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  • Case Study: Evolving Efforts Result in Success

    Posted by on March 5, 2013

    What follows is a case study excerpt from the Hispanic Opportunity Report developed as part of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ newly formed partnership with Coopera.

    In 2005, Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president and CEO of Travis Credit Union, headquartered in Vacaville, Calif., and the credit union’s Board of Directors and senior management team recognized many Hispanics in their local communities were underserved and were thirsty for dignified, affordable financial services.

    Nearly 40 percent of California’s residents identify themselves as Hispanic, and that number is predicted to continue climbing at a rapid rate.

    “At the time, we identified an advantage our credit union had over other area financial institutions,” said Travis Credit Union Director of Corporate Relations Shérry Cordonnier. “Whereas other providers were looking to prey on underserved individuals, we truly wanted to partner with them. We also knew there was only a small window of opportunity to build and capture loyalty with potential Hispanic members. As such, we implemented several programs to strengthen our efforts to attract and retain Hispanic members.”

    Many of these programs, Cordonnier added, continue today.

    Travis CU began its initial Hispanic outreach that year by partnering with Filene Research Institute to better understand the size and needs of the local Hispanic market. With this background information, they began to formulate strategies and initiatives for better targeting members in their communities. Realizing their initial activities were working and overall membership was increasing, the cooperative decided it was time to take its efforts to the next level — the development of a comprehensive, strategic plan that would be sustainable for the long term.

    “We had already set our strategic direction when I was introduced to Warren [Morrow, late CEO of Coopera] who was speaking at a conference about how Coopera was helping credit unions with their Hispanic outreach efforts,” said Cordonnier. “Not many financial institutions were doing this type of outreach at that time, so we needed a partner that could help us pioneer new activities and help us be true innovators. After talking more with Coopera, we knew they would be able to help us get to that level.”

    To kick-off a partnership with Coopera, Van Ouwerkerk invited Morrow to participate in the credit union’s Board spring planning session in 2009. The credit union initially utilized the firm’s consulting services to develop strategies for becoming more visible to potential Hispanic members in the communities they serve. At Coopera’s recommendation, the Travis CU team implemented the Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON) to get a snapshot of how effective they had already been in serving the Hispanic community and to identify what opportunities may be in the future.

    The credit union also worked hard to bolster its grassroots marketing efforts, said Cordonnier. Some of those initiatives include:
    • becoming active in local organizations, such as family resource centers, churches and Project Head Start and Hispanic chambers of commerce
    • working with organizations of diversity and their local board of directors
    • partnering with community leaders to provide assistance to immigrants
    • getting involved with local academic and educational programs that influence the Hispanic demographic
    • developing an internal bilingual advisory group
    • developing strategic partnerships with organizations to influence the Hispanic demographic
    • developing relationships with local and regional Hispanic media to educate Hispanics about the differences between banks and credit unions

    Since initiating these programs, Travis CU, serving members out of 22 locations in Northern California, has realized 5-percent membership growth year-over-year, and now counts Hispanic members as 20 percent of its overall membership.

    To further evolve its outreach efforts, Travis CU initiated two new programs to position the credit union as a trusted financial advisor in the Hispanic market.

    The first program, New Era Tanda, debuted in 2012. It is designed around Hispanic tandas (also known as cundinas, sans or quinelas). Informal borrowing/lending circles, tandas are common to Latin American cultures. The modernized tanda, developed by Travis CU, is aimed at bridging a cultural custom with the credit union experience.

    Funded by a National Credit Union Foundation grant, Travis CU is piloting the New Era Tanda program with two groups in Solano and Yolo counties. Each group is composed of six people and helps participants develop a 12-month shared savings goal and to take advantage of the credit union’s unique savings and loan offerings. The program offers monthly meetings with financial literacy courses offered in Spanish.

    After graduating from the program, New Era Tanda participants are then eligible for individual product offerings to meet their credit-building and/or vehicle-purchase goals. Due to the anticipated success of the pilots, Cordonnier said Travis CU might consider making the New Era Tanda a permanent program available in the credit union’s 22 branch locations in the future.

    Travis CU also launched an immersion program in 2012, aimed at bolstering the credit union’s current employee training efforts. The goal of the immersion program is to illuminate the immigrant experience for Travis CU employees, making them more sensitive to Hispanic members’ needs and challenges.

