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  • 4 Credit Unions Apply Grant Funds to People, Partners & Education

    Posted by on November 27, 2017

    In October, I shared the plans of three Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant recipients specific to how they will use the funds earned. This post will take a look at four additional recipients of the grant, which is made possible by Coopera, CUNA and the National Credit Union Foundation. Each of the recipients is a Juntos Avanzamos-designated cooperative, a program taken to the national stage by the Federation.

    Ascentra Credit Union
    Ascentra will use the grant funds to continue growing and evolving its Hispanic outreach program and building community partnerships. This includes translating materials needed for upcoming presentations that will benefit the Esperanza Legal Assistance Center, a low-cost immigration services provider.

    “We have been building and evolving our program to accommodate our successful growth of Hispanic members,” said Alvaro Macias, Ascentra AVP of community development. “We also have an internal group of bilingual staff that meets 3-4 times a year and a community development advisory group that evolved out of our Latino Outreach Advisory Group. Today, we are positioning the credit union to build community partnerships that are mutually beneficial to members, other organizations and long-term sustainability of the credit union.”

    Santa Cruz Community Credit Union (SCCCU)
    With the grant funds, SCCCU will develop a new website and mobile access, offer more financial education sessions and Spanish-language seminars and help local Hispanic nonprofits with their financial inclusion efforts.

    “The Warren Morrow Grant will help us close the outreach gap by supplementing our budget for providing financial education to the Spanish-speaking community,” said SCCCU President/CEO Beth Carr. “Additionally, more nonprofits serving the Hispanic community here are being required by grant funders to include financial literacy and training in their grant proposals and programs. As a Juntos Avanzamos-certified credit union, we feel it is our responsibility to assist our community non-profits.”


    DC Federal Credit Union (DGEFCU)
    The grant will allow a young, Hispanic member service representative at DGEFCU to participate in the Cooperative Leaders Scholars Institute at this fall’s National Co-op IMPACT Conference.

    “This enhances our credit union’s current Hispanic growth strategy in a couple ways,” said DC FCU President/CEO Carla Decker. “First, it grows our staff’s professional competency and serves to retain talent. Second, the training will add another resource to a budding partnership opportunity with the potential for tremendous impact and further expansion of DGEFCU’s footprint.”


    JetStream Federal Credit Union
    JetStream will partner with a local high school to select a deserving scholarship recipient who is a member of a Hispanic low-income family and meets the following criteria: a 3.7 minimum GPA, a college in mind and an area of interest in business.

    “At JetStream, we feel the need to help the professionals of tomorrow by providing them with the tools they need today for a better future,” said Vanessa Miranda, manager of HR and community outreach for JetStream. “The grant will go directly into the hands of a deserving local Hispanic low-income student.”

    This collective of credit unions is proof the industry sees the Hispanic community as important to the future of the movement. Kudos to each of you for the continued effort to reach and serve this influential and growing segment.

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    3 Credit Unions Set Sights on Next-Level Community Outreach

    Posted by on October 16, 2017

    The 2017 Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant will help seven credit unions continue their Hispanic outreach and community impact efforts. Named in honor of the late Warren Morrow, who dedicated his life and career to helping the underserved and empowering the Hispanic community, the grant is made possible by Coopera, CUNA and the National Credit Union Foundation. Each of the grant recipients is a Juntos Avanzamos-designated cooperative, a program taken to the national stage by the Federation.

    This post details how three of the grant recipients plan to allocate the funds. We will cover plans of the remaining four recipients in an upcoming post.

    Members Credit Union (MCU)
    With its grant funds, MCU will purchase two Spanish electronic seminar kits from CUNA and materials for financial education sessions with Hispanic youth. The credit union will then partner with local organizations to conduct the seminars.

    “Along with financial education, we will bring opportunity for membership in a safe, Hispanic-friendly financial cooperative where they will receive low-cost services that are relevant to their lives and financial counseling to help them meet their goals,” said Kathy Chartier, MCU president/CEO. “We often see members and potential members who are taken advantage of by large banks and predatory lenders. This program is specifically directed toward the Hispanic community with the goal of helping them improve their financial understanding and well-being.”

    Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union (NECCU)
    NECCU will use the grant funds to serve more of the Hispanic population within its community, including expanding outreach efforts to local schools and local organizations to help promote financial education.

