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.”Leave a comment
When Greater Iowa Credit Union, headquartered in Ames, Ia., acquired two branch locations with large Hispanic membership populations, the senior leadership team knew the credit union had to step up its efforts to serve this important member segment. Focused on positively impacting its membership base, Greater Iowa implemented a Hispanic initiative, which started as a very marketing-centric approach and grew it to include full credit union involvement.
The first step Greater Iowa took was to apply for the Credit Union Remittance Outreach Program (CUROP) grant from World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), Coopera and the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL). At the time, Greater Iowa did not have a remittance program in place and knew it needed help to implement a successful one if it was to provide an affordable and convenient alternative for Hispanic members sending money to loved ones in Mexico. “Greater Iowa was one of only three Iowa credit unions accepted into the program that year,” said Michael Adams, Greater Iowa’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “It became the jumping off point for the credit union’s entire Hispanic-focused effort.”
Adams became the point person for Greater Iowa’s external efforts, immersing himself in the initiative and leading the charge for the credit union’s Hispanic marketing, outreach and community-involvement programs. The company partnered with Coopera to guide them on next steps. “At Coopera’s recommendation, we refreshed our marketing collateral to be more focused on the Hispanic community’s financial needs, which included of course, Spanish translation,” said Adams.
He continued, “We also developed a portal site that our Spanish-speaking members can use any time to gain immediate access to our bilingual materials. And, we started advertising on the regional Spanish-language TV channel, on two Spanish-language radio stations and in two Spanish-speaking newspapers. In addition, we put together a testimonial TV commercial featuring one of our Hispanic members from the Denison branch.”
With Coopera’s guidance, Greater Iowa also gained insight into the cultural and lifestyle nuances of its Hispanic members. This knowledge enabled the credit union to further fine-tune its efforts. “We found with the Hispanic community that word-of-mouth referrals can really make or break a credit union’s success in a local market,” added Adams. “To increase opportunities to reach more members in the communities we serve, we began to take a more active approach toward earning positive word of mouth.”
According to Adams, this included participating in Iowa’s annual Latino Heritage Festival; speaking at industry events, such as the 2012 Latino Credit Union Conference in San Diego, Calif.; participating in editorial opportunities with industry media and starting an annual scholarship program for first- and second-generation Hispanic high school students.
Additionally, the credit union began to host its own member appreciation events throughout the year. For example, Greater Iowa’s East Des Moines location hosts an annual Fiesta de Navidad event during the Christmas season, and its Denison branch puts on an annual Cinco de Mayo event in May. “The first year we hosted our Fiesta de Navidad party, we had 300 people show up,” boasted Adams. “And, we’ve increased attendee turnout at the event every year since. We like doing these types of events because it gives us the opportunity to show our Hispanic members how much we appreciate their loyalty and trust in us.”
On the internal front, Greater Iowa started the Employee Implementation Team (EIT) to help the credit union expand the Hispanic initiative from a marketing campaign to a company-wide program. According to Adams, the EIT has played a very important part in expanding Greater Iowa’s Hispanic efforts. This includes advocating necessary changes to the board, senior management and key staff. For example, at the recommendation of the EIT, Greater Iowa’s HR department became very instrumental in growing the credit union’s Hispanic opportunities. “They worked with our current staff to better understand how to serve Hispanic members,” said Adams, “as well as hired bilingual staff to build up our talent base. Today, 10 of our 85 employees are bilingual.”
The EIT also initiated a monthly email communication to all employees, updating them on current issues affecting the Hispanic community, as well as on the credit union’s relevant products, services and programs. In addition, the team publishes a regular newsletter that provides in-depth details on the “who, what, when, where and why” of the credit union’s efforts. “These communications are so critical in helping us keep the importance of the Hispanic initiative in front of all employees,” said Adams.
