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  • Credit Union Takes a Step Back to Better Align Hispanic Outreach Efforts

    Posted by on December 10, 2013

    With 40 percent of its local market claiming Hispanic heritage, the growth path of People’s Trust Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Houston, Texas, was pretty clear: It would be critical to make a strategic investment in expanding the credit union’s Hispanic outreach efforts.

    In 2008, People’s Trust began advertising on Spanish television network Telemundo. After a couple of years, however, that effort was put on hold. The People’s Trust leadership team challenged the staff to better understand how the credit union could serve its current and future Hispanic members before advertising. “Our Sr. Management asked us some really tough questions to get us thinking more strategically about our outreach efforts, including how we were internally supporting these members,” said Patsy Jalomo, People’s Trust marketing manager. “We realized that we were not prepared to tackle this alone, and that we needed help from people who have expertise in the Hispanic market.”

    Through its relationship with the Cornerstone Credit Union League, People’s Trust was referred to Coopera, and a partnership between the two companies was formed. In February 2013, Coopera conducted a Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON) of the local Houston market for People’s Trust, and according to Jalomo, the results were a real eye-opener for the credit union.

    “The HON confirmed what our Sr. Management team suspected, specifically that we were not as prepared to serve the Hispanic market as we needed to be,” said Jalomo. “We had the bilingual staff to support our initiatives, but we were missing other basics, like bilingual marketing collateral and documents. We also realized we need to take a closer look at our product  portfolio to determine if we had the right mix to meet the financial needs of our Hispanic consumers.

    “The HON research highlighted where our opportunities were and where we needed to focus our attention,” said Jalomo.

    With more to accomplish before the credit union could expect to successfully reach the Hispanic market, People’s Trust made the decision to slow the pace of implementation and follow the direction recommended by the HON. “The HON really made our discovery process much simpler,” said Jalomo. “Coopera did an excellent job of really looking into the data, understanding it and giving us a solid recommendation of how to move forward.”

    Following Coopera’s guidance, People’s Trust used the results of the HON to quickly classify its primary and secondary markets in the local Hispanic community. The credit union also identified its goals for the Hispanic outreach initiative, including membership and loan volume growth, as well as increasing the credit union’s products-per-member ratio — extensions of the credit union’s overall strategic growth goals.

    From there, the credit union put together an internal task force, composed of staff from each of the credit union’s departments, to work closely with its outreach implementation team to identify tasks, set timelines, assign roles and responsibilities, as well as host strategic planning sessions and manage expectations. “The big question from our staff and our leadership teams has been ‘How soon can we get things in process and completed,’” said Jalomo. “With our task force and implementation teams now working so closely together, we anticipate needing 4 to 6 months to get everything in place and formally launching our efforts in June (2014).”

    Although slowing down the Hispanic outreach process may, at first, have seemed counter-intuitive to the credit union’s growth goals, Jalomo confirmed it’s been the right decision. “Hispanic outreach is definitely a priority for People’s Trust,” said Jalomo. “Yet, we don’t want to make it too urgent that we miss the strategic intent. There is a lot to do, and we want to do it right.

    “Targeting Hispanics is not a quick fix to our membership growth goals,” finished Jalomo. “It’s a long process that requires a lot of patience and investment in time and effort, and we’re committed to its success.”

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    Hispanic Outreach – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

    Posted by on October 29, 2013

    Associated Credit Union, headquartered in Norcross, Ga. (20 miles northeast of Atlanta), is one of the state’s oldest financial institutions. Chartered in 1930 to provide low-cost financial services to its members, Associated Credit Union’s mission has evolved and now includes better serving underserved populations, including the Hispanic community. To do this, Associated Credit Union laid out a multi-year, comprehensive strategic initiative and is in the process of implementing it.

    “Several years ago, Associated Credit Union’s executive management team looked at the demographics of the Atlanta metro market from the 2010 Census numbers for opportunities to grow our membership base,” said Annia Reyes, training manager at Associated Credit Union. “The data drove our credit union to the strategic decision to focus on the emerging Hispanic population.”