    During a series of cultural immersion sessions nearly 140 Travis CU employees took their training from the classroom to the real world. Visiting Mi Pueblo Food Center in Vallejo, Calif., and El Tejaban restaurant in Vacaville, employees at both businesses were instructed to speak only in Spanish to Travis CU employees, allowing them a first-hand experience with the challenges of being understood as a foreign–language citizen.

    “The exercise placed Travis employees in the same situation as our Spanish-only speaking members, demonstrating to them what it might be like for those members when they visit the credit union,” said Cordonnier. “In return, our employees gained a new empathy for many of our Hispanic members and what they experience every day. The training focused on treating these members with respect and dignity, reading body language and the importance of understanding and communicating the credit union’s products and services in both English and Spanish.”

    According to Cordonnier, the training helped provide Travis CU employees a better understanding of the credit union’s current outreach efforts and the need for additional trainings in the future. In addition, the training helped employees overcome concerns, fears and anxiety related to serving members not like themselves. As a result of the program, Cordonnier and the senior management team at Travis CU have noticed the employees are more accepting of the credit union’s Hispanic outreach efforts and have taken steps to share their experiences with others. They regularly initiate more efforts, including asking Travis CU to provide financial vocabulary lists in Spanish, more training, bilingual staffing, additional marketing and more involvement in Hispanic events.

    Also, noted Cordonnier, employees have become more active in local community organizations. An an example, Eric Maldonado, Travis CU’s community involvement officer for Contra Costa County, is currently serving a term as President of the Contra Costa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has been recognized as the 2012 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of the Year in California.

    “By gaining a better understanding of our Hispanic members,” continued Cordonnier, “Travis employees now help our leadership team develop better strategies to increase membership, grow revenue and boost loan volume with this important demographic.”

    Another by-product of the immersion program has been the building of trust with local Hispanic merchants in the communities Travis CU serves. The programs have been well-received by these businesses, as many have brought the merchants new customers and revenue growth opportunities, as well as opened the door for new partnerships in future outreach efforts.

    In recognition of their outstanding community outreach efforts, Travis CU was named the Community Leader of the Year by the Solano County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in October, 2012. “This award is usually given to an individual,” said Cordonnier. “It is an honor to be the first business to ever receive it.”

    Because of its successful investment in the local Hispanic community, Travis CU plans to implement more immersion training sessions in the future to make sure all employees have the opportunity to participate. They also hope to add more bilingual staff and offer more products and services targeted to their Hispanic members’ needs.

    “As we continue to enhance our Hispanic outreach programs to build awareness for our credit union within the communities we serve, we know that the investment we’re making has not only been good for the strategic growth of the credit union,” concluded Cordonnier, “but has also proved to be important to the overall credit union movement. We have seen first-hand that our mission of ‘people helping people’ is truly the right approach to take as we work to build trust with, and provide much-needed services to, this growing market.”

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    Make Strategic Planning For Hispanic Growth Simple

    Posted by on June 5, 2012

    While it’s true the Hispanic market is the largest, fastest-growing group in the United States, that’s not the only reason the country’s credit unions are working hard to learn more about this community.

    To gain that understanding of the Hispanic community, credit unions must begin by fully examining their current outreach and potential for growth. One way credit unions are pursuing this strategy is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON).

    By asking the right questions the HON will uncover a credit union’s readiness to reach a new market or to take the efforts to the next level. The HON also sets forth a plan of action for credit union staff to follow on its path to growth through the Hispanic market.

    With this plan, credit unions will be encouraged to implement new tactics to grow its Hispanic membership, such as:
    • Developing a strategic plan with milestones and goals for serving Hispanic populations
    • Training employees on the business case for serving Hispanics and on issues related to reaching Hispanic populations
    • Providing basic introductory financial services, including international non-wire remittance services and low or no-cost check-cashing in a way relevant to Hispanics.
    • Tracking Hispanic ethnicity and analyzing data to examine Hispanic contribution to the bottom line
    • Establishing long-term relationships with community organization partners trusted by the Hispanic community

    When implemented in the proper sequence, these tactics will ultimately achieve results much faster and much more cost-effectively for a credit union than if they had gone without a charted course.

    The HON is quickly becoming a standard in the industry. In fact, Texas credit unions hoping to attain the Juntos Avanzamos designation* are strongly encouraged to perform a HON analysis.