    “NECCU offers a comprehensive level of bilingual financial services to impact the needs of our target market,” said NECCU President/CEO Sue Cuevas. “We integrate financial services with education to improve members’ financial competency. In addition to basic financial services, staff deliver one-on-one orientations to new members when they inquire about share savings or share certificates of deposit. This empowers members with tools to understand their financial situations, set goals and develop paths to asset building/ownership.”

    Point West Credit Union
    Point West has partnered with a local organization serving Hispanic families with a range of programs. The grant funds will allow a Point West employee to hold regular hours at the organization’s headquarters to assist Hispanic clients with account opening, lending needs and basic financial services and fiscal management.

    “Point West is endeavoring to engage the local Hispanic community where they live, work, socialize and seek assistance and services, while also testing a branching model outside of the traditional brick and mortar solutions,” said Steve Pagenstecher, Point West vice president of member experience. “By providing a full-service ATM coupled with an experienced and educated Point West employee, the goal is to increase access to an underserved community while driving Hispanic membership growth and financial outcomes for the community.”

    Please join me in congratulating each of these cooperatives for recognizing that serving the Hispanic community is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart business, as well.

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    Case Study: Evolving Efforts Result in Success

    Posted by on March 5, 2013

    What follows is a case study excerpt from the Hispanic Opportunity Report developed as part of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ newly formed partnership with Coopera.

    In 2005, Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president and CEO of Travis Credit Union, headquartered in Vacaville, Calif., and the credit union’s Board of Directors and senior management team recognized many Hispanics in their local communities were underserved and were thirsty for dignified, affordable financial services.

    Nearly 40 percent of California’s residents identify themselves as Hispanic, and that number is predicted to continue climbing at a rapid rate.

    “At the time, we identified an advantage our credit union had over other area financial institutions,” said Travis Credit Union Director of Corporate Relations Shérry Cordonnier. “Whereas other providers were looking to prey on underserved individuals, we truly wanted to partner with them. We also knew there was only a small window of opportunity to build and capture loyalty with potential Hispanic members. As such, we implemented several programs to strengthen our efforts to attract and retain Hispanic members.”

    Many of these programs, Cordonnier added, continue today.

    Travis CU began its initial Hispanic outreach that year by partnering with Filene Research Institute to better understand the size and needs of the local Hispanic market. With this background information, they began to formulate strategies and initiatives for better targeting members in their communities. Realizing their initial activities were working and overall membership was increasing, the cooperative decided it was time to take its efforts to the next level — the development of a comprehensive, strategic plan that would be sustainable for the long term.

    “We had already set our strategic direction when I was introduced to Warren [Morrow, late CEO of Coopera] who was speaking at a conference about how Coopera was helping credit unions with their Hispanic outreach efforts,” said Cordonnier. “Not many financial institutions were doing this type of outreach at that time, so we needed a partner that could help us pioneer new activities and help us be true innovators. After talking more with Coopera, we knew they would be able to help us get to that level.”

    To kick-off a partnership with Coopera, Van Ouwerkerk invited Morrow to participate in the credit union’s Board spring planning session in 2009. The credit union initially utilized the firm’s consulting services to develop strategies for becoming more visible to potential Hispanic members in the communities they serve. At Coopera’s recommendation, the Travis CU team implemented the Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON) to get a snapshot of how effective they had already been in serving the Hispanic community and to identify what opportunities may be in the future.

    The credit union also worked hard to bolster its grassroots marketing efforts, said Cordonnier. Some of those initiatives include:
    • becoming active in local organizations, such as family resource centers, churches and Project Head Start and Hispanic chambers of commerce
    • working with organizations of diversity and their local board of directors
    • partnering with community leaders to provide assistance to immigrants
    • getting involved with local academic and educational programs that influence the Hispanic demographic
    • developing an internal bilingual advisory group
    • developing strategic partnerships with organizations to influence the Hispanic demographic
    • developing relationships with local and regional Hispanic media to educate Hispanics about the differences between banks and credit unions

    Since initiating these programs, Travis CU, serving members out of 22 locations in Northern California, has realized 5-percent membership growth year-over-year, and now counts Hispanic members as 20 percent of its overall membership.

    To further evolve its outreach efforts, Travis CU initiated two new programs to position the credit union as a trusted financial advisor in the Hispanic market.

