the Iowa Credit Union League and Iowa Credit Union Foundation, launched a state-wide asset-building and savings account program for working Iowans and partnered with credit union associations in New York and Louisiana to mobilize more cooperatives around the mission of serving Hispanic members.
By the end of 2009, Texas, Nebraska and Georgia credit union leagues, as well as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) had joined in the mission. Together, CUNA, the leagues and Coopera built tools, conducted research and created educational programs.
As the first decade of the new Millennium was coming to a close, CUNA and Coopera teamed to create El Poder es Tuyo (The Power is Yours), the only Spanish-language personal finance website for Hispanic credit union members. Today, the site reaches Hispanic members in more than 14 states across the country.
Building tools to improve the financial lives of Hispanic consumers continued. In 2001, Coopera partnered with its payments processing sister company TMG, now a part of CO-OP Financial Services, to build a prepaid card especially for the unique needs of the Hispanic consumer. The card was rated as the 5th Most Affordable Prepaid Card by NerdWallet.
Five years into its mission, the Coopera team lost its founder when he passed away unexpectedly. Yet Warren’s crystal clear vision continued to guide the leaders of this fast-moving company.
California and Nevada credit unions got on board in 2012, partnering with Coopera to study the Hispanic consumer segment and create multi-state educational opportunities for credit union leaders.
As Coopera honed its research and training skills, it became evident these were core competencies that could benefit even more cooperatives throughout the country. As a result, the company launched a series of Hispanic Market Analysis tools and an online resource library for professionals who wanted to grow their own Hispanic market expertise. Credit unions using these analysis tools have seen annualized Hispanic membership grow nearly four times as fast as that of non-Hispanic members. What’s more, checking and lending penetration rates at these credit unions have increased twice as fast as that of non-Hispanic members.
In 2015, Coopera’s decade of achievement was recognized alongside its AMC family of companies with one of the highest honors the credit union industry has developed, the Herb Wegner Memorial award.
Over the past several years, Coopera and its partner the Federation have put the Juntos Avanzamos designation on a national stage. A signal to Hispanic consumers that a credit union has their best interests in mind, the designation is another way to communicate credit union’s passion for and willingness to serve the Hispanic community.
Over Coopera’s 10 year history, many strategic partners have helped raise awareness of the struggles faced by Hispanic consumers, but also the great opportunity they represent. These organizations have helped hundreds of credit unions realize the influence and the value of what remains America’s largest, fast-growing, young and financially underserved minority group.
It’s a message that’s expanding far beyond the credit union space. Executives and business leaders in insurance, health care, higher education and many others are answering the call to adapt to the unique needs of a multi-faceted Hispanic consumer segment.
In just under a decade, the Hispanic community grew from 45 million to more than 57 million.
10 million in 10 years. That’s explosive growth. That’s amazing opportunity.
Many of that 57 million are still seeking the American dream. And, credit unions are helping them achieve that, one member at a time. In fact, 25 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are now credit union members.
Coopera’s team of Hispanic market experts is also beginning to work with businesses and organizations beyond financial services. Its leaders, which include De Dios, Client Relations Director Alba Perez, Client Support Specialist Lizeth Aquino and Project Assistant Kenia Calderon, are applying their knowledge of emerging markets to engagement with other industries, as well.
As more businesses, organizations and community leaders are inspired by the credit union movement’s success, Coopera will be there, ready to partner for the success of their organizations and the greater Hispanic community.Leave a comment
David Suarez, bilingual community development manager at Iowa’s Community 1st Credit Union, says insists the key to building connections with Hispanic members is trust. “We have to gain that trust in the community,” he said. “We conduct outreach with community leaders, schools – even soccer teams – so we can show them we are offering not only services, but education. Typically, they are very interested to learn, but it’s important to know they may not have the basic knowledge of financial concepts. You have to get close to them to understand their particular point of view and their particular issue. Only then can you begin to develop the clear, simple messages you need to start them down the path to financial success in the U.S.”
Among the connections Suarez and the Community 1st leadership has built is a partnership with the Mexican Consulate of Omaha, Guadalupe Sanchez Salazar. Shortly after building a relationship with Sanchez Salazar, the credit union signed an agreement to collaborate for the benefit of Mexican nationals that live in Iowa. As part of that agreement, any Community 1st member with a matricula consular card and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) has access to nearly all of the credit union’s products and services, including mortgages. This will be hugely important to the credit union as it looks to serve more Mexican immigrants, which today make up 75 percent of Iowa’s immigrant population. Suarez pointed out the credit union is also working with the IRS to help more of its community members obtain ITINs. “We’re excited to help the community understand that with this number comes great advantages, such as checking accounts, loans and potentially even a mortgage.”
In addition, the credit union is working with Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach agency, which connects Iowans with the university’s research and resources. The agency is helping the credit union understand the education levels of the Hispanic community members local to the 15 communities PFCU serves through 17 locations in Iowa and northern Missouri.
CU Achieves Juntos Avanzamos Designation
In 2016, the credit union was given the Juntos Avanzamos designation, which translates to “Together, we advance. Awarded by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions and Coopera, the designation is a national recognition of the work and commitment made to offer financial services to the Hispanic community. The designation also makes a public proclamation to the Hispanic community that the Juntos Avanzamos credit union welcomes the Hispanic community.
On the strategic roadmap for Community 1st is continuous employee training and cross-department education so every staff member is aware they can accept alternative forms of identification to serve more community members. In addition, the credit union will conduct more community outreach, pursue a community development financial institution (CDFI) designation and institute a series of financial education programs in the coming year.
To read how Community 1st has helped one very appreciative member achieve his American dream, download “Hispanic Member Growth Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.”Leave a comment
We’re fresh off another exhilarating CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference. It was a terrific conference with what I believe was record attendance! While in the nation’s capital for the event, we were lucky enough to chat with several credit union leaders about the value and importance of serving the Hispanic financial consumer.
As part of our whirlwind awareness tour, I got the chance to talk with CU Broadcast host Mike Lawson. We discussed quite a few things, including growth of the Hispanic population in places people may not expect. Credit unions in the Midwest, for example, are finding an explosion of the multi-faceted Hispanic communities in their areas to be a clear call to action.
Take a listen to the conversation at CUBroadcast.com and download our white paper, “Hispanic Growth Strategies Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.” Then, get in touch. I’d love to hear your impressions, as well as where your credit union is on its own path to better serving this influential and growing group of community members.
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