Through EIT encouragement, the credit union’s business and product development teams have become more involved with the initiative. According to Adams, each of these teams has recognized that in order to allow Hispanic immigrants to open a checking or savings account, apply for a loan or take advantage of the credit union’s other financial services, customer identification policies needed to adapt to include the matricula consulate cards.
Going one step further, Greater Iowa also decided to offer a credit builder lending program, for individuals with either a SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), branded the Préstamo Camino al Crédito or Path to Credit Loan— one of the first in Iowa. “This was a very controversial decision for Greater Iowa,” said Adams. “We knew the program might not be profitable right away because of the high cost of service in delivering these small dollar loans, but we saw great potential for its future revenue opportunities. To implement, we had to get full buy-in and support from our board and executive staff, as well as overcome some regulation challenges under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). We also had to lobby the program in the communities we serve to convince Hispanics that we wanted to work with them and support their financial needs.”
Adams said that although the credit builder lending program took two years to implement, it became very popular in a short amount of time. To further help newer Hispanic members become more integrated into the U.S. financial system, Greater Iowa offers Spanish educational seminars on topics like building a credit history and how to use online banking services. The credit union recently rolled out Spanish online banking services, which include a mobile app that’s available in Spanish and allows members to view their balance and transfer funds from one account to the other, amongst other services. “The Hispanic community has been so appreciative of our efforts and personnel,” added Adams. “It’s become symbolic of our company’s approach to the Hispanic initiative.”
According to Adams, the results of these efforts have indicated the success of Greater Iowa’s Hispanic initiative. “We have seen a change in character of our entire membership base,” said Adams. “Of the nearly 29,000 members we serve in 31 Iowa counties, approximately 8 percent claim Hispanic heritage, and we continue to see 3 percent quarter-to-quarter growth.”
Adams concluded: “My advice to any credit union looking to court the Hispanic community is that the credit union needs both internal and external advocates, like its Board, senior leadership, staff, an EIT committee and partners such as Coopera, who understand the credit union’s vision and can continue to move the company’s Hispanic initiatives forward. These advocates are ideal resources for communicating with stakeholders, developing and nurturing relationships in the local communities and encouraging employees to follow best practices for successful implementation.”Leave a comment
In 2006, Des Moines Metro Credit Union (DMMCU), headquartered in Des Moines, Ia., performed an in-depth analysis to determine whether opening a new branch was the best way to grow their membership base. The credit union had endured several years of negative membership growth and wanted to reverse that trend. The analysis revealed that DMMCU was not maximizing opportunities to best reach and serve the households around the credit union’s existing locations. Before they could successfully open a new branch, the credit union’s leadership decided it would make sense to improve penetration in their current markets.
“We determined that the local Hispanic community was an ideal demographic target for growth,” said Traci Stiles, DMMCU business development manager. “Our branch is located near the Des Moines Hispanic community’s homes and workplaces. We knew we could gain board and staff support to offer much-needed services that would meet Hispanic members’ financial needs. It made a lot of sense for us to become a more active member in this community.”
Stiles and her team knew they would not be able to take the credit union in this new direction without help. They turned to Warren Morrow at Diverse Innovative Solutions, which later became Coopera, to guide them. “Coopera has been a key resource for us,” said Stiles. “In collaboration with Coopera, we have been able to keep up-to-date on best practices in the financial industry, as well as the Hispanic community, to gain new ideas for better serving our membership.”
The Coopera team has also been able to help DMMCU better understand the differences between Hispanic consumers and other DMMCU members. Armed with this knowledge, the DMMCU leadership, with Coopera’s guidance, has also been able to develop products and services that best match the Hispanic community’s cultural and lifestyle nuances.
One of the first products DMMCU implemented was remittance services through Vigo. Also, DMMCU initiated a credit builder loan program. “Our Credit Builder Loan has been the most successful product we’ve implemented to date,” said Stiles. “We started the program in the fall of 2009, and we’ve had over 65 members who have graduated from the program. The program has given us the opportunity to help members with one-on-one financial education as they build their credit. We’ve had minimal risk by using consistent underwriting guidelines, and the program has created loyal, life-long borrowers for DMMCU.”