    The first program, New Era Tanda, debuted in 2012. It is designed around Hispanic tandas (also known as cundinas, sans or quinelas). Informal borrowing/lending circles, tandas are common to Latin American cultures. The modernized tanda, developed by Travis CU, is aimed at bridging a cultural custom with the credit union experience.

    Funded by a National Credit Union Foundation grant, Travis CU is piloting the New Era Tanda program with two groups in Solano and Yolo counties. Each group is composed of six people and helps participants develop a 12-month shared savings goal and to take advantage of the credit union’s unique savings and loan offerings. The program offers monthly meetings with financial literacy courses offered in Spanish.

    After graduating from the program, New Era Tanda participants are then eligible for individual product offerings to meet their credit-building and/or vehicle-purchase goals. Due to the anticipated success of the pilots, Cordonnier said Travis CU might consider making the New Era Tanda a permanent program available in the credit union’s 22 branch locations in the future.

    Travis CU also launched an immersion program in 2012, aimed at bolstering the credit union’s current employee training efforts. The goal of the immersion program is to illuminate the immigrant experience for Travis CU employees, making them more sensitive to Hispanic members’ needs and challenges.

    During a series of cultural immersion sessions nearly 140 Travis CU employees took their training from the classroom to the real world. Visiting Mi Pueblo Food Center in Vallejo, Calif., and El Tejaban restaurant in Vacaville, employees at both businesses were instructed to speak only in Spanish to Travis CU employees, allowing them a first-hand experience with the challenges of being understood as a foreign–language citizen.

    “The exercise placed Travis employees in the same situation as our Spanish-only speaking members, demonstrating to them what it might be like for those members when they visit the credit union,” said Cordonnier. “In return, our employees gained a new empathy for many of our Hispanic members and what they experience every day. The training focused on treating these members with respect and dignity, reading body language and the importance of understanding and communicating the credit union’s products and services in both English and Spanish.”

    According to Cordonnier, the training helped provide Travis CU employees a better understanding of the credit union’s current outreach efforts and the need for additional trainings in the future. In addition, the training helped employees overcome concerns, fears and anxiety related to serving members not like themselves. As a result of the program, Cordonnier and the senior management team at Travis CU have noticed the employees are more accepting of the credit union’s Hispanic outreach efforts and have taken steps to share their experiences with others. They regularly initiate more efforts, including asking Travis CU to provide financial vocabulary lists in Spanish, more training, bilingual staffing, additional marketing and more involvement in Hispanic events.

    Also, noted Cordonnier, employees have become more active in local community organizations. An an example, Eric Maldonado, Travis CU’s community involvement officer for Contra Costa County, is currently serving a term as President of the Contra Costa County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has been recognized as the 2012 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of the Year in California.

    “By gaining a better understanding of our Hispanic members,” continued Cordonnier, “Travis employees now help our leadership team develop better strategies to increase membership, grow revenue and boost loan volume with this important demographic.”

    Another by-product of the immersion program has been the building of trust with local Hispanic merchants in the communities Travis CU serves. The programs have been well-received by these businesses, as many have brought the merchants new customers and revenue growth opportunities, as well as opened the door for new partnerships in future outreach efforts.

    In recognition of their outstanding community outreach efforts, Travis CU was named the Community Leader of the Year by the Solano County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in October, 2012. “This award is usually given to an individual,” said Cordonnier. “It is an honor to be the first business to ever receive it.”

    Because of its successful investment in the local Hispanic community, Travis CU plans to implement more immersion training sessions in the future to make sure all employees have the opportunity to participate. They also hope to add more bilingual staff and offer more products and services targeted to their Hispanic members’ needs.

    “As we continue to enhance our Hispanic outreach programs to build awareness for our credit union within the communities we serve, we know that the investment we’re making has not only been good for the strategic growth of the credit union,” concluded Cordonnier, “but has also proved to be important to the overall credit union movement. We have seen first-hand that our mission of ‘people helping people’ is truly the right approach to take as we work to build trust with, and provide much-needed services to, this growing market.”

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    Travis Credit Union Makes Headlines for Cultural Immersion Efforts

    Posted by on October 30, 2012

    Congratulations to Coopera client, Travis Credit Union of Vacaville, Calif., on making headlines in the Daily Republic and the Vallejo Times-Herald for their recent cultural immersion efforts!

