Although they have taken their own paths to get to Coopera, all of our employees share a common passion: reaching and serving the Hispanic market. Hear their stories and learn what makes them tick through this series of get-to-know blog posts, starting with our CEO, Miriam De Dios Woodward.
How did you end up working for Coopera?
By happenstance. I was working at John Deere Financial when I received a call from my former supervisor at State Farm Insurance. Her husband had started a company working with credit unions, and he was recruiting for the company’s first open position. I applied for the job, and that’s when I met Warren Morrow, Coopera’s founder. Warren’s vision for the future of Coopera was so captivating I felt I needed to become a part of what he was building. I was hired as the first employee of Coopera more than 10 years ago, and the rest is history.
What does your typical day look like?
My days can vary quite a bit, which I love. I might be traveling to visit one of our clients to facilitate a planning session with their leadership team. Or I might have a couple conference calls with our clients or one-on-one meetings with my team. I might review some of our communications drafts before they are published or talk to a reporter. I have exposure to all aspects of our business. I also really enjoy the time I have to think about the company’s future. How we can continue to stay ahead of our clients’ needs is always on my mind.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received lots of great advice over the years. Some of my favorites have been: Be a selfless leader.Be humble.Remember that as a leader, people are always watching you. Have fun.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Sometimes it’s our cat meowing at the crack of dawn. Joking aside, it’s knowing that it’s a new day in which I have the opportunity to make a difference. I am fortunate to work for a mission-based organization where I can see how our work impacts the lives of people every day. My presentation to an organization can spark someone’s interest in becoming a champion for inclusion. Our consulting advice can prompt a client to offer a new lending program that serves people not served before. Possibilities like this motivate me.
What excites you the most about the future of financial services in the Hispanic market?
The vast opportunity at hand. Although we have worked with a variety of organizations over our decade of service, we really have yet to scratch the surface. Access to financial services is the key to empowering our Hispanic community, and we have a lot of work to do. Credit unions continue to have a unique disposition to serving the Hispanic community and becoming the preferred financial services provider for the Latino community. I am excited to help our industry pick up the pace and position credit unions as leaders in this space.
What do you do to get inspiration?
I love to travel with my husband, especially outside of the country. Going somewhere new inspires me to step outside of what I do every day, try new things, think more clearly and be more curious. I also like to read and listen to all sorts of content, from Simon Sinek’s daily notes to inspire to the Harvard Business Review’s publications. I also love to meet people for tea or lunch and connect with them, especially people outside of my industry.
What is something unique about you most people wouldn’t know?
Growing up, my family moved close to 20 times as we settled from our move from Jalisco, Mexico, to the U.S. Through my travels, I’ve been fortunate to see Pope Francis, climb a volcano, walk on a glacier and ride in a helicopter, among other adventures. On my bucket list is visiting every continent at least once.Leave a comment
If nothing else, the tumultuous 2016 election year revealed the extent to which American working families are struggling. More than 40 percent of American jobs today pay less than $15 an hour, and most of these low-wage jobs lack important benefits such as paid leave, health insurance or retirement. Low-income wage earners are no longer a small demographic relegated to select neighborhoods and geographies – they constitute a significant demographic block.
America is a country of immigrants. In the US, there are currently 46 million immigrants, representing 13% of the US population, or 1 out of 8 residents. Far from representing an economic burden, immigrants contribute greatly to our local economies by paying taxes, establishing small businesses, and creating jobs.
Numerous economists argue for the long-term economic need for robust immigration. Citing an aging native-born workforce, contributions to the tax base and job creation from immigrant entrepreneurs and businesses, progressive immigration policy is actually an important way to grow the economy. Immigrant workers make a significant contribution to government revenue. Undocumented immigrants collectively pay an estimated $11.64 billion dollars each year in state and local taxes. In Iowa alone, undocumented immigrants contributed $37.4 million in state and local taxes each year, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.
Immigrants start small businesses and create jobs. Though they made up over 13 percent of the total U.S. population in 2014, immigrants represented almost 21 percent of our country’s entrepreneurs. In fact, according to the Kauffman Foundation, immigrants were almost twice as likely as the native-born population to start new businesses in 2015. These businesses created millions of jobs. In 2016, 40 percent of Fortune 500 firms had at least one immigrant founder or a founder who was the child of immigrants.
Serving immigrants is part of the history of the credit union movement, and a key opportunity for credit union growth. Immigrant members of community development credit unions (CDCUs) report strong loyalty to their credit unions, in many cases indicating the credit union as the only place they choose to do their banking. According to a joint CUNA-Coopera study, credit unions that have strategically invested in outreach to the Hispanic community, for instance, report faster loan growth and accelerated membership.
For this reason, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation), Coopera and the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP) are working together with key industry partners to grow and expand the Juntos Avanzamos Initiative. Juntos Avanzamos – Together We Advance – is a designation for credit unions committed to serving and empowering both U.S. born and immigrant Hispanic consumers. Immigrants are a large and vibrant part of our communities and a key audience in the low- and moderate-income communities that Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) serve.
Today there are 65 Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions around the country meeting the tremendous demand in the immigrant market for safe and responsible loans and financial services. These institutions have demonstrated that serving immigrants is both a sustainable business strategy and vital to fulfilling our collective goal of helping people of modest means achieve financial independence. Designations are made based upon an application with a rigorous scoring system that grades credit union performance that considers membership served, products and services targeting Latino immigrants, bilingual and bi-cultural operations and staffing, bi-cultural leadership on the board and management team, and bilingual marketing, messaging and signage.
The Federation is now working with network partners to become centers of information (“Know Your Rights”) and referrals for free legal and social service providers. Juntos Avanzamos is transforming credit unions from institutions that serve a community into community centers able to organize, communicate and support immigrant wage-earners, families, young people and seniors.
At this time, it is critical that immigrants know their credit unions are here for them. Once a member, always a member!
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Many credit unions leaders know – either in their gut or in their strategic vision – that the Hispanic community will play a key role in the growth of their cooperative. Yet, they are challenged to get a true, focused and action-oriented initiative off the ground. Often this is because they aren’t confident they understand where they are at on the continuum of service to this crucial consumer segment.
That was exactly the trouble facing Guardian Credit Union, based in Milwaukee. The leadership understood how important increasing its Hispanic membership would become in the credit union’s near future, yet it needed a spark to ignite the passion needed from staff.
Enter the Hispanic Membership Analysis (HMA). Completed for Guardian CU by Coopera staff, the HMA allowed Guardian leadership to discover pertinent information about its members. The results of the analysis ultimately led to the development of Guardian’s Hispanic growth strategies to increase membership, revenue and loan volume.
“I believe that the HMA was the propellant that I needed to push this initiative forward,” said Christopher Plautz, Guardian CU’s VP of Strategic Research and Development. “It allowed my board to really engage in the details, to, in a concrete way, visualize the audience, the needs for this population and the opportunity for our credit union.”
Each HMA provides a picture of a credit union’s total membership, establishing a baseline of the Hispanics being served and their impact to the cooperative’s bottom line. It shows:
The HMA could be just the thing your credit union needs to transform gut instinct into action. Get in touch if we can tell you more.Leave a comment