In the first quarter of 2012, DMMCU also began offering the Coopera Prepaid Reloadable Visa card, a prepaid card program tailor-made for the Hispanic market. According to Stiles, the Coopera Card has turned out to be a popular product with the credit union’s entire membership. “We have sold more than 165 Coopera Cards since the launch.”
As DMMCU’s Hispanic outreach has evolved, the credit union has enhanced its member referral program to capitalize on the increased referral potential offered by the Hispanic community. Today, any current DMMCU member who refers a new member to the credit union gets entered into a monthly drawing for $100.
Products and services were not the only areas the credit union re-tooled to better focus on growing DMMCU’s Hispanic membership. According to Stiles, DMMCU also had to examine its current policies and procedures to make sure they accommodated growth in the Hispanic market. “We examined and altered our policies to allow Hispanics to use matricula consular cards and ITINs to open accounts,” said Stiles. “We also educated our staff about various forms of compliant identification.”
In addition, Stiles and the DMMCU team re-evaluated their marketing efforts to best target the Hispanic community. Today, the credit union’s efforts include bilingual materials, member testimonials and advertising in the local Hispanic media. For example, DMMCU recently used a testimonial from a female Hispanic member who was able to purchase her first car through the credit builder program. “We make sure to solicit feedback from our bilingual staff on existing and new products and services. Also, we make them aware of our community advertising campaigns to make sure we are doing everything we can to be successful,” said Stiles.
“We also track the language preferences of our members so when we do a bilingual direct mail piece we can identify members who speak Spanish,” added Stiles. “We also use Coopera’s Hispanic Member Analysis and Hispanic Opportunity Navigator to track our progress with our target market on a monthly and quarterly basis. Whenever we consider operational, product, or service changes/enhancements, we have to keep the Hispanic market in mind because they are becoming a larger part of our membership. Coopera has been instrumental to our success in each of these areas — from providing us with best practice examples to hosting quarterly and yearly board updates to helping us with reporting and benchmarking.”
DMMCU has become heavily involved in community outreach efforts, such as the Bank On Central Iowa* initiative. This program brings together financial educators, banks and credit unions to help improve financial education and access to underserved consumers, including Hispanics. “We strive to continually form partnerships with businesses and organizations, like Hispanic Educational Resources, that serve the Hispanic population in our area. We participate each year in the local Latino festival during Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as provide volunteers for other cultural events throughout the year.”
For a credit union of DMMCU’s size, Stiles feels the cooperative has made huge strides in serving the Hispanic community. The biggest indicator of success, according to Stiles, is membership growth. “Prior to our efforts with the Hispanic community, we were experiencing negative membership growth,” said Stiles. “In 2009, we began to see positive membership growth and have had positive growth every year since. Our average member age also continues to decrease. We have built the solid foundation with our board, staff and local community, and as a result, we are really seeing our hard work pay off.
The results are not always quantitative, said Stiles. “Our Hispanic members have told us how much they appreciate the friendly, individual attention our bilingual employees provide — we’ve built a strong foundation of trust with them,” added Stiles. “We strive to make sure they feel respected and are given affordable alternatives to higher-cost financial services.”
Stiles offered up these final insights: “My advice would be no matter how big or small, if a credit union has buy-in from all levels of the organization — the board, management and staff — it can successfully serve the Hispanic market, or any target demographic. It’s also important to monitor, track and recognize when processes, procedures, products and services need to be evaluated and adjusted. When you lay the proper foundation, you are bound to have success.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished at DMMCU,” concluded Stiles. “It’s positive for our credit union’s growth, and because our members have the opportunity to take advantage of affordable financial services, it’s very rewarding for them, our credit union, and the credit union industry.
