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  • One Credit Union’s Strategic, Collaborative Approach to Hispanic Member Growth

    Posted by on March 13, 2017

    Sometimes the best way to lead a successful strategy is to have survived an unsuccessful one. That is precisely the spirit with which Anne Hagen is approaching her credit union’s second go at Hispanic membership growth. The vice president of marketing for Iowa’s Community 1st Credit Union, Hagen believes one of the biggest lessons learned from the cooperative’s first attempt was that a single champion of the program is not enough.

    “We identified how important it would be to serve the Hispanic community back in 2007,” said Hagen. “When we lost the key person leading that effort, however, the program fizzled out. After continuing to evaluate the segment and truly understanding how underserved it is, we knew we had to try again.”

    President and CEO Greg Hanshaw explained that the calling to do more is rooted in the credit union’s 80-year history. “Our goal as an organization has always been to personify the credit union philosophy of people helping people. Although that can sound cliché, it’s the real deal around here. And it’s a huge part of why we felt years ago it was critically important to reach the Hispanic market.”

    CU Recognizes Need for Grassroots Leadership

    logo_2cThe credit union recognized a Hispanic member growth plan would need to be a cooperative-wide initiative supported by everyone from frontline staff to the C-suite. Yet, they also understood the importance of hiring an empathetic community member. This individual would help credit union staff better identify and overcome obstacles to engaging the Hispanic community. David Suarez joined the credit union as Bilingual Community Development Manager in June 2015. Suarez then helped recruit Edith Cabrera, the credit union’s first Hispanic board member.

    “When David came to the credit union, he did not sit back,” said Hagen. “He immediately identified those areas where we weren’t doing enough for the community and started building initiatives from scratch. He spearheaded partnership with Coopera to help us learn best practices and with local Hispanic organizations to get us connected to the community in a grassroots way.”

    According to Hagen, Suarez has a knack for explaining to community members how a credit union can help. “His message really resonates with the Hispanic people in the communities we serve.” The result has been close relationships with many credit union members, many of whom attribute their financial successes to his guidance.

    That knack for explaining extends to Suarez’s influence inside the credit union. “One thing I’ve learned from David is a lot of the folks in Iowa have come from cultures and backgrounds where they didn’t trust the financial system that was built to provide those types of services,” said Hanshaw. “So we have an opportunity to show what a not-for-profit cooperative is and how it is uniquely built to provide services to people who may not meet the right criteria at a traditional financial institution.”

    To read more about Community 1st all-in approach to Hispanic membership growth, download “Hispanic Member Growth Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.”

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    Credit Union ‘Jump Starts’ Staff Passion for Hispanic Member Service with Immersion Exercises, Training

    Posted by on February 13, 2017

    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.”

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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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    University Puts Itself Under the Inclusion Microscope

    Posted by on April 7, 2016

    isu (2)My alma mater, Iowa State University (ISU), has begun to examine how it can improve diversity and inclusion among its students and staff. Naturally, it’s an initiative about which our entire team is excited and happy to support however we can.

    This spring, I had the terrific opportunity to share my student experience at ISU, as well as my thoughts on how the university can become even better at supporting multi-cultural students and staff. What follows is an excerpt of the article I contributed to the university’s alumni publication, Visions.

    This particular issue is packed with insights from other passionate ISU supporters and students. Many of their thoughts are applicable to the credit union environment, as well. So, if you have a few minutes and are curious as to the ways in which multi-cultural consumers experience different facets of their life at different stages of their journey, I’d encourage you to give it a read.

    My quest toward a college degree was far from a given for me. As the daughter of foreign-born parents who hadn’t attended college in Mexico nor the U.S., I knew it was up to me to own the responsibility. I was fortunate to have friends and advisors at Perry (Iowa) High School to guide me through the entrance exam, application and financial aid processes. Together, we navigated what could otherwise have been a long, confusing road. 

    I’m sharing this story because I believe it’s an experience shared by many first generation Latino Iowans. 

    I’m filled with gratitude as I as I think about ISU’s courage in choosing to ask the question: How can we be better [at attracting and serving Latino students]?” Imagine ISU as the premier four-year university attracting, retaining and graduating young, influential multi-cultural students.

    Even though more multi-cultural students are attending college than ever before, they tend to choose two-year degree programs because they attend school part-time, live outside campus and have outside responsibilities (such as providing and caring for family members). If this dynamic is altered and multi-cultural students begin to feel part of a larger whole, I believe they, along with their families, will create thriving communities that perpetuate growth and change across the state and nationwide.

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    Gomez: This Is Our Time to Take Action

    Posted by on March 2, 2015

    Federation colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by the terrific response to the financial inclusion campaign, which kicked off in January at the Financial Inclusion for Immigrant Consumers Roundtable held in Los Angeles.

    Ivonet Gomez, marketing manager for USC Credit Union in Los Angeles, was one of more than 50 professionals who attended the event. Following the roundtable, she shared this insight with Coopera:

    Ivonet Gomez, USC Credit Union Marketing Manager

    I thought the roundtable was very well executed and perfectly timed given the government’s new immigration reform. The information provided by all presenters was insightful and helpful.