    What Associated Credit Union discovered through its research was that the overall Hispanic population in the metro Atlanta area at the time of the Census was estimated at 530,000. From a county perspective, Gwinnett County, which houses six out of Associated Credit Union’s 28 branches, contained the largest population of Hispanics at an estimated 190,000 and was noted as one of the fastest growing counties for Hispanics in the state. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, 40 percent of the population in Gwinnett County will be Hispanic.

    Equipped with this information, Associated Credit Union turned to Coopera for guidance. The credit union utilized the company’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON) to better understand what was needed to serve the local Hispanic community.

    Thru further research, Associated Credit Union discovered that the median age of the Atlanta metro Hispanic market was quite young, between ages 25 and 26, with annual personal earnings ranging from $17,000-$23,000. And, this trend was expected to continue for years to come, as 11 percent of K-12 students in the Atlanta area were Hispanic.

    “With Coopera’s help, we were able to put together a rough sketch of our project plan,” said Huff, project management manager at Associated Credit Union. “We then customized the plan to best meet our objectives and to best serve our new members. We knew we needed to find out what Hispanics in the Atlanta market really needed and wanted out of a financial institution.”

    Led by a 15-person implementation team, comprised of both management and frontline staff, Associated Credit Union began to lay the foundation and framework for this initiative. The process included gaining a better understanding of staffing needs, an evaluation of products and services, as well as the development of promotions and new marketing materials. It also included internal education and communication. “With this strategic initiative, we were dramatically changing the culture of the organization to become more diverse,” said Reyes. “We are not only committed to our members but to also our staff.  It’s crucial that our employees are well informed and receive consistent, on-going training.”

    The implementation team quickly took charge, initiating periodic staff training meetings on Wednesday mornings before the credit union opened for business, as well as, putting together staff events around local celebrations like Cinco de Mayo. Reyes, Huff and members of the implementation team also held monthly meetings with Associated Credit Union’s executive management team, as well as provided regular updates to the management team during the bi-weekly managers’ meeting. “Building a solid Hispanic outreach initiative is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Reyes. “We had full buy-in from the credit union from the beginning, and it was our job to keep things fresh and exciting during the process to make sure everyone stayed motivated through implementation. Keeping the lines of communication open at all levels of the credit union has been critical.”

    Initially, the plan was to roll out the project in four branches, but as the implementation team continued to work on the initiative, they decided instead to “soft” launch in one branch first. “We tweaked our rollout strategy because of the reality of staffing needs and the learning curve, both internally and within the community,” said Huff. “We did a market analysis of Associated Credit Union’s entire operations area, which helped us determine that we needed to focus our initial efforts in our Norcross branch location. We then worked to hire bilingual staff in that branch, as well as in all of our customer-facing departments (i.e. the call center, loan processing center and so on).”

    At this point, Associated Credit Union hired its first branch manager from outside the organization in 30 years. The candidate was bilingual and had industry experience that would help lead the charge in the Norcross branch.

    Initial launch efforts have focused on word-of-mouth outreach, as well as advertising in a local Spanish newspaper, Mundo Hispánico. Also, Associated Credit Union’s marketing department worked to create bilingual versions of the credit union’s most-used collateral, including membership applications, deposit slips and product and service handouts.

    The credit union also worked to make sure its products and services were able to meet the needs of all its members, including Hispanics. The implementation focused on making sure Associated Credit Union’s rate-reward loan program and first-time car buyer programs were available during the soft launch, as well as working with Associated Credit Union’s vendors, like its reloadable prepaid debit card supplier, to make sure these vendors’ customer-facing departments offered bilingual support. The credit union is also investigating adding remittance products in the near future to make sure the credit union is meeting the money transfer needs of the Hispanic marketplace.

    Other future initiatives include adding a Spanish page to the credit union’s website, as well as broader community outreach efforts, such as financial literacy programs and local business partnerships.

    “We know that growing our Hispanic membership base will not happen overnight,” said Huff. “Even after our successful soft launch there is much work to be done yet. We are taking a conservative approach to growing opportunities with all emerging markets to make sure we’ve set reasonable objectives and are meeting our plan’s milestones.