    In case you haven’t heard, during recent cultural immersion sessions facilitated by Travis trainers, about 140 Travis Credit Union employees took a series of trips to Mi Pueblo Food Center and El Tejaban restaurant in Vacaville. During these trips, employees at both businesses were instructed to speak only in Spanish, so Travis employees could get a first-hand experience in the challenges of trying to be understood in a foreign language.

    This exercise was designed by Coopera and adapted for the credit union by Travis’s training staff to put Travis employees in the same situation as their Spanish-only speaking members might experience when visiting the credit union. By gaining a better understanding of their Hispanic members, Travis employees will now be able to help their leadership team develop better strategies to increase membership, grow revenue and boost loan volume with this important demographic.

    For more information on how Coopera can help your credit union put together an employee cultural immersion program, contact us today.

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    Coopera Welcomes Gustavo Grüber to the Team

    Posted by on October 9, 2012

    Coopera is pleased to announce the newest member of its executive management team — Gustavo Grüber! A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Gustavo brings more than 20 years of multicultural experience in marketing, business development and operations to Coopera, making him the perfect fit for his new role as Coopera’s vice president.

    We’re excited to welcome Gustavo to the Coopera team. In his past roles at RR Donnelley/Banta, PSA Directo, Russ Reid, Hispanic Direct and Alaniz, he pioneered innovative marketing techniques that helped his clients achieve their acquisition, retention and renewal goals. His insight and efforts will offer Coopera and our clients new opportunities for Hispanic community outreach efforts.

    In addition to his corporate experience, Gustavo has also served as the Chair of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) “Directo” Council for Hispanic Marketing and was the founder of the Multicultural Marketing Group in the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing (CADM). He has also been a featured speaker at multicultural marketing conferences and has published articles on Hispanic marketing in trade publications.

    In his new role at Coopera, Gustavo will be responsible for leading the company’s business development and sales strategies, brand awareness, product presence and revenue generation, as well as will serve as a key touch point for the company’s existing partners and prospective clients.

    Gustavo is a great fit for Coopera, both professional and personally. We look forward what he will help us accomplish as the company works to address the complex challenges associated with Hispanic marketing and develop effective solutions to reach and serve our target audience.

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    Make Strategic Planning For Hispanic Growth Simple

    Posted by on June 5, 2012

    While it’s true the Hispanic market is the largest, fastest-growing group in the United States, that’s not the only reason the country’s credit unions are working hard to learn more about this community.

    To gain that understanding of the Hispanic community, credit unions must begin by fully examining their current outreach and potential for growth. One way credit unions are pursuing this strategy is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON).

    By asking the right questions the HON will uncover a credit union’s readiness to reach a new market or to take the efforts to the next level. The HON also sets forth a plan of action for credit union staff to follow on its path to growth through the Hispanic market.

    With this plan, credit unions will be encouraged to implement new tactics to grow its Hispanic membership, such as:
    • Developing a strategic plan with milestones and goals for serving Hispanic populations
    • Training employees on the business case for serving Hispanics and on issues related to reaching Hispanic populations
    • Providing basic introductory financial services, including international non-wire remittance services and low or no-cost check-cashing in a way relevant to Hispanics.
    • Tracking Hispanic ethnicity and analyzing data to examine Hispanic contribution to the bottom line
    • Establishing long-term relationships with community organization partners trusted by the Hispanic community

    When implemented in the proper sequence, these tactics will ultimately achieve results much faster and much more cost-effectively for a credit union than if they had gone without a charted course.

    The HON is quickly becoming a standard in the industry. In fact, Texas credit unions hoping to attain the Juntos Avanzamos designation* are strongly encouraged to perform a HON analysis.

    *The Juntos Avanzamos designation, which translates to “Together We Advance,” is an indicator to consumers that the designated financial institution is not only welcoming, but prepared to handle the financial needs of the Hispanic community

    For more information about how the HON can help your credit union’s Hispanic outreach programs, download the white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”

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    Hispanic Outreach Is an Indispensable Investment In The Future

    Posted by on May 29, 2012

    The Hispanic population is very young as compared to other U.S. ethnic groups. The best potential for lowering the average age of a credit union’s membership is by bringing Hispanic members into the fold. Because it is a largely underserved group, helping Hispanic members navigate the U.S. financial system is an important part of the overall credit union mission.

    Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in a credit union’s future. But, seeing the benefit of serving the Hispanic population is one thing. Truly understanding what it takes to do so is quite another.

