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  • Iowa Credit Union Sets Strategic Plan for Serving Mexican Immigrants

    Posted by on April 10, 2017

    David Suarez, bilingual community development manager at Iowa’s Community 1st Credit Union, says insists the key to building connections with Hispanic members is trust. “We have to gain that trust in the community,” he said. “We conduct outreach with community leaders, schools – even soccer teams – so we can show them we are offering not only services, but education. Typically, they are very interested to learn, but it’s important to know they may not have the basic knowledge of financial concepts. You have to get close to them to understand their particular point of view and their particular issue. Only then can you begin to develop the clear, simple messages you need to start them down the path to financial success in the U.S.”

    Among the connections Suarez and the Community 1st leadership has built is a partnership with the Mexican Consulate of Omaha, Guadalupe Sanchez Salazar. Shortly after building a relationship with Sanchez Salazar, the credit union signed an agreement to collaborate for the benefit of Mexican nationals that live in Iowa. As part of that agreement, any Community 1st member with a matricula consular card and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) has access to nearly all of the credit union’s products and services, including mortgages. This will be hugely important to the credit union as it looks to serve more Mexican immigrants, which today make up 75 percent of Iowa’s immigrant population. Suarez pointed out the credit union is also working with the IRS to help more of its community members obtain ITINs. “We’re excited to help the community understand that with this number comes great advantages, such as checking accounts, loans and potentially even a mortgage.”

    In addition, the credit union is working with Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach agency, which connects Iowans with the university’s research and resources. The agency is helping the credit union understand the education levels of the Hispanic community members local to the 15 communities PFCU serves through 17 locations in Iowa and northern Missouri.

    CU Achieves Juntos Avanzamos Designation

    In 2016, the credit union was given the Juntos Avanzamos designation, which translates to “Together, we advance. Awarded by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions and Coopera, the designation is a national recognition of the work and commitment made to offer financial services to the Hispanic community. The designation also makes a public proclamation to the Hispanic community that the Juntos Avanzamos credit union welcomes the Hispanic community.

    On the strategic roadmap for Community 1st is continuous employee training and cross-department education so every staff member is aware they can accept alternative forms of identification to serve more community members. In addition, the credit union will conduct more community outreach, pursue a community development financial institution (CDFI) designation and institute a series of financial education programs in the coming year.

    To read how Community 1st has helped one very appreciative member achieve his American dream, download “Hispanic Member Growth Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.”

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    Juntos Avanzamos Lives Up to Its ‘Together We Advance’ Meaning

    Posted by on December 5, 2016

    More credit union people than ever before are talking about Juntos Avanzamos, the national designation awarded to U.S. credit unions making a strategic effort to serve the Hispanic community. The designation was initially developed by the Cornerstone Credit Union League in the states of Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma and has now been rolled out nationally by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation).

    A big reason for all the chatter is the program’s explosive growth. Just 15 months after the program went national, 32 more credit unions in 15 states have earned the designation. By the end of 2017, the program is expected to reach 100 credit unions in 20 states.

    juntos-celebration

    A spirited evening organized by the Federation and the Consulate General of Mexico.

    Coopera, along with many national league partners and the Federation, recently celebrated this growth at the Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas, Texas. It was a spirited evening organized by the Federation and the Consulate during which passionate credit union folks all came together to recognize the connections being built between credit unions and the youngest and fastest-growing consumer segment in the U.S.

    Cervera Company dancers performed for attendees.

    Cervera Company dancers performed for attendees.

    The event was part of CUNA’s Community Credit Union Conference and the Federation’s Annual Conference, at which I was also honored to sit on a panel with Francisco de la Torre Galindo, General Consul, Mexico General Consulate. Before an audience of credit unions from across the country (many of which were CDFI certified or low-income designated), we talked about the growing network of Juntos Avanzamos credit unions. Among the specifics we discussed were…

    How credit unions can partner with the Mexican Consulate to further provide accessible financial services to Mexican nationals.

    The various resources offered by the Mexican Consulate to Mexican nationals.

    The demographics of the market and how Hispanics continue to be one of the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most financially untapped markets in the U.S.

    Overcoming common concerns related to opening accounts for foreign nationals and offering loans to individuals with individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).

    How to develop a strategy to serve the Hispanic community for those that are looking to expand into this market. Success stories of Juntos Avanzamos-designated credit unions.

    We are committed to keeping the Juntos Avanzamos ball rolling. We will continue the conversation at a special roundtable at CUNA’s GAC Conference on February 28, 2017 (more details soon). Please also remember the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP) is hosting its annual network reception at the National Press Club from noon to 2:00 p.m. that same day. Juntos Avanzamos will have a big spotlight shone at it at our industry’s most important conference!

    Visit the Federation’s website for more information about the Juntos Avanzamos designation.

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    Community 1st Credit Union Earns Juntos Avanzamos Designation

    Posted by on May 23, 2016

    The movement added another Juntos Avanzamos-designated credit union this spring. Welcome, Community 1st Credit Union!

    Comm JuntosThe designation, which translates to “Together, we advance,” is a national recognition of the work and commitment made to offer financial services to the Hispanic community. On May 5, 2016, we were thrilled to join Guadalupe Sanchez Salazar, Consulate General of Mexico, and other local dignitaries in Ottumwa, Iowa, to celebrate the designation with Community 1st Credit Union.

    For many Hispanics, navigating the U.S. financial system can be challenging. Credit unions make the process easier. Community 1st is leading the way and hopes to inspire other credit unions around the country to realize the importance of embracing Hispanic community initiatives.

    Community 1st is the first credit union in Iowa to receive the designation, which our firm and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation) recently expanded into a nationwide program. The cooperative worked with our team to set a strategic plan for becoming a fair, dignified and affordable option for the local Hispanic community.

    Community 1st is an exemplary financial institution that understands the importance of achieving internal readiness before launching into a Hispanic growth strategy. Notably, 10 percent of Community 1st’s more than 200 employees are bilingual.

    “As a credit union, we have a mission to serve underserved populations,” said Anne Hagen, Community 1st vice president of marketing. “We — all credit unions — are not-for-profit institutions. Part of our ‘profits,’ we give back to the community.”

    Even though most credit union leaders are aware of the growing Hispanic population in their fields of membership, many are are unsure how to begin serving this young, fast-growing, influential community. Half the battle is developing the right mindset within the credit union. The ultimate achievement is a collective state of mind in which the entire organization believes serving the Hispanic community is not only the right thing to do, but also a profitable, priority business strategy.

    Kudos to Community 1st for becoming the first credit union in Iowa to achieve this important milestone.

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