For more information about the Bank On Central Iowa initiative, visit the article “Financial Education Helps Out Unbanked” in the Des Moines Register. An online version of the article is available at: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130702/NEWS/307020041/Financial-education-helps-out-unbanked?Frontpage.Leave a comment
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.
At the time Ascentra Credit Union, headquartered in Bettendorf, Iowa, first attempted to reach out the Hispanic community, it had five branches, and of those, two were in cities that showed a Hispanic population growth rate higher than national averages. With corporate America already acknowledging the importance of tailoring its products and services to Hispanic consumers, Ascentra made the decision to follow suit.
“Hispanics are a very loyal, extremely young and fast-growing population shaping the future direction of business and commerce in our country,” said Alvaro Macias, Ascentra community development coordinator. “Unfortunately, it’s a population that is largely underserved in the financial services industry. As Ascentra began to realize the influence and impact Hispanics will have in the future, we knew it was not only right to help reach out to this underserved segment but it was a good business decision for our credit union to focus on growing our outreach.”
Ascentra took steps to make sure it’d be successful in its Hispanic outreach efforts. Management initially asked three bilingual employees for ideas on how to reach this segment of the population. Some advertising was purchased and small events that catered to the Hispanic population were sponsored, but there was no formal Hispanic outreach plan or goal.
Then, they hired Coopera, a leading expert in credit union service to Hispanics, to conduct a member analysis of their operations areas, as well as to provide guidance on Ascentra’s initiatives. These initiatives included things like product and services development and marketing campaign implementation. Coopera was also instrumental in training Ascentra’s staff on the credit union industry’s changing laws and regulations impacting service to Hispanic members.
The credit union then created Macias’ position in the company to make sure the credit union was focused on building a solid foundation in the Hispanic community. According to Macias, Ascentra also added more bilingual staff to the credit union, as well as translated a page on its website into Spanish. Today, 18 out of the credit union’s 123 employees are bilingual. And, the webpage www.ascentra.org/espanol includes the names, pictures and contact information for all bilingual lending officers and call center representatives within the company.
Ascentra formalized its Hispanic Outreach Program initiative, as well as created two advisory councils, one made up of staff members and another with local community members to provide input and insight into the credit union’s and the competitions’ efforts.
“Ascentra’s initial efforts with a formal plan may have started out as more of a business development initiative for the credit union,” said Macias. “But, most recently when the member analysis from Coopera showed that 63 percent of our new member growth in 2011-2012 was from the Hispanic segment, it confirmed in some of our minds that targeting this group was a key credit union-wide growth strategy.”
To better serve Hispanics’ unique financial needs, Ascentra has introduced several products and services tailored for this underserved demographic. These efforts included money wire services to Mexico, ITIN lending and Quinceañera loans. The credit union also launched its suite of “Préstamos Para Mi” or “Loans for Me”, which is a small signature loan product that is marketed as a way to pay for life events, such as applying for citizenship, traveling to home countries and making large purchases like furniture or electronics.
From a marketing perspective, the credit union also made some changes to its campaigns to better target potential Hispanic members. “We cut out billboard advertising, as its reach and messaging was too broad. We didn’t want to convey to prospective members that our membership was exclusive to Hispanics,” said Macias. “Also, we started listing some of Ascentra’s bilingual loan officers’ names and contact information in our advertisements so new-member prospects could call them directly. Our team started getting calls right away.”
Other marketing efforts consisted of bilingual advertising, collateral and branch signage. Macias explained, “Our advertising efforts included a mix of local Spanish/English newspapers, a college radio station that has Spanish programing several times a week and a TV commercial during a Hispanic show on a local TV station. We also began offering Spanish marketing collateral for Ascentra’s products and services, as well as have signage in our branches to announce to visitors that we accept matricula cards as a form of ID to open accounts or obtain loans.”
