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  • Watch for the Word ‘Half’ in Hispanic Consumer Studies

    Posted by on August 25, 2016

    As the child of Mexican immigrants, I grew up in a household that was unique in many ways from those of my friends and peers. One of the differences was that my parents paid bills, saved money and accessed credit outside the traditional financial system. Hindsight being what it is, I can now see how much of an influence those financial choices had on my eventual career path.

    Although it came with challenges, my non-traditional American childhood absolutely empowered me. Today, I feel so fortunate to be living out my passion – introducing more Hispanic consumers to the life-changing benefits of becoming a credit union member.

    What’s equally exciting to me is introducing more organizations to benefits of serving Hispanic consumers. As I travel the country, talking with credit unions, colleges and other consumer-centric organizations, I’m learning so much about how perceptions continue to shape reality.

    One of the perceptions that Coopera colleagues and I are working hard to reshape is this idea the Hispanic market is homogenous. In fact, there are many nuances to the culture. Let’s take a look at a few…

    Acculturation, Language & Immigration Spectrums

    Acculturation describes how quickly an individual or set of individuals adopts the behaviors, beliefs/values and attitudes of a new culture in addition to their native culture. The spectrum goes from un-acculturated through semi-acculturated to fully acculturated.

    It’s critically important for marketers and others to understand where their target market resides on the spectrum. For instance, a credit union that believes it is best suited to serving semi- or fully acculturated Hispanics will want to know members of these two segments prefer TV and print media outlets, while radio is important for the un-acculturated. In terms of product development, credit cards are common among fully acculturated Hispanics, but that is far from true for un-acculturated individuals.

    In addition to behaviors, values and attitudes, there’s also a spectrum of language preferences that vary from Spanish to bilingual to English. Immigration status, too, changes from recent arrival to established resident to U.S. born. All of these characteristics and preferences impact the way Hispanic consumers value (or don’t value) financial services to the quality of their lives.

    Financial Attitudes and Behaviors

    There is tremendous opportunity for credit unions to foster trust and expand the financial education of some Hispanic community segments. Saving for retirement, seeking financial advice, long-term goals, personal debt and financial confidence are areas that require special concentration across segments of the Hispanic market. Here again, however, there are differences between groups within the culture.

    This is why it’s so important to view the results of national studies, surveys and indexes with a grain of salt. Take, for instance, an extensive study of more than 1,000 Hispanic individuals between 25 – 70 with incomes of $25K or higher.

    Here are just a few of the findings from that particular national study:

    –More than half indicated a poor or very poor understanding of workplace-based retirement plans.

    –Half of respondents expressed a preference for Spanish communication and materials.

    –Respondents with lower incomes and those born outside of the U.S. place higher priority on funding near-term goals such as education for their children.

    When reviewing national studies, be mindful of the word “half.” Let it serve as a reminder of the great diversity that lies within the U.S. Hispanic community. If a particular study finds half of its respondents prefer Spanish, for instance, that could mean the other half did not.

    The biggest take away: It’s critically important to understand your local market needs. Like much of the general population, Hispanic consumers strive to improve their financial situation. At the same time, acculturation, language, immigration status and other characteristics such as age, income and country of birth, have a huge influence on how that value is applied day-to-day.

    While the Hispanic population continues to grow, it will continue to change. As you approach strategic planning season, consider whether your credit union could benefit from a local market study of the influential Hispanic consumers in the communities you serve.

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    Cooperative-wide Involvement Important to Growth Efforts

    Posted by on May 27, 2014

    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.

    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.”

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    A Solid Foundation is the Key to Success

    Posted by on May 13, 2014

    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.

    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.

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    Growing Demographic Prompts New Outreach Initiatives

    Posted by on April 29, 2014

    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.”

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    The Need for Back Translations in 2014 and Beyond

    Posted by on January 21, 2014

    The Hispanic market in the U.S. continues to grow and change at a rapid pace, which will present significant opportunities (and challenges) in 2014. One of the most important ways to prepare right now to better serve Hispanic members in the coming year is to conduct an audit of your bilingual marketing materials and signage.