    To gain that understanding, credit unions must begin by fully examining their current outreach and potential for growth. This places the credit union in a much better position for defining success and for developing a strategic plan for achieving that success.

    By asking these questions, credit unions can develop a customized strategy for achieving their goals:

    • Is the credit union well-positioned to target and serve the Hispanic market?

    • How many Hispanic members is the credit union currently serving?

    • What milestones has the credit union already achieved?

    • How many Hispanic members could the credit union serve and what is the income potential?

    • What are the opportunities and challenges faced by the credit union?

    • What are the best-practice strategies that will attract and retain Hispanic members?

    To learn more about how asking the right questions can help grow your credit union’s Hispanic membership, download Coopera’s white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”

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    How to Reach – And Best Serve – The Hispanic Market

    Posted by on May 22, 2012

    Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in the future. Yet having a Hispanic growth strategy on its own will not generate the kind of success a credit union needs. It is the integration of a Hispanic growth strategy with the credit union’s overall strategic future that will ultimately create sustainable success.

    One way for credit unions to pursue their membership growth strategy with their local Hispanic community is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON), an industry-accepted assessment that Coopera has completed for more than 50 credit unions across the country.

    Designed to make strategic planning for a Hispanic growth strategy simple, the HON provides a measurement of a credit union’s Hispanic membership baseline.

    In addition, the program evaluates a credit union’s cultural disposition to serving a new market. As a third assessment, the HON analyzes the credit union’s tactical progress to understand what has already been accomplished toward becoming what Coopera calls a “Best Practice Credit Union.”

    The HON supplies a road map to follow utilizing three Hispanic growth stages: Discovery, Emerging and Best Practice. By asking the right questions during these phases, the HON gives credit unions a customized strategy for achieving their goals.

    One Coopera customer, Arna Reynolds, CEO of Amarillo Community Federal Credit Union, says, “The HON has been an invaluable tool for our Hispanic programs. It has given us the ability to adapt our strategic plan to include target marketing with customized messages to the appropriate age groups. Now with a defined roadmap, we understand exactly which direction to take next.”

    For more information about how the HON can help your credit union’s Hispanic outreach programs, download the white paper “Asking the Right Questions.”

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    Asking the Right Questions

    Posted by on May 15, 2012

    Smart credit union executives realize that the face of the American consumer is changing, and that to grow membership, they must adapt to their new consumers.

    One way for credit unions to pursue their membership growth strategy with their local Hispanic community is by asking the right questions to develop a customized strategy for achieving their membership growth goals:

    Is the credit union well-positioned to target and serve the Hispanic market?
    The goal here is to determine whether a credit union is excited by the philosophical and business imperative to serve the Hispanic market. Answers can be found in a variety of ways, including internal staff/board surveys and a review of materials, such as marketing collateral and strategic planning documents.

    How many Hispanic members is the credit union currently serving?
    This question is about more than numbers. Rather, it is designed to help the credit union understand how far it has come in the Discovery, Emerging & Best Practice phases.

    What milestones has the credit union already achieved?
    The answers to this question provide a snapshot of the credit union’s current Hispanic outreach, including a look at personnel, products, processes and systems, and promotion and marketing strategies.

    How many Hispanic members could the credit union serve and what is the income potential?
    One measure of a credit union’s potential success in Hispanic growth is total income. It can be calculated from three figures: 1) number in the target market, 2) credit union penetration rate, and 3) average income per member.

    What are the opportunities and challenges faced by the credit union?
    Credit unions must take a hard look at the distribution of Hispanic residents in neighborhoods surrounding branch locations; median income of area Hispanics; percentage of local Hispanics who prefer Spanish to determine their readiness for successful Hispanic engagement.

    What are the best-practice strategies that will attract and retain Hispanic members?
    Recommendations will vary depending on a credit union’s market, what they’ve already accomplished and how well they’ve accomplished it.

    The white paper “Asking the Right Questions” can be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/7ovghlu.

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    Video: Targeting the Hispanic Consumer for Growth

    Posted by on May 8, 2012

    I recently appeared on an episode of the CU Broadcast to discuss the Hispanic market opportunity for credit unions. The host, Mike Lawson, and I talked through quite a few topics, most notably how credit unions can earn the trust of young, unbanked Hispanics.

    The video is also archived at CUBroadcast.com, along with many other insightful episodes of the show. If you get a free minutes, visit the site and watch a few…

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