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  • Anna Peña Takes on New Role

    Posted by on July 23, 2013

    Congratulations to Client Account Coordinator Anna Peña on her new role as Coopera’s Client Relations Manager! In this role, Anna will continue to work closely with Coopera’s national credit union clients, providing assessments, consulting, training, marketing services and Hispanic consumer products in support of their Hispanic outreach efforts.

    As Client Relations Manager, Anna will also be involved in the strategic management of the company’s overall client relations area. She will oversee delivery of client solutions to optimize client satisfaction and loyalty. She will also assist in the strategic development and enhancement of product solutions, she will lead operational efficiency efforts and she will assist in growing Coopera’s operational team.

    Anna has been a consistent advocate for the development of Hispanic families for many years. This has included the development and support of inclusive strategies, specifically for helping Hispanic families gain access to higher education and financial resources to make higher education a reality. Anna is a strong credit union advocate and has worked diligently helping credit unions across the country become the preferred financial institution of choice for the Hispanic community in their respective areas. We’re incredibly honored to help Anna grow her responsibilities within the company.”

    Anna has a master’s of Public Administration from Drake University and received her bachelor’s degree from Luther College, where she studied Spanish, communication and international studies. She is fully proficient in Spanish with more than 10 years of language development through immersion experiences and educational opportunities and is a certified interpreter. Earlier this year, Anna participated in the International Credit Union Leadership Program, which placed her and 10 of her credit-union colleagues in different credit unions or credit union associations across the Dominican Republic.

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    Reach Hispanics through Financial Literacy

    Posted by on April 23, 2013

    Financial literacy is one of the most critical services that your credit union can provide members, particularly the Hispanic community in your area. Many Hispanics in the U.S. today are underserved, turning to friends and family for loans, or worse to expensive check-cashing or payday loan establishments.

    With one out of two U.S. Hispanics being unbanked or underserved, your credit union has a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of Hispanic members.

    Coopera client Security One Federal Credit Union in Arlington, Texas, believes financial literacy efforts need to focus on the whole family’s financial needs. This begins by teaching children about saving and the advantages of holding a youth account and goes all the way through to helping parents understand how to improve credit scores or secure loans. Also, Security One works to educate business owners on the importance of budgeting expenses, filing taxes and preparing for audits.

    Business Development Coordinator Danny Garcia said, “At Security One, we are focused on growing the Hispanic community’s ability to be more financially independent. Through our assistance and guidance, individuals are able to better themselves financially, which makes the whole community stronger. We take a holistic approach, networking and partnering with schools and universities, churches, as well as community organizations, like libraries, medical centers and government agencies, to promote financial literacy and the credit union difference.”

    Some of the events Garcia and the team at Security One have participated in include:
    – a bilingual presentation on the financial system to nearly 50 Hispanic church members
    – a presentation on the importance of saving to 20 middle and high school students
    – partnering with the local Head Start program to share information on basic budgeting
    – sessions on how to build credit and secure auto financing

    Garcia and the Security One team is also working closely with local groups to host an upcoming 4-day mobile event to help Hispanics secure the identification documents they need
    for financial services, like checking and savings accounts, as well as auto, home and business loans and Security One’s “Faith” accounts. “It can take a month or more for Hispanics to get an appointment at the Mexican consulate for a Matricula card,” said Garcia. “Through the mobile event, we help 200 to 300 people per day signed up for Matricula ID cards each day. That’s the kind of effort that makes a real difference.”

    As with any new program, it’s important not to recreate the wheel when developing financial literacy initiatives. To get started, you can utilize resources and opportunities available through community partnerships, Coopera and other industry partners to supplement your programs. As Garcia and Security One have proved, networking and community involvement are vital in a credit union’s outreach efforts.

    Other resources readily available to your credit union include:

    Spanish Seminars in a Box

    Each Spanish Seminar in a Box contains culturally relevant Spanish content for your seminar and all of the materials you need to facilitate a successful session. All you need to do is add the presenter and have your outreach plan in place.
    Basic Steps to Managing Your Money: Spanish electronic member seminar kit
    Access to Money with Credit:  Spanish electronic member seminar kit

    El Poder es Tuyo Updates
    4/15: How to use your tax refund
    4/22: Don’t be a victim of tax ID theft
    – 4/29: What you need to know about for profit colleges
    5/6: How the credit union can help your family
    5/13: Preparing financially for the unexpected

    Hispanic Outreach Webinars
    How to Create Culturally Relevant and Compliant Marketing Messages to Hispanics: May 7 at 2 p.m. CST
    3 Ways to Repackage a Credit Builder Loan for Hispanic Members: June 12 at 2 p.m. CST
    3 Ways to Partner with Hispanic Businesses: September 17 at 2 p.m. CST
    3 Ways to Create an Inclusive Culture to Serve Hispanics: Archived until August 20
    4 Key Non-Traditional IDs You Can Accept to Open New Accounts: Archived until September 13
    Adapting Products and Services to Serving Immigrant Markets Archived until October

    International Credit Union Leadership Program
    The International Credit Union Leadership Program brings emerging leaders from around the world to various credit unions, both in the U.S. and abroad, for intensive short-term credit union internships designed to broaden their professional expertise.