    “Our initial goal is to grow five percent in Hispanic membership over the course of the upcoming year,” continued Huff. “Out of this, we would like between 60-65 percent of these new members to open a checking account and request a debit card. As we become more familiar with the Hispanic membership needs, and as they become more trusting of us as a financial institution, we will then focus on really growing loans with the new Hispanic membership.

    “It is our objective to become the primary financial institution for Hispanics in the Atlanta market, especially Gwinnett County,” finished Huff. “And we’re willing to make the necessary investments to see this happen.”

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    Training Is a Key Part of the Process

    Posted by on May 21, 2013

    Implementing a successful Hispanic outreach program takes more than just translating a credit union’s marketing materials and collateral. As the employees of Fitzsimmons Federal Credit Union (FFCU) of Aurora, Colo., have discovered, training is a key part of the process.

    Taking advantage of Coopera’s expertise in both the credit union and Hispanic markets, FFCU has put an emphasis on training its staff over the last year. The goal? To strengthen the credit union’s internal infrastructure to better serve Hispanic members today and in the future.

    These efforts have included:
    – Regular attendance of Coopera’s Hispanic-outreach webinars
    – Bi-monthly staff meetings
    – Utilizing Coopera’s resource library
    – Monthly consulting with the Coopera client services team
    – Adding bilingual employees

    “We have made a commitment at every level of our credit union — the Board of Directors, executive management and staff — to learn as much as we can about the Hispanic community, particularly their financial needs,” said Sandy Neves, president and CEO, FFCU. “Through training, we have also come to understand how to apply what we know to each and every member interaction.”

    Through these efforts, FFCU has come to realize why training is such a necessary part of implementing a successful Hispanic outreach program. “We knew we had to get our internal structure in place before we could reach out to the Hispanic community. Coopera’s trainings are really comprehensive, and we are learning so much,” said Neves.

    “Training has definitely kept our staff engaged, focused and excited during the implementation process,” added Neves. “And, we’re realizing that everything we’ve learned will help all our members, not just Hispanic members.”

    It’s not only Neves and her management team who are impressed with the results. Here’s what FFCU’s employees have said about the benefits of training:

    “I speak Spanish a little bit, so I am somewhat familiar with the language, and I have been viewing the webinars from Coopera. I think they are a great resource, and all staff should view these webinars.”

    I believe having more Coopera training would be helpful. The webinars have been great resources.”

    “Partnering with Coopera has been very beneficial in guiding the credit union in preparing to enter the Hispanic market.”

    “We have received a wealth of resources from Coopera that will assist us.”

    “The Coopera webinars provide a lot of additional information and are a useful guide to the Hispanic Outreach Program.”

    “I appreciate continued education about the Hispanic culture, specific products and services and language. We are gaining this through our partnership with Coopera.”

    Neves noted that Coopera has learned a lot from FFCU through the training process too. “They ask us a lot of questions about our local market and have gained a better understanding of our Hispanics’ unique cultural and financial needs,” she said.

    And, according to Neves, this insight has allowed Coopera to better help FFCU tailor its approach to their local market. This is particularly important when it comes to breaking down any barriers or misunderstandings FFCU’s local Hispanic community might have about the U.S. financial system or how to highlight the credit union advantage.

    Leading up to the implementation of FFCU’s Hispanic outreach initiatives, the credit union also engaged Coopera to conduct a Hispanic Opportunity Navigator and marketing analysis, as well as perform translation services and make the El Poder es Tuyo website available to members.

    “Hispanics aren’t just another demographic,” said Neves. “Growing our Hispanic membership base is central to our current and future growth strategies. We could not have done this without Coopera’s help.”

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    Video Chat on Importance of Hispanic Outreach Assessments

    Posted by on July 3, 2012

    It was my pleasure to appear for a second time on a recent episode of CU Broadcast, this time to discuss Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator. It’s a tool that is customized for each credit union and is designed to help credit unions at all Hispanic outreach levels – discovery, emerging and best practice. That’s why I was so excited to have the opportunity to share the benefits of this proprietary tool with CU Broadcast’s Mike Lawson.

    The interview was also my first following my appointment as CEO of Coopera, which made it all the more special. To watch the episode in its entirety, simply click Play below. You can also find it at CUBroadcast.com.

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