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  • Its Not About the Bottom Line, Its About the Needs of the Member

    Posted by on June 10, 2014

    The following case study is an excerpt from Coopera’s Iowa Hispanic Opportunity Report for the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL). For more information, contact the ICUL at www.iowacreditunions.com.

    Veridian Credit Union, headquartered in Waterloo, Ia., has a long history of offering innovative and affordable financial services to members. One way Veridian differentiates its business from other financial service providers in the area is by offering services specifically designed to improve the socio-economic well-being of those in greatest need — including the local Hispanic community. For Veridian it’s not about the business’s bottom line; it’s about best serving members’ financial needs.

    “Many years ago, Veridian recognized a need to offer Latinos in our communities more affordable products and services compared to the expensive alternatives they were using,” said Angela Weekley, Veridian community inclusion manager. “We also understood that our credit union’s value to members was to help them build a successful financial future, rather than offering one-off solutions.”

    To aid their efforts, Veridian began working with Coopera to better understand the nuances of the Hispanic culture, to learn more about what this market needed out of a financial services provider and to build a relationship with the Hispanic communities in its operations areas. Coopera also gave Veridian guidance in hiring bilingual staff, as well as marketing and tailoring its product and services mix to this very important demographic.

    According to Shelly McGill, Veridian’s Central Iowa regional manager, offering the right products and services was very important to meeting Latino members’ unique financial needs. One of the actions Veridian took was to give members a viable alternative to expensive payday-loan centers and check-cashing services. To do this, Veridian introduced an affordable alternative to traditional payday lending outlets in early 2007. “The Payday Lending Alternative (PAL) loan features a savings component to help break the cycle of dependency on payday loans,” said McGill. “This program was a success almost immediately. Just two years after it was introduced, Veridian had already awarded more than 4,700 PAL loans to both Latino and non-Latino members.”

    Veridian also started offering the Coopera Card, a prepaid card tailor-made for the Hispanic market. Quinceañera loans, checking and savings accounts, CDs (Certificates of Deposit) and credit card accounts, as well as home equity loans, round out the services of which Veridian’s Hispanic members take advantage.

    In addition to those products, Veridian made an effort to enhance its member services. They became an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) acceptance agent to help community members apply for their ITIN number through the IRS, and also began to offer interest-bearing safe savings accounts and loans to Hispanic members without traditional forms of identification and documentation. Veridian’s ITIN loan offerings include credit builder loans, auto loans and consumer loans such as the PAL, share secured co-signer loans. The company also focused on offering financial education opportunities, like a credit builder loan program, to help immigrant families better acclimate to the U.S. financial system. Prior to hiring additional Spanish-speaking staff, the credit union incorporated an AT&T Language Line better-equip English-speaking staff to assist Spanish-speaking members.

    To support these products and services, Veridian also began to enhance its internal infrastructure for Hispanic outreach. “We make a point to hire bilingual staff in our branches when the opportunity makes sense, even adding more staff in those locations with greater non-English speaking populations,” said Weekley, who noted the credit union currently employs 23 Spanish-speaking staff in its 26 branch locations. “We implemented a diversity training program for all employees to make sure everyone is on board with the company’s goals and efforts.”

    Weekley added that Veridian started their outreach to the Hispanic community by forming an advisory council made up of staff and local community members. It helped the credit union better understand the Hispanic community’s needs and make recommendations on how Veridian could best meet those needs.

    Veridian continues to focus its external marketing efforts on better targeting Latinos. “We create bilingual brochures and collateral for our products and services,” said Weekley. “And, we advertise in Spanish newspapers and on local radio stations. We make sure to participate in public relations opportunities, like providing information or quotes for articles in newspapers and magazines, to build awareness about Veridian and its outreach efforts.”

    “We asked the council to review our initiatives to make sure they make sense for our Latino members,” said Weekley. “Advisory Council members reviewed materials to make sure our translations accurately reflect the messages we wanted to communicate.”

    In addition to its marketing initiatives, Veridian’s external outreach efforts include becoming an active participant in the local communities the credit union serves. Every year, staff participate in local Latino Heritage Festival and Cinco de Mayo celebrations, as well as partner with organizations like J&E Entertainment in Iowa City, Ia., to host an annual Sunset Salsa event. And, each July, Veridian is the presenting sponsor for Festival Latino de Cedar Rapids in Cedar Rapids, Ia.