    One of the most common misconceptions about the Hispanic culture is that Hispanics speak different forms of Spanish. Although there are different colloquialisms or words, phrases or statements that are unique to a certain culture or region, there are not completely different forms of the language — the basic language structure of Spanish is shared. Because there are cultural nuances in the Spanish language, it is important for your credit union to make sure that your translations are accurately conveying your messages. The best way to accomplish this is by performing what are called “back translations.”

    What is a back translation? It is a second translation of text back to the original language (in most cases, English) to ensure developers understand the final meaning of their translation.

    When the source language is English, there is often discrepancy in the meaning between the original source and the back translation. Spanish, for example, has a notably different vocabulary, and many words that are used in English simply don’t exist. Back translations should be performed to ensure that the language is a correct translation of the original, in which, the meaning was not changed, but also the readability of the text has not been affected through the translation process. The process should include conducting at least two back translations and working with the original translation to accommodate the findings of the back translation.

    Here’s an example: When you translate the English phrase “all the rage” to Spanish, you do not want to convey the literal meaning but rather the cultural meaning of that phrase. The Spanish translation of this phrase could be “lo ultimo.” A back translation of “lo ultimo” would tell you that you are translating “all the rage” to a similar phrase that will be understood in Spanish that means “the latest.”

    The important thing to remember when doing back translations is that the person doing the back translation should be familiar with the original version in English to avoid inadvertently changing meanings of the content. For credit unions, here are some examples of common phrases you’d likely have translated and the corresponding back translations:

    English source: Limit our sharing
    Spanish translation:  
    Limite la confidencialidad  que compartimos
    Correct back translation: Limit the confidentiality we share

    English source: Build Credit
    Spanish translation: 
    Establecer un Historial de Crédito
    Correct back translation: Establish a Credit History

    To prove how easy it can be to incorrectly back translate certain phrases, here are some examples of back translations gone wrong:

    English source: Batch (transactions)
    Spanish translation: Partida
    Incorrect back translation: Departure

    English source: Arrangement between two parties
    Spanish translation: Arreglo entre dos partes
    Incorrect back translation: To fix two parts

    Although they may seem to be a time-consuming and expensive task, back translations are a critically important part of your credit union’s validation and cultural adaptation to specific Hispanic markets. Doing back translations can help to avoid errors, as well as better understand what the credit union has had trans-created. For instance, many credit union compliance or legal departments request back translations to double check that approved messages are what is truly being distributed to members.

    By becoming more familiar with the language nuances of your credit union’s local Hispanic population, you will be better positioned to provide for these members’ needs. For credit unions willing to invest the time and resources, the benefits of a bilingual marketing audit will greatly outweigh the perceived costs.

    To best understand the make-up of the local population Coopera can help with a comprehensive market analysis. Rest assured, however, the basics of the Spanish language will be understood by your Hispanic members.

     

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    Latinas Are the New U.S. Economic Driving Force

    Posted by on September 24, 2013

    Latinas aren’t just looking for any financial services. Dignified financial services are what we want — the type that credit unions are known for. Latinas are decision-makers, they are wage-earners and they are increasingly bi-cultural; all of which are nuances to make note of and integrate in a credit union’s overall Hispanic growth plan.

    One of the most notable nuances that credit unions looking to court this powerful consumer segment need to know is that Latinas aren’t assimilating.

    Perhaps one of the most revealing findings of Nielsen’s Latina Power Shift Report is that Latinas aren’t assimilating in the same way that past generations of U.S. immigrants did. What’s occurring is that we aren’t losing our Latino culture overtime to become more American, we’re actually adding the American culture to our Latino culture and are increasingly becoming ambicultural®, a term coined by Nielsen specifically to describe this phenomenon.

    What does this mean? It means we can switch back from the English language to the Spanish language without hesitation, we celebrate traditional American holidays and serve traditional Latin American foods at these events and we embrace our Latin American roots with our diverse group of both American and Latin American friends and family.

    While this can pose some unique challenges and opportunities for credit unions to communicate to us, it’s not an impossible feet, in fact it just means credit unions must have a marketing and product strategy that
    includes the right mix of communication. Blanket messaging in just English or just Spanish isn’t necessarily going to be as effective with this group. Multi-media channels, both English and Spanish communications and an appeal to both the American and Latino cultures are going to be essential to get us to act.

    These nuances will require a new way of looking at marketing and product strategies to effectively reach Latinas. And, if you really want to serve your Latino community, you need to be connecting with Latinas — the new U.S. economic driving force.

