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  • One Visionary Leader’s Dream… 10 Years Down the Road

    Posted by on April 19, 2017

    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.

    Coopera 10 Year Anniversary Infographic

    Click to view full infographic

    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.

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    3 Steps to Ensure Inclusivity is Not a Fad

    Posted by on January 24, 2017

    Financial inclusivity as a growth strategy is quickly gaining traction in the community banking space. In fact, the trend recently garnered the attention of the hugely popular, national financial advice site Nerd Wallet.

    Writer Juan Castillo reported:

    Hispanics in the U.S. have long been known as “the sleeping giant” for their potential as a substantial and still-growing voting bloc. Now, some in the financial services industry are getting serious about targeting Hispanics — and Hispanic millennials in particular — as a prime source for market growth.

    As the concept of reaching out to fast-growing markets like the Hispanic segment earns wider interest, it will be important for financial institutions to adhere to the fundamentals before going “all-in.” This will prevent staff from viewing the strategy as a fad and help them to see it as a part of the financial institution’s long-term plan.

    There are essential first steps that must be taken on the front-end of any financial inclusion strategy, particularly when the credit union or community bank is targeting a segment of people new to mainstream banking.

    Step One: Build the Right Organizational Mentality

    Financial institution leaders must communicate the philosophical and business imperatives of serving a new market to build buy-in at all levels of the organization from frontline staff and management to board members and C-suite executives.

    Step Two: Adapt to the Market

    Do not expect the people you want to serve to adapt to you. Develop a comprehensive plan for how you will improve processes and products, as well as train employees and prepare your branches.

    Step Three: Create a Strategic Plan

    Define your opportunities and challenges with an eye to your specific local communities. What does the market look like in your city? Are there nuances across age, geography, acculturation factors? Create a roadmap encompassing groundwork, personnel training, product adaptation/development, processes and marketing. Set ongoing measurements and continue to nurture that all-important staff buy-in with frequent updates on milestones and wins.

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    Credit Union Adds Three Fresh Perspectives in One New Board Member

    Posted by on August 2, 2016

    Achieving a variety of inclusivity and diversity objectives is becoming more important for credit union boards of directors. One such board is that of Community 1st Credit Union in Ottumwa, Iowa. The Juntos Avanzamos-designated credit union recently welcomed Edith Cabrera-Tello to its board.
    Edith brings a unique perspective to the credit union’s leadership as the youngest director, as well as the only female and the only Latina on the board. We had the chance to sit down with Edith to chat about her appointment, as well as her insight on the important role credit unions play in the formation of good financial habits for today’s consumers.

    Eidth Linked InHow long have you been a member and board member of Community 1st?

    I’ve been a member of the credit union since 2011 and a board member since January 2016.

    What is your view of credit unions as a financial option for the Hispanic community?

    When my husband and I wanted to start our own business, we asked our bank for help. They denied our application for a loan. We then went to a credit union and received the support we were looking for. That’s when I learned more about credit unions and the services they offered.
    I also worked for a school as the Hispanic community outreach coordinator at the time. We would offer workshops and occasionally had someone from a credit union come talk about personal finances. That was a great opportunity for those in our community who are immigrants learn how credit unions could help us. They open doors for individuals simply by accepting an ITIN number (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). The credit union we worked with also provided financial support to make the workshops happen. That’s something no bank had offered to do.

    What changes have you seen in how Community 1st serves its members and specifically its Hispanic members since you’ve been a board member?

    I have noticed how many more services the credit union is working to make more inclusive for our community. ITIN lending has been quite beneficial, but they are not stopping there. They are continuing to look for ways to improve. The leadership has hired the right people to assist the community, too, which is incredibly important.

    How has the work with Coopera and receiving the Juntos Avanzamos designation impacted outreach to the Hispanic community?

    The designation is not only helping the Hispanic community; it’s helping everyone in our area. A lot of that has to do with awareness and exposure to new things. Take for example, board members working to properly pronounce Juntos Avanzamos. You can see their desire to do so correctly. They have seen the importance of the designation and all the efforts that come with it. They understand that the better we serve our community, the greater return there will be on the investment.

    Could you describe your experience as a board member of a credit union from the moment you decided to volunteer until now?

    It’s been pretty good. I am the only woman, the youngest and the only Latina on the board. I feel comfortable, and the other board members help me when I need it. They have so many years combined experience, I am learning from them while hopefully they are learning from me. It’s been incredible to see how they take the time to help the credit union grow.

    What advice do you have for any potential Hispanic board members thinking about or having been approached to serve on the board of a credit union?

    We need diversity on credit union boards. Being involved on the board not only allows directors to have a say on decision making specific to the credit union; it also allows that individual to support the larger community.

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