    *The Juntos Avanzamos designation, which translates to “Together We Advance,” is an indicator to consumers that the designated financial institution is not only welcoming, but prepared to handle the financial needs of the Hispanic community

    For more information about how the HON can help your credit union’s Hispanic outreach programs, download the white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”

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    Hispanic Outreach Is an Indispensable Investment In The Future

    Posted by on May 29, 2012

    The Hispanic population is very young as compared to other U.S. ethnic groups. The best potential for lowering the average age of a credit union’s membership is by bringing Hispanic members into the fold. Because it is a largely underserved group, helping Hispanic members navigate the U.S. financial system is an important part of the overall credit union mission.

    Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in a credit union’s future. But, seeing the benefit of serving the Hispanic population is one thing. Truly understanding what it takes to do so is quite another.

    To gain that understanding, credit unions must begin by fully examining their current outreach and potential for growth. This places the credit union in a much better position for defining success and for developing a strategic plan for achieving that success.

    By asking these questions, credit unions can develop a customized strategy for achieving their goals:

    • Is the credit union well-positioned to target and serve the Hispanic market?

    • How many Hispanic members is the credit union currently serving?

    • What milestones has the credit union already achieved?

    • How many Hispanic members could the credit union serve and what is the income potential?

    • What are the opportunities and challenges faced by the credit union?

    • What are the best-practice strategies that will attract and retain Hispanic members?

    To learn more about how asking the right questions can help grow your credit union’s Hispanic membership, download Coopera’s white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”

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    How to Reach – And Best Serve – The Hispanic Market

    Posted by on May 22, 2012

    Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in the future. Yet having a Hispanic growth strategy on its own will not generate the kind of success a credit union needs. It is the integration of a Hispanic growth strategy with the credit union’s overall strategic future that will ultimately create sustainable success.

    One way for credit unions to pursue their membership growth strategy with their local Hispanic community is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON), an industry-accepted assessment that Coopera has completed for more than 50 credit unions across the country.

    Designed to make strategic planning for a Hispanic growth strategy simple, the HON provides a measurement of a credit union’s Hispanic membership baseline.

    In addition, the program evaluates a credit union’s cultural disposition to serving a new market. As a third assessment, the HON analyzes the credit union’s tactical progress to understand what has already been accomplished toward becoming what Coopera calls a “Best Practice Credit Union.”

    The HON supplies a road map to follow utilizing three Hispanic growth stages: Discovery, Emerging and Best Practice. By asking the right questions during these phases, the HON gives credit unions a customized strategy for achieving their goals.

    One Coopera customer, Arna Reynolds, CEO of Amarillo Community Federal Credit Union, says, “The HON has been an invaluable tool for our Hispanic programs. It has given us the ability to adapt our strategic plan to include target marketing with customized messages to the appropriate age groups. Now with a defined roadmap, we understand exactly which direction to take next.”

    For more information about how the HON can help your credit union’s Hispanic outreach programs, download the white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”

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    Asking the Right Questions

    Posted by on May 15, 2012

    Smart credit union executives realize that the face of the American consumer is changing, and that to grow membership, they must adapt to their new consumers.

    One way for credit unions to pursue their membership growth strategy with their local Hispanic community is by asking the right questions to develop a customized strategy for achieving their membership growth goals:

    Is the credit union well-positioned to target and serve the Hispanic market?
    The goal here is to determine whether a credit union is excited by the philosophical and business imperative to serve the Hispanic market. Answers can be found in a variety of ways, including internal staff/board surveys and a review of materials, such as marketing collateral and strategic planning documents.

    How many Hispanic members is the credit union currently serving?
    This question is about more than numbers. Rather, it is designed to help the credit union understand how far it has come in the Discovery, Emerging & Best Practice phases.

    What milestones has the credit union already achieved?
    The answers to this question provide a snapshot of the credit union’s current Hispanic outreach, including a look at personnel, products, processes and systems, and promotion and marketing strategies.

    How many Hispanic members could the credit union serve and what is the income potential?
    One measure of a credit union’s potential success in Hispanic growth is total income. It can be calculated from three figures: 1) number in the target market, 2) credit union penetration rate, and 3) average income per member.

    What are the opportunities and challenges faced by the credit union?
    Credit unions must take a hard look at the distribution of Hispanic residents in neighborhoods surrounding branch locations; median income of area Hispanics; percentage of local Hispanics who prefer Spanish to determine their readiness for successful Hispanic engagement.

    What are the best-practice strategies that will attract and retain Hispanic members?
    Recommendations will vary depending on a credit union’s market, what they’ve already accomplished and how well they’ve accomplished it.

    The white paper “Asking the Right Questions” can be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/7ovghlu.

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