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    Success Happens Over Time

    Posted by on September 10, 2013

    For Affinity Credit Union, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa., success with Hispanic outreach and membership growth efforts did not happen overnight. The 12,000-member credit union started its outreach through a series of community sponsorships, and over the years, has grown efforts to become a full business development initiative.

    According to Affinity CEO Sandy Robinson, Affinity recognized a need for its credit union to better serve Hispanics in the local Des Moines market several years ago. In consulting regularly with Coopera, Robinson and Affinity came to understand that to be able to relate to new Hispanic members, staff needed to immerse themselves in the culture. “This is a culture where trust building is essential,” said Robinson. “Only after Hispanic community members understand you are there to help them can you begin showing them all the great things you can do to improve their lives.”

    The credit union began by forming a mostly external task force made up of employees and local small business owners to act as an advisory council to the board and the staff. “Our first attempt at the task force fell apart,” admitted Robinson, “I believe we started it too early in our Hispanic efforts, and perhaps not having a diverse enough group, was the reason our first attempt was unsuccessful. But, we regrouped and tried again. We focused first on community sponsorships, such as the annual Latino Heritage Festival and local soccer teams, and then expanded our efforts.”

    During this time, Affinity added staff, growing from two bilingual employees to five, and split its internal task force into two groups — an employee one focused on implementation, as well as a management one focused on strategy. And, the credit union implemented Coopera’s cultural immersion training program for its employees. “To best understand the Hispanic culture, we needed to become part of it,” said Robinson. “We took employees to outings at local Hispanic grocery stores and restaurants, asking them to interact with the store employees in Spanish. We also made a point to join local organizations that help further our outreach to the Hispanic community.”

    In partnership with Coopera, other efforts have included: The translation of its marketing collateral and branch signage into Spanish, a dedicated page on its website in Spanish, advertising on the local Hispanic radio station and a dedicated Spanish-language Facebook page.

    Also with Coopera’s guidance, Affinity has made a point to offer products specifically tailored to the needs of Hispanic members, including a credit builder loan program, which has resulted in a significant amount of new business for the credit union. According to Robinson, Affinity also discovered that its Hispanic members were more likely to have loans than its non-Hispanic members. “In June alone, we wrote 10 new loans and opened six new accounts for Hispanic members,” said Robinson. “Of those six new accounts, five of them were referred to us through our radio advertisements, and one was referred to us by an employer. Referrals and other word of mouth resources are the best leads for new business within the Hispanic market.”

    Since November of 2011, Robinson notes that Affinity’s Hispanic membership has grown 32 percent, and that 55.8 percent of the credit union’s Hispanic members are under the age of 40, with the average age being 36.

    Through Affinity’s growth and successes, there have been many lessons learned. According to Robinson, any credit union that may be considering a relationship with the Hispanic community should plan carefully and implement thoughtfully. “It is important to get buy-in from all levels of the credit union team — from the board and management teams to your employees,” said Robinson. “Also, lay out a detailed plan of how you will move forward with your Hispanic initiatives. Don’t be afraid to try new things in order to succeed, and if an effort doesn’t get the results you’re hoping for, try something else.

    “Success in doing business with the Hispanic community takes time,” concluded Robinson. “Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. It happens slowly and with a lot of effort on both the part of the credit union, as well as the new members you are targeting. Be patient, be genuine, and you will achieve results.”

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    Case Study: Targeted Programs Focus on Members’ Lifestyle Needs, Not Cultural Differences

    Posted by on May 7, 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 2004, Great Basin Federal Credit Union of Reno, Nev., recognized how fast the Hispanic population was growing in Washoe County. Indeed, it was projected to reach over 30 percent of the county’s population in the coming decades. The credit union’s leadership knew it was the right time to showcase its differences from other financial institutions (FIs) in the area. Offering better programs and services to meet the financial needs of Hispanic consumers was one way they set out to do just that.

    “Great Basin strives to enrich the lives of its members, regardless of heritage or nationality, through education and financial excellence,” said Elisabeth Hadler, Great Basin FCU marketing manager. “As a financial cooperative that focuses on service, not profits, we work to build personal relationships with our members to best understand what they need from their financial institution.”

