If nothing else, the tumultuous 2016 election year revealed the extent to which American working families are struggling. More than 40 percent of American jobs today pay less than $15 an hour, and most of these low-wage jobs lack important benefits such as paid leave, health insurance or retirement. Low-income wage earners are no longer a small demographic relegated to select neighborhoods and geographies – they constitute a significant demographic block.
America is a country of immigrants. In the US, there are currently 46 million immigrants, representing 13% of the US population, or 1 out of 8 residents. Far from representing an economic burden, immigrants contribute greatly to our local economies by paying taxes, establishing small businesses, and creating jobs.
Numerous economists argue for the long-term economic need for robust immigration. Citing an aging native-born workforce, contributions to the tax base and job creation from immigrant entrepreneurs and businesses, progressive immigration policy is actually an important way to grow the economy. Immigrant workers make a significant contribution to government revenue. Undocumented immigrants collectively pay an estimated $11.64 billion dollars each year in state and local taxes. In Iowa alone, undocumented immigrants contributed $37.4 million in state and local taxes each year, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.
Immigrants start small businesses and create jobs. Though they made up over 13 percent of the total U.S. population in 2014, immigrants represented almost 21 percent of our country’s entrepreneurs. In fact, according to the Kauffman Foundation, immigrants were almost twice as likely as the native-born population to start new businesses in 2015. These businesses created millions of jobs. In 2016, 40 percent of Fortune 500 firms had at least one immigrant founder or a founder who was the child of immigrants.
Serving immigrants is part of the history of the credit union movement, and a key opportunity for credit union growth. Immigrant members of community development credit unions (CDCUs) report strong loyalty to their credit unions, in many cases indicating the credit union as the only place they choose to do their banking. According to a joint CUNA-Coopera study, credit unions that have strategically invested in outreach to the Hispanic community, for instance, report faster loan growth and accelerated membership.
For this reason, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation), Coopera and the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP) are working together with key industry partners to grow and expand the Juntos Avanzamos Initiative. Juntos Avanzamos – Together We Advance – is a designation for credit unions committed to serving and empowering both U.S. born and immigrant Hispanic consumers. Immigrants are a large and vibrant part of our communities and a key audience in the low- and moderate-income communities that Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) serve.
Today there are 65 Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions around the country meeting the tremendous demand in the immigrant market for safe and responsible loans and financial services. These institutions have demonstrated that serving immigrants is both a sustainable business strategy and vital to fulfilling our collective goal of helping people of modest means achieve financial independence. Designations are made based upon an application with a rigorous scoring system that grades credit union performance that considers membership served, products and services targeting Latino immigrants, bilingual and bi-cultural operations and staffing, bi-cultural leadership on the board and management team, and bilingual marketing, messaging and signage.
The Federation is now working with network partners to become centers of information (“Know Your Rights”) and referrals for free legal and social service providers. Juntos Avanzamos is transforming credit unions from institutions that serve a community into community centers able to organize, communicate and support immigrant wage-earners, families, young people and seniors.
At this time, it is critical that immigrants know their credit unions are here for them. Once a member, always a member!
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Credit Union ‘Jump Starts’ Staff Passion for Hispanic Member Service with Immersion Exercises, Training
Buy-in from management was a critical first step to developing the Prime Financial Credit Union’s (PFCU) Hispanic member growth plan. And it did not come easily. After all, the credit union was still recovering from a conservatorship, and prudent board members wanted to be sure the plan would be strategic and well-executed.
“We saw this large population that really needed our products and services, and we wanted to do it right. Just throwing up a sign that said, “We speak Spanish,’ was not going to cut it,” said Colleen Jakubowski, PFCU’s chief operating officer.
To lay the groundwork for their strategic roadmap, the credit union began working with Coopera on a series of surveys to reveal the true needs of the Hispanic community in Milwaukee. Coopera also spoke with PFCU’s staff to uncover sentiments employees may not want to share with the credit union’s leadership.
“Coopera’s staff took us through an immersion exercise where we went to a local market for lunch,” said Jakubowski. “We were challenged to speak Spanish the entire time and to get to know people in the community. It was something of a cultural awakening for us. That activity really jump-started the passion. We learned a lot about a culture we didn’t know, and came away understanding that’s exactly what we can do for our members.”
PFCU Mobilizes Team of Volunteers
Training bilingual employees to not only speak the right words but also have the cultural awareness to adequately explain financial products was critically important, as well. In January 2016, PFCU mobilized a team of 13 volunteers who are now leading the execution of the credit union’s Hispanic growth plan. Divided into subgroups, such as marketing, Spanish language and compliance, the team is playing an instrumental role in the development and launch of PFCU’s new branch location.
PFCU has also developed a business curriculum for a class of Spanish speaking employees who want to expand their knowledge of the U.S. financial system vocabulary. According to PFCU Director of Organizational Development Amy Goratowski, these individuals are highly engaged and passionate about continually improving their skills.
Among the challenges Jakubowski and Goratowski cite is difficulty containing staff excitement about the prospect of gaining new members from the Hispanic community. “We can’t do it all,” said Goratowski. “We still have to be frugal, but the great thing about this community is word of mouth. Once they become aware of all we have to offer, it will be huge.”
To read more about PFCU’s Hispanic membership growth strategy, download “Hispanic Member Growth Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.”Leave a comment