    The cooperative is also active in community organizations. For example, McGill serves on the Latino Forum of the Urban Core, a Des Moines based group of members and supporters of the Latino community. “We really care about the people in our communities,” added Weekley, “and we are proud that our actions and intentions are authentic. The best way to prove this to our members is by truly becoming a part of their lives.”

    All of these efforts have been successful thanks to the credit union’s hard work and dedication to this mission of improving its members’ lives. To continue its success, McGill noted that Veridian keeps up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations in the financial industry, makes sure the cooperative is offering products and services that not only make sense for members but that also comply with the law .

    “Because we are a cooperative, rather than a for-profit business,” said McGill, “we can focus on doing what’s right for our members. Our results prove this is the right approach. In 2012, we experienced a 10-percent growth in our Latino membership.” Currently, 6,398 of the credit union’s 174,000 members are Latino.

    Weekley concluded, “We truly listen to the voice of the people — not just guess which products and services Hispanic members need. We ask them for input and then deliver what they want. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and will continue to look for ways to grow our efforts and opportunities in the future.”

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    A Great Alternative to Checking

    Posted by on January 22, 2013

    Guest post by Areli Estrada, Member Service Representative, Des Moines Metro Credit Union in Des Moines, Iowa

    Prepaid card products have become very popular with our Hispanic members who look to us for help with budgeting and money management. The Coopera Card, in particular, has been a good option for our credit union to offer because it is designed in the language of our Hispanic members’ choice — English or Spanish, and the card’s pricing structure is tailored to match the culture’s financial behaviors. What’s more, the Coopera Card is easy for our Hispanic members to open because it does not require credit history, a social security number or ITIN, or even a financial institution account to become a cardholder.

    In my role, I often talk to members who need the benefits of an ATM or debit card but only have a savings account with our credit union. Many times, these members do not want to open a checking account and are interested to know we can offer them a great alternative to checking accounts with the Coopera Card.

    I also often recommend the Coopera Card to parents opening accounts for minors because the children don’t have the option of overdraft — something parents are concerned about — but do have the responsibility of having and maintaining an active account. This card is a great option for teenagers to learn to manage and/or control their expenses before getting a debit card.

    The best thing I do when I’m counseling members on the decision to get a prepaid is to really listen to their needs and then show them how the Coopera Card matches those needs. The benefits of the card that I make sure to highlight are:

    Visa-branded — cardholders can use their Coopera Card anywhere at any time Visa is accepted, and make online payments and deposits.

    Stand-alone — the card is not linked to the cardholder’s credit union accounts so there is no possibility of overdrafts; cardholders can only spend the money that is available on the card at time of purchase.

    Budgeting — cardholders can track their spending to know what’s left on the card, and there is no risk of overspending, overdraft fees or interest fees.

    Security — cardholders never have to give out their credit union account numbers, and the cards are insured by Visa against loss or theft.

    Convenience — cardholders can call in and have their money deposited or transferred to their card without having to come into the credit union, saving time and money.

    Simply put, the Coopera Card makes money management easy for our budget-conscious members — they can make purchases without the worry of overspending or overdraft fees. Hispanic members, in particular, are acutely aware of the importance of money management, and we’re excited to offer them this truly helpful and unique tool for furthering their financial goals.

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    Target Your Outreach, Marketing Efforts to Attract Hispanics

    Posted by on January 15, 2013

    Guest blog post by Dallas Zimbelman, Financial Services Representative, KEE Federal Credit Union, Lexington, Nebraska

    With close to 50 percent of our local population claiming Hispanic heritage, many of them second and third generation U.S. residents, efforts to grow our Hispanic member base have become an important part of our credit union’s initiatives throughout the years.

    We have found many of the Hispanic residents in our local community already have a basic understanding of the U.S. financial system, yet they struggle with money management and building credit for loans. To help this crucially important group better understand our credit union’s products and services, as well as general principles of financial health, we use a mix of external outreach efforts and internal marketing programs.

    An important aspect of our outreach efforts is building awareness about our credit union in the community. One of the ways we achieve this is through advertising in the local Hispanic newspaper, Que Pasa — a monthly supplement of the Lexington Clipper-Herald.

    We also work closely with the local meat packing plant, where many of our Hispanic residents are employed, to help employees who are having trouble with their finances.