    I really enjoyed Senator Cedillo’s testimonial and appreciate our city council’s involvement and support of this initiative. I have heard about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs before, but I was not aware of the details and upcoming expansion guidelines for these programs before the roundtable presentation. Also it was insightful to learn the Mexican Matricula Consular is now accepted as a valid form of identification at the DMV and other financial institutions. The Mexican Consulate is offering all credit unions a great opportunity to participate and get involve firsthand with those that need our help the most.

    The next steps for our credit union are to plan a Hispanic growth strategy, create new products/services that promote financial inclusion to immigrants through DACA/DAPA, and promote loans with a credit history building purpose and savings component.

    We understand the importance of all credit unions getting involved in this particular moment, when it is key to serve our immigrant community. We will continue to participate and be one of the credit unions that drives, collaborates and implements these initiatives to better serve the underserved communities in Los Angeles. This is our time to take action.

    We couldn’t agree more with Ms. Gomez’s remarks; this is indeed the time for credit unions to show how they differ from other financial institutions and to extend a hand to a population that needs credit unions as much as credit unions need them.

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    Unprecedented Interest: Credit Unions More Curious than Ever about Immigrant Opportunity

    Posted by on February 16, 2015

    In all the years I’ve been blessed to be a part of the credit union industry, I have never seen the level of interest in serving immigrant and underserved communities as high as we’re seeing right now. It’s extremely rewarding and very encouraging to see the movement grab hold of this significant opportunity.

    Most recently, we witnessed this growing curiosity among credit union leaders through our financial inclusion campaign with the Federation. Just two webinars and a roundtable event have already brought together close to 250 people excited to discuss how to provide financial inclusion to immigrants impacted by the president’s recent immigration executive order.

    I can’t wait to see how many immigrants are brought into the financial mainstream and how many more credit union leaders we are able to reach as this campaign continues.

    As reported by CU Today, it was apparent during the roundtable event that credit unions leaders’ comfort level with offering products and services to the immigrant population is rising.

    “Energy and enthusiasm levels remained high into the afternoon with presentations from Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and California, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) on how to leverage partnerships,” reads a recap blog post by the Federation.

    Credit unions from the local area, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. participated in the Los Angeles roundtable event. However, as evidence by the webinar attendance, this is an issue of interest to credit unions in all parts of the U.S. Professionals from across the country participated in those two online events.

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    Five Keys to a Great Remittance Program

    Posted by on September 23, 2014

    Remittance stand in the Dominican Republic, captured by Coopera's Anna Pena on a World Council of Credit Unions-sponsored trip to the region.

    With intense growth of the Hispanic market across the country, more U.S. credit unions are looking to add money transfer programs, known as remittances, for Hispanic immigrants with family in Latin America.

    And now may be an ideal time to play in the market.

    U.S. remittances to developing countries reached $404 billion in 2013 and are predicted to grow to $516 billion by 2016, according to the World Bank. At the same time, an increasing number of providers have dropped their remittance programs, leaving a competitive opening for credit unions.

    The shuttering of many long-time remittance providers is due to an unprecedented compliance burden. This has also led to the development of an industry that is, as this PaymentsSource article puts it, “ripe for startups.” There are now even international start-ups looking at the U.S. with aspirations of market dominance.

    As the remittance industry shape-shifts to meet increased scrutiny from regulators, some credit unions are looking to find new partners who can help them compete in this important space.

    Credit unions should view remittances services as a value-added tool designed to increase the depth of the membership experience. Coopera’s research (performed in conjunction with the World Council of Credit Unions) found that remittance services, when combined with an intentional Hispanic growth strategy, can earn a credit union much higher volumes as compared to those credit unions without a strategic approach.

    If your credit union is looking to develop or make changes to its remittance offering, here are a few things to keep in mind:

    Understand the geographies you must serve – Not all remittance providers serve the same locales. Before creating a partnership, understand your Hispanic members’ countries of origin and the available locations within a typical recipient’s country.

    Survey the competition – Examine your local market to understand how you can provide the most competitive offering. What other local organizations are providing remittance services? What are they charging? What are their hours of operation, etc.?

    Investigate the alternatives – When issued to a Hispanic cardholder in the U.S. alongside a secondary card for a family member in Latin America, a reloadable prepaid card like the Coopera Card is an affordable and accessible option for sending money outside the country. What’s more, reloadable prepaid cards do not require compliance with the CFPB’s remittance transfer disclosure requirements.

    Know your compliance burden – While the cost of compliance will mostly fall on the shoulders of third-party service providers, credit unions will be held ultimately responsible for providing the appropriate disclosures.

    Develop a member experience strategy – How will the credit union transition first-time remittance users to more products? Incentives like offering the fourth or fifth remittance free can keep remitters coming back to your shop for more remittances, but how will you engage them with other products and servicesfor the long-term?

    Especially given recent industry upheaval, remittances are a much-needed service for Hispanic immigrants with family members residing in Latin America. In fact, Coopera has made remittances a best-practice solution for credit unions looking to invest in the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most underserved segment of the U.S. population. While there are certainly barriers to entry, keeping the above pointers in mind can help you break through those obstacles to deliver a needed solution to your Hispanic members and prospective members.

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