    Driven by its people-first philosophy, Great Basin FCU set out to implement Hispanic outreach efforts focusing on lifestyle needs rather than cultural differences.

    Before they could focus on outreach, Hadler said, Great Basin FCU worked to implement an internal infrastructure to accommodate their upcoming efforts. They hired more bilingual staff and gave pay raises to those staffers who learned Spanish. At one point, up to 50 percent of the staff boasted bilingual capabilities. Great Basin FCU also partnered with specialists to offer a series of diversity and language training programs for employees’ ongoing education.

    The cooperative also programmed its phone system to offer its menu and directory assistance in both English and Spanish, as well as set up a special voicemail inbox for Spanish-speaking members who were invited to leave messages with their specific questions or needs. Great Basin FCU also put processes in place to ensure Hispanic members who visited any of their branch locations were able to conduct all meetings and transactions with a Spanish-speaking employee.

    “Our membership responded really well to the processes we implemented to bolster our Hispanic outreach efforts,” said Hadler. “Through these steps, we were able to build loyalty with our current membership and gain an awareness and trust with prospective members.”

    Once the internal infrastructure was in place, Great Basin FCU turned its attention outward, said Hadler. To build relationships in the communities they serve, the cooperative also joined the local Hispanic chambers of commerce and encouraged employees to attend local Hispanic community events.

    The cooperative also initiated member workshops in Spanish to connect financial literacy with Hispanics’ particular banking needs, as well as to educate members about their home buying and credit-building programs. These workshops were designed to help members better understand the importance of building credit, how to maintain good credit and how to decipher a credit report, among other credit-related topics.

    Great Basin FCU also had implemented an indirect lending program for consumers to receive pre-approval and financing options on-site at local car dealerships. The program removed an extra step in the car-buying process, eliminating the need for the car-buying member to visit a Great Basin FCU branch location to complete the vehicle purchase.

    One popular program for Great Basin FCU members has been the Directo a Mexico program, noted Hadler. Directo a Mexico is a wire-service program designed to offer members a more affordable way to send money outside the U.S. Transfer processing fees are waived for core credit union members who transfer money from Great Basin FCU to another FI outside the United States that participates in the program. For customers who are not core members, transfer process fees can be as low as $10, compared to more costly fees of $35 for transferring money to FIs not part of the Directo a Mexico program.

    When the 2008 recession hit, it was a struggle for Great Basin FCU to maintain its outreach efforts, according to Hadler. “The economic downturn really limited the time and resources we were able to devote to our Hispanic outreach efforts,” said Hadler. “Because of the costs involved, we scaled back on our bilingual marketing materials, and we found it harder to retain bilingual staff. And with changes in compliance, we found it even more challenging to track and measure the success of our programs.”

    That said, Hadler noted the cooperative worked hard to keep programs like Directo a Mexico in place. As well, the credit union has continued its internal processes to offer members in person and over-the-phone service in both English and Spanish.

    “Over the years, Great Basin FCU has grown its Hispanic base to be more than 25 percent of the 150,000 members we serve,” concluded Hadler. “We’re proud that even in the face of economic uncertainties, we made the right decision, continuing to offer the financial programs and services the Hispanic market needs most.”

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    Common Misconceptions about Cinco de Mayo & the Hispanic Culture

    Posted by on April 16, 2013

    Sometimes referred to as the “Mexican St. Patrick’s Day,” Cinco de Mayo (held each year on May 5th) is one of the most misunderstood holidays we celebrate in the U.S., even by people of Mexican heritage.

    Despite its reputation, Cinco de Mayo does not mark Mexico’s Independence Day. That is celebrated on September 16, the day in 1810 when Father Miguel Hidalgo took to his pulpit in Dolores, Querétaro, and urged his congregation to join him in efforts to overthrow the Spanish tyranny in Mexico. The celebration is also known in Mexico as El Grito de Dolores or “Cry of Dolores.”

    Cinco de Mayo is actually a regional holiday in Mexico, called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla, celebrating Mexico’s victory over the French on May 5, 1862, during the Battle of Puebla in the American Civil War. Although Cinco de Mayo is a big holiday in Puebla, it is actually celebrated more in the U.S. than it is in most of Mexico. In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with parades and festivals that offer plenty of traditional Mexican food, cold beverages and music for participants. The holiday has really become more about celebrating the Mexican way of life than about remembering a battle that happened 150 years ago in Mexico.