    The program is designed to facilitate idea exchanges, promote foreign language development, enhance cultural diversity and improve problem-solving skills as they relate to global credit union development and management. The program also focuses on helping credit unions find new ways to attract young members.

    – Apr. 7-May 11, 2013: Costa Rican participants intern in Alabama, Florida, Oregon or Washington
    June 9-22, 2013: U.S. participants intern in Costa Rica
    Oct. 6-Nov. 9, 2013: Brazilian participants intern in Texas, Oregon or Washington
    Jan. 12-25, 2014: U.S. participants intern in Brazil

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    Experiencing the Nuances of the Dominican Republic Culture First-Hand

    Posted by on March 19, 2013

    Guest blog post by Erin O’Hern, Compliance Attorney, PolicyWorks LLC

    In January, I had the opportunity to go to the Dominican Republic and participate in the International Credit Union Leadership Program with 11 other credit union professionals from across the U.S. It was an amazing experience that really opened my eyes to the unique culture that drives the Dominican Republic.

    Because many incorrectly assume all Hispanic people are similar, I wanted to share some of the insights I gained, into the Dominican culture specifically, during my trip.

    In the Dominican Republic, the definition of family is much broader than in the U.S. I may call my co-workers good friends, but the credit union employees at COOPBUENO call each other family — and they mean it. For example, the 8-year-old daughter of my host family could name each employee of the credit union, and even some of their relatives. For each person, she could also tell me funny stories about her personal experiences with them. When I was eight, I knew some of my dad’s co-workers (I even had nicknames for a few… “The One with the Beard” for example), but could never have told you each co-worker’s life story.

    Taking the time to socialize is very important in the Dominican Republic. Each morning, and before the employees leave in the evening, they stop at their co-workers’ desks to shake hands and ask a few questions about how things were at home or how the day was going. I worry I may have offended several employees at the credit union the first few days when I only said, “Hello, how are you?” and waved from across the lobby.

    And, the phrase “Mi casa es su casa” (My home is your home) is not an exaggeration in the Dominican Republic. It was not uncommon during my visit there for my host family and I to stop by a co-worker’s house to say hello and possibly share dinner. Then, of course, we visited the co-worker’s parent’s house, as well as the in-law’s house.

    In the Dominican Republic, it is very unusual for the next generation to move out of their parent’s house before they are married. In fact, the universities do not have dormitories because students either live at home or with a relative while they are studying. After attending a university, many graduates will live with their parents while they are beginning their careers.

    When I asked credit union employees about this, they all said it was a big part of their culture and a widely accepted practice. Although limited available housing and financial challenges do play a part in this custom, no one I talked with mentioned these as the main reason for remaining at home with their parents.

    When I mentioned to my host parents in the U.S. that a large portion of college students live either in dormitories on campus or in nearby apartments, and that young, unmarried professionals often live by themselves or with roommates, they asked why someone would need to move out of their parent’s house before marriage? They also suggested that it is too easy for young people to get into trouble by leaving their parent’s house so soon.

    Food is very important in the Dominican culture. Although, they do have specific dishes to represent a specific celebration or special gathering, such as sancocho (a multi-meat, multi vegetable stew), it is unusual for them not to have rice and beans for lunch every day. In the U.S., it would be difficult for many to select just a few food choices that are part of our cultural identity. For example, people may associate apple pie (or if you live in Iowa, corn) as an all-American food. But, it is easy to find people in the U.S. who do not like to eat apple pie. Interestingly enough, I could not find one person in the Dominican Republic who did not eat rice and beans. In fact, many were shocked to learn that before visiting their country, I had not eaten beans in over a year.

    I also observed that meal times are very different in the Dominican culture. Lunch is the largest meal in the Dominican Republic and can often last for several hours (depending on whether the person’s work hours allow it). And, meal times are another opportunity for families to spend time together. In fact, many people chose to eat at home as often as possible. For example, my host family’s children ate lunch in the home each day.

    Another reason food is important in Dominican culture is because they take pride in preparing it for their families. In many cases, meals are not as easy to prepare as they are in the U.S. because not every family has modern appliances in their kitchens. Even refrigeration can be an issue with power fluctuations, and families living in campos or barrios may not have electricity at all.

    The Dominican culture is a great example of hard working people that care deeply about their family, friends and neighbors. The spirit of the credit union movement compliments their community goals perfectly.