    We are also working with Central Community College in Lexington to host workshops using CUNA and Coopera’s Spanish seminar-in-a-box series. The ultimate goal here is to educate Hispanics on personal finance topics, like how to:

    – build credit
    – improve a bad credit score
    – maintain good credit
    – manage a budget

    As with many organizations, our best marketing comes from word-of-mouth referrals. The Hispanic culture relies heavily on the experiences of friends and family members to guide decisions and choices. So when we serve one Hispanic member, we get opportunities to talk with at times several walk-ins who have heard about what we’ve done to help friends or family members.

    Once inside our credit union, we work to make sure the Hispanic community understands we cater to individual needs. For example, we have worked with Coopera to make our existing products and services, like our credit-builder program, more geared toward the Hispanic culture. This has included offering our materials in both English and Spanish, as well as offering one-on-one and group educational sessions.

    As part of targeted marketing programs, we have also introduced new products, like the Coopera Card, to be able to work with Hispanics in our community who may not be ready for more traditional products and services.

    All of these efforts combined have proven to be successful. We continue to serve a large and growing population of Hispanic members, and our opportunities for revenue and membership growth continue to grow alongside this important segment of our membership base.

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    Your Future Prepaid Cardholders are Hispanic

    Posted by on November 20, 2012

    For the first time in our country’s history, minority births reached 50.4 percent of total births in the U.S. from July 2010 to July 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Of the total births in that year, the Census reveals that nearly 26 percent were Hispanic.

    Looking at numbers, it’s easy to see the question isn’t will Hispanic members be a part of your future, but how soon. By providing dignified financial services to Hispanics, your credit union will not only achieve successful growth for your cooperative; you’ll also make a difference in the lives of your neighbors.

    Competition for this growing segment is heating up. This is why it is incredibly important for your credit union to offer prepaid products that focus their marketing power on differentiation, and understanding how Hispanic cardholders will use your prepaid card products is key.

    Hispanic cardholders may want to use their prepaid card as an affordable way to share funds with family members abroad so it’s important that your prepaid card offering does not limit the amount of cardholders on the account to two persons. Prepaid cards like the Coopera Card, which not only offer cardholders cash loads via in-branch, online, direct deposit and Visa ReadyLink merchants, also allow cardholders to request up to six additional cards for family, whether stateside or outside the country.

    For cardholders looking to use prepaid cards as an alternative to money transfers, presenting an option that charges less in foreign exchange rates, like the Coopera Card that currently offers a foreign exchange rate of one percent compared to the two percent other cards charge, can go a long way toward attracting cardholders to your credit union.

    Also, do not underestimate the strong need for language and cultural relevance with your prepaid card offering. Consult with a specialist who can double check the cardholder’s entire user experience, as well as your credit union’s marketing approach and message to be sure they are relevant. Prepaid cards configured to support the cultural and lifestyle nuances of your target membership, can be incredibly influential in developing long-term members for your credit union.

    Now is the perfect time to begin outreach to the Hispanic community, and prepaid cards can be just the door-opener you need to begin courting this market.

    The content of this blog is based on the Coopera white paper “Prepaid Cards Are Not Created Equal.” Download the paper for free today.

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    Prepaid Cards Perfect for Consumers Fed Up with Soaring Fees

    Posted by on November 13, 2012

    With demand-deposit accounts and debit card transactions so strictly regulated, many of your credit union’s big-bank competitors have imposed a variety of new fees on traditional banking services. This has led to many consumers, both banked customers as well as the underserved, choosing to carry cash or use prepaid cards instead of paying these rising fees.

    Because prepaid cards can be used much like debit cards, to pay bills or make purchases, as well as to withdraw and transfer funds and account information with ATM and text-messaging services, they have become a strong alternative to costly check-cashing services and money transfer services.

    With a focus on fair fees – and more importantly, disclosure of those fair fees – many prepaid card vendors, including Coopera, have voluntarily adopted a fee-disclosure box that makes it easier for consumers to compare prepaid card fees and choose the one that best fits their needs.

    For credit unions, the potential exists to provide a prepaid card that goes beyond simply access to funds via plastic. It is an opportunity for your credit union to build a long-term relationship with the underserved, as well as to convert disenfranchised big-bank customers into loyal members.

    The content of this blog is based on the Coopera white paper “Prepaid Cards Are Not Created Equal.” Download the paper for free today.