A big push in Ascentra’s Hispanic Outreach Program was to get more involved in its local communities. According to Macias, the credit union has become involved in the Mexican consulate’s mobile visits — events to help Mexican nationals living here obtain matricula cards and passports. At these events, Ascentra staff is on hand to talk about attendees’ financial needs, as well as to invite them to stop by the credit union to open accounts, obtain loans or plan for their futures.
Macias said the member response to these efforts has been phenomenal as after every event the last 2 years, people came to open accounts or obtain loans. “Hispanic members love that they can talk with someone in Spanish who understands their needs and can explain how Ascentra can help them,” said Macias. “But, it’s definitely about more than language. Our staff goes above and beyond to make each of our members feel welcome and valued.”
Ascentra is also a supporter of the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was recently recognized by the Chamber as Corporation of the Year. Macias serves as a board member on the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and chairs the events and program committee. As part of his Community Development Coordinator role, Macias also has conducted financial education seminars on budgeting and planning, as well as building credit, in both English and Spanish at a local church and at a Casa Quad Cities event.
The results of these efforts demonstrate that Ascentra is on the right track with its Hispanic Outreach Program. In 2012, for example, the credit union processed 89 ITIN loan applications, resulting in 59 loans. These were all small loans under $2,500 which were generally used for consolidation, credit building, and “to get by.” Sixteen of those loan recipients became credit card members as well. Macias offered additional proof: “As of last October 2012, 7.7 percent of our membership is calculated to be of Hispanic heritage,” said Macias.
Macias added these final thoughts, “For credit unions interested in adding more Hispanics to their membership base, my advice is to perform solid due diligence to understand the culture and specific financial needs of this important segment. Embrace what you learn and make any necessary changes to your credit union’s culture to accommodate these members. It is so important that you go to them — don’t expect them to come to you. This includes being at events in the Hispanic community, talking with the people there and being genuine in your efforts to show them that you care.”
“Although Hispanic outreach efforts can take a long time to implement and yield measurable results, know it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Macias concluded. “Overtime, the rewards become worth every bit of the effort.”Leave a comment
Congratulations to our CEO Miriam De Dios for her acceptance into the World Council of Credit Union’s Young Credit Union People Program (WYCUP)! Miriam’s scholarship was awarded at the 2012 World Credit Union Conference recently held in Gdańsk, Poland.
The WYCUP annual scholarship is given to only five nominees each year who are under the age of 35 and have each made significant contributions to the development of their own credit unions or regional/national credit union systems, as well as have demonstrated the potential to employ their unique talents at the international level.
Miriam was nominated for the honor by the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL).
“Miriam is a strong representative of the credit union movement’s very promising future,” said Patrick Jury, president and CEO of ICUL. “We were happy to nominate her for the honor and are thrilled to learn she has been selected from such an impressive group of nominees.”
“I am so honored to receive this award and to be recognized for the work that Coopera does to assist the underserved Hispanic community in the U.S. obtain dignified financial services through credit unions,” Miriam told us. “There is tremendous opportunity for U.S. credit unions to serve our largely underserved Hispanic communities, and I am pleased that a renowned organization like WOCCU recognizes the growth opportunity that this presents for the U.S. credit union movement. I dedicate this award to Coopera’s founder and late CEO, Warren Morrow who turned his personal passion for serving the Hispanic community into the successful organization that Coopera is today.”
At the same time, Miriam also received news that she has been elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the Network of Latino Credit Unions & Professionals (NLCUP), a group of credit unions and professionals dedicated to promoting credit union services to the Hispanic community. Miriam has been elected to serve a 2-year term on the Board.
“NLCUP was specifically formed to promote the credit union philosophy within the Hispanic community,” says Miriam. “As a senior advisor on the CUNA Hispanic Outreach Committee, CEO of Coopera and member of the NLCUP Board, I plan to leverage the strengths of these organizations to better help our credit union clients with their Hispanic outreach efforts.”Leave a comment