    Service to Hispanic members is not only critical for the success of today’s U.S. credit union movement, it is vital for bringing more Hispanic Americans — a largely underserved group — into the financial mainstream. Yet the Hispanic segment has many nuances; Dominican just one among many. This is part of the reason Hispanic outreach is so challenging — but also so rewarding. While it is difficult to better understand your Hispanic members, the potential reward is great.

    For 13 days in January 2013, 11 young credit union professionals were selected to participate in the International Credit Union Leadership Program, made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department, World Council of Credit Unions and the support of the participants’ respective leagues and credit unions.

    Each was placed in a different credit union or credit union association across the Dominican Republic. From Iowa, Traci Stiles, Business Development Manager at Des Moines Metro Credit Union in Des Moines, Iowa, was placed at the newest credit union in the Dominican Republic, CoopOriental; Erin O’Hern, Compliance Attorney at PolicyWorks, was placed with COOPBUENO; Anna Peña, Client Account Coordinator at Coopera, was placed at COOPACRENE.

     Highlights from their experience will be shared in a series of blog posts.

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    Insights for Credit Unions from My Visit to the Dominican Republic

    Posted by on March 12, 2013

    Guest blog post by Traci Stiles, Business Development Manager, Des Moines Metro Credit Union

    In January, I was honored to be selected as one of 11 young credit union professionals from various parts of the U.S. to go to the Dominican Republic and participate in the International Credit Union Leadership Program. During the trip, I had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic’s newest credit union, CoopOriental, which is located in Higuey (a community located in La Altagracia, the easternmost providence in the Dominican Republic near Punta Cana).

    While at CoopOriental, I was able to closely observe daily practices, as well as review policies and procedures. I was greatly impressed by CoopOriental’s staff and operations and strongly believe their success can be attributed to four distinct best practices:

    – Strong relationship with business partners (SEGs)
    – Going directly to members
    – Extreme board involvement
    – Strong support from its league

    Strong relationship with business partners (SEGs)
    CoopOriental is not community-based credit union. Therefore, relationships with its SEGs or business partners are extremely important. To generate business for the credit union, the SEGs can pre-approve their own employees for loans, taking the decision-making component of the loan process out of the hands of the credit union.

    This works well at CoopOriental because the SEGs know their employees arguably better than the credit union could know them. This is particularly true when it comes to employees’ salary information. Having this insight into borrowers makes it easier for lenders to know if the requested loan amount is reasonable and if the borrower is a good credit risk. The other advantage is that SEGS can guarantee loan repayment to the credit union through employee payroll deductions.

    Although there are many challenges to making this concept work in the U.S., I do think creating a stronger bond and layer of trust between a credit union and its SEGs is critical. These relationships can offer much less risk in lending. And, SEGs are a great referral source for credit unions, especially when working with the Hispanic community.

    Going directly to the members
    Because it is hard for members in rural areas to make regular trips to credit union branches in the Dominican Republic,  many credit unions employ a messenger service (via moped) to pick up deposits and loan payments from members. The idea is simple: Go to the members, rather than expect them to come to you.

    This concept could be easily applied to U.S. credit unions with SEGs that are far away from the credit union’s headquarters or SEGs with a large concentration of members in one location. By offering messenger service, credit unions can offer a convenience that other financial institutions don’t offer them, making it easy and affordable to make deposits to their accounts and pay on their loans.

    Extreme board involvement
    During my time in Higuey, I stayed in the home of the president of CoopOriental’s board of directors. My host father visited the credit union daily to sign checks and discuss business with the manager. But he wasn’t the only board member actively involved in the credit union’s business. The entire board was very passionate about the credit union and actively promoted the credit union in the business community.

    What this involvement proved to me was the importance of having an active board, one with a deep understanding of the day-to-day operations of the credit union and a willingness to promote the credit union whenever possible.

    League involvement
    Just like leagues in the United States, the League in the Dominican Republic (AIRAC) strongly supports their member credit unions. Because CoopOriental is still new in the market, I saw the League support their business through regular staff training and access to technology.

    For 13 days in January 2013, 11 young credit union professionals were selected to participate in the International Credit Union Leadership Program, made possible by a grant from the U.S. State Department, World Council of Credit Unions and the support of the participants’ respective leagues and credit unions.

    Each was placed in a different credit union or credit union association across the Dominican Republic. From Iowa, Traci Stiles, Business Development Manager at Des Moines Metro Credit Union in Des Moines, Iowa, was placed at the newest credit union in the Dominican Republic, CoopOriental; Erin O’Hern, Compliance Attorney at PolicyWorks, was placed with CoopBUENO; Anna Peña, Client Account Coordinator at Coopera, was placed at COOPACRENE.

    Highlights from their experience will be shared in a series of blog posts.

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