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    Do Homework Before Choosing a Prepaid Card Product

    Posted by on November 6, 2012

    Today, the underserved — many of whom choose not to join a credit union or open an account with a bank simply because they do not trust U.S. financial institutions — are frequently using expensive nonbank financial services, like money orders, check-cashing and payday advances instead. Prepaid cards, too, are a growing alternative for this group, who are looking for fast, easy and cheap ways to pay bills and to make purchases.

    To protect underserved consumers, scrutiny of prepaid card products is on the rise. In fact, financial regulatory organizations, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), are under enormous pressure to crack down on all manner of so-called predatory services targeting the underserved.

    If your credit union plans to offer a prepaid card product as part of your strategic growth, this is something you need to keep an eye on. Monitoring the situation is not just to protect your business, but it is also so you understand the competitive advantage you can leverage with the right prepaid card product.

    Before you partner with a prepaid card vendor, do your homework — know the differences in the available options (fee structures, terms and conditions, as well as disclosures). To make sure you are bringing the safest, most reliable and best-suited product forward, find the prepaid card that is tailored to match the financial behaviors of your members.

    The content of this blog is based on the Coopera white paper “Prepaid Cards Are Not Created Equal.” Download the paper for free today.

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    Coopera Card Ranks 5th on NerdWallet.com

    Posted by on October 16, 2012

    The Coopera Prepaid Reloadable Visa® Card has been ranked by NerdWallet.com as one of the most affordable, cost-effective prepaid cards available to consumers. The online financial planning resource’s ranking is based on the Coopera Card’s low fees as compared to more than 70 other prepaid card options on the market, including two competing prepaid card products also specifically targeted to Hispanic cardholders.

    The Coopera Card is also the only prepaid reloadable card in NerdWallet.com’s top five ranking that was specifically designed for the Hispanic cardholder and provides a seamless cardholder experience in the language of choice of the Hispanic cardholder.

    Because no two prepaid card products are exactly the same, especially when it comes to fees, like monthly, ATM or transaction fees, NerdWallet.com built an interactive prepaid card comparison tool to help consumers standardize prepaid cards’ disclosures, fee structures and terms and conditions. The tool gives consumers a tailored, at-a-glance understanding of each card’s cost structure and ranks a prepaid card’s affordability based on:
    • Card use, including both signature and PIN transactions;
    • ATM use, including withdrawals and balance inquiries;
    • Reloads, including cash reloads; and
    • Direct deposit and monthly loads, to determine if the user is eligible for a discount.

    One of the ways the Coopera Card keeps costs low, and its ranking on NerdWallet.com high, is by offering fee-free cash loads at the cardholder’s credit union, by direct deposit of payroll checks or through online transfers from an existing checking or savings account, as well as from other credit or prepaid cards. And for the cardholder’s convenience, Coopera Card cardholders can also load cash on their cards via Visa ReadyLink merchants for a fee.

    To see how the Coopera Card compares to other prepaid cards, visit: http://www.nerdwallet.com/prepaid

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    Set Your Prepaid Products Apart from the Rest

    Posted by on October 2, 2012

    Prepaid card options are popping up all over the place. But with very little regulatory oversight, these cards’ disclosures, fee structures and terms and conditions are all different. This can make choosing the right card option difficult for your Hispanic members.

    To differentiate your prepaid card from stand-alone options that are issued directly to Hispanics consumers, you need to do more than simply sell it. Hispanics, particularly non-English speaking or immigrant members, can find the U.S.’s financial services intimidating, confusing or culturally irrelevant. This is not an insurmountable hurdle for your credit union; it’s an opportunity. Take advantage of where your competitors may be falling short — offer an education component to your card’s services.

    A major fear among many underserved, Hispanic and non-Hispanic alike, is that prepaid-card fees will rob them of their hard-earned money. Another fear is that a prepaid card may open them up to the risk of debt. Prepaid cards are designed to do the exact opposite, and it’s vital that your staff be prepared to confront these misconceptions by educating cardholders on the features and benefits of your prepaid card option. Not only do you want to make sure cardholders understand the terms and conditions of the card, but you also want to teach them how to connect the product to their daily financial habits.

    Remember, your goal is to lead your Hispanic members down a path to financial responsibility, and ultimately, convert them into long-term, viable and contributing members of your credit union.

    The content of this blog is based on the Coopera white paper “Prepaid Cards Are Not Created Equal.” Download the paper for free today.

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