    Just as there is a misconception about Cinco de Mayo, there are also common misconceptions about Hispanics and the Hispanic culture of which credit unions looking to better serve this market should be aware. These include:

    – All Hispanics are Mexican. “Hispanic” is a U.S. Census term often used to refer to people of Latin American and Spanish origin regardless of race. U.S. Hispanics have roots in 21
    Latin American countries, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, South or Central America. Some areas of the U.S. have higher population concentrations of Mexicans, like California and Texas, but others like New York have a stronger Puerto Rican and Dominican presence.

    All Hispanics are Catholic. About 62 percent of Hispanics are Catholic, but there is a growing conversion rate from Catholicism to other religions. In fact, the Mormon church recently reported the number of Spanish-speaking Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregations in the U.S. rose from 389 in 2000 to more than 760 at present. According to a Pew Hispanic survey, 83 percent of Hispanics claim a religious affiliation, and one in five (19 percent) say they are Protestant. Fourteen percent of Hispanics say that although they are religious, they are unaffiliated with a particular religion.

    Hispanics speak several different forms of Spanish. While not all Hispanics speak Spanish, Spanish is the overarching language for many Latin American countries. According to Pew Research, more than 80 percent of Hispanic adults say they speak Spanish. Even though there are cultural nuances in the Spanish language, there are not completely different forms of the language in Latin American countries — the basic language structure of Spanish is shared.

    That said, there may be different colloquialisms or words, phrases or statements, unique to a certain culture or region. To best serve your local Hispanic community, it is important to learn the make-up of the local population. Coopera can help with a comprehensive market analysis.

    Rest assured, however, the basics of the Spanish language will be understood by your Hispanic members regardless of the Latin American country from which they hail.

    All Hispanics are poor immigrants. Not all Hispanics are immigrants (foreign nationals born outside of the U.S.), and the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were over 2.1 million Hispanics in the U.S. with personal income over $65,000 in 2011. Today, the U.S. Hispanic population is made up of multiple generations of people from different countries of origin, from different income levels and different life experiences. Each Hispanic in the U.S. today can claim his/her own characteristics, beliefs and behaviors.

    The Hispanic market in the U.S. is rapidly growing and changing, which presents important opportunities for credit unions that invest the time and resources in preparation for further expansion. One way to learn more, and to prepare your staff, is by investing in a resource like CUNA’s training-on-demand resource Hispanic Immigration Course. By becoming more familiar with the nuances of the Hispanic population, credit unions will be better positioned to provide for these members’ needs.

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    Case Study: Promoting Economic Justice

    Posted by on March 26, 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.

    Hispanic outreach has been an important part of Santa Cruz Community Credit Union’s (SCCCU) mission since it was founded in 1977. Today, 35 percent of the credit union’s 11,500 members identify themselves as Hispanic.

    Certified as a community-development credit union, as well as a low-income credit union, SCCCU’s founders believed in empowering those who have been marginalized by the status quo, including those in the Hispanic community. From inception, SCCCU’s leaders have made it the credit union’s goal to promote positive social and economic change in the communities they serve.

    “Promoting economic justice is about ensuring our members have access to financial services, financial education, and most importantly, capital,” said Beth Carr, SCCCU’s CEO. “While not all of our Hispanic members are low income, a good portion of them live and work in low-income areas.

    “It is our mission to make sure these members have full access to economic opportunities and resources to make effective financial decisions,” continued Carr. “It is our goal that members realize their dreams for income, housing, education and business ownership.”

    According to Carr, SCCCU’s Hispanic outreach is composed of several facets, including financial education and counseling, partnerships with local Hispanic non-profit organizations, tailored lending programs and low-cost financial products, as well as bilingual staffing and marketing materials.

    Financial education and counseling
    SCCCU offers financial education workshops to members and non-members in the community. These programs are geared toward helping people understand the basics of budgeting and saving, the benefits of banking, how to manage credit and debt, as well as how to read credit reports and understand scoring.

    For example, the credit union has conducted financial education workshops through partnerships with the Watsonville Law Center, La Manzana Community Resource Center and El Pajaro Community Development Center. Because these workshops are tailored specifically for Hispanic attendees, they are conducted in Spanish and cover topics like the benefits of banking and having bank accounts, how to develop a saving and spending plan, understanding debt and consumer rights and responsibilities. Over the last three years, an average of 85 new clients signed up for these programs each year, said Carr.

    “The credit union has a large segment of members who are check cashers,” said Carr. “These members do use their savings account and apply for loans; therefore, building educational programs that include financial stability for our members is critical.”

    Carr continued, “These financial education programs have been well-received by the Hispanic community. Our outreach efforts have built relationships with people who are often distrustful of financial institutions. Outreach and education have combined to position SCCCU as a community partner and advocate.”

    In 2011, SCCCU workshops reached more than 1,600 people, and by the end of the third quarter of 2012, their programs had helped an additional 1,515 people. Carr estimates that 40 to 50 percent of their workshop participants are Hispanic.

    Community partnerships
    Over the years, SCCCU has participated in a number of joint outreach efforts with non-profit organizations serving the Hispanic community. Much of the credit union’s community development work is implemented through Santa Cruz Community Ventures, the 501(c)(3) affiliate of SCCCU.

    “Working closely with local organizations with deep connections to our Hispanic community is key,” said Carr. “These partnerships provide a conduit for our credit union to do financial education, teach the value of saving, borrowing and credit building, as well as help underserved Hispanic members open accounts in a safe environment.

    “The most wonderful thing about having these partnerships,” continued Carr, “is that we have many successful Hispanic business owners and partnerships led by well-off and highly educated Hispanic community members. Not only are they well connected to the needs of the community, they also help us develop effective inroads to reaching people. It’s a win-win.”

    Through Santa Cruz Community Ventures, SCCCU has a strong leadership role in “ChildCare Ventures” — a program in collaboration with the Central Coast Small Business Development Center, El Pajaro Community Development Corporation, the Human Resources agency of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education Child Development Resource Center. This program is designed to ensure local communities have access to the necessary childcare services working families so desperately need. And according to Carr, the credit union also manages a childcare loan program that supports local childcare businesses.

    “We believe childcare programs must have access to business management training and funding in order to keep pace with the rapidly increasing childcare needs,” said Carr. “The ChildCare Venture program includes assistance in facilities development, land use and real estate, as well as gains appropriate loan products.”

    Also, SCCCU recently hosted a Mexican Consulate’s Matricula Consular ID event. SCCCU team members were on hand during the event to support the Consulate’s staff as they worked to sign up Mexican residents for proper identification, as well as to provide financial education and counseling when possible. According to Carr, the event was a big success: 600 people attended the event to get identification cards, and in the weeks following the event, account openings in SCCCU’s Watsonville branch increased nearly 5 percent as a result of the credit union’s participation.

    Lending programs and low-cost financial products
    Due to no credit or poor credit, low income or a lack of understanding about the right financial tools, access to loans continues to be a challenge to a significant segment of our Hispanic community, said Carr.

    “We want to be a part of the solution and are in the process of developing metrics to help us measure our efforts,” continued Carr. “We plan to reach out to the farm communities with more power in the future, and we are laying some preliminary groundwork for this effort right now.”

    In addition to their extensive financial education outreach effort, SCCCU has expanded their lending programs through community partnerships and grant funds, such as OFN Jobs USA and the CDFI, to help low-income and economically challenged individuals and businesses. And, the credit union offers VITA — a free tax assistance service to help its members and community claim tax credits without having to pay any preparation fees; they also have a pay-day loan alternative program.

    Another of SCCCU’s lending programs, Roses, allows for the opening of no-interest savings accounts for individuals without social security numbers. According to Carr, most banks in their county require two forms of ID for customers to open an account, but SCCCU members can establish a Roses account with only one form of ID, typically their Matricular Consular card.

    SCCCU also offers Individual Development Accounts (IDA) to help members start saving for key life goals, like higher education, buying a home or starting a business. Participants are required to complete money management courses and training related to their specific financial goals, as well as to put money toward their goal into their savings account each month. When account holders reach their savings goals, the program matches their funds dollar for dollar to double their return.

    According to Carr, SCCCU has 104 members enrolled in the IDA program, and of those participants, 30-40 percent are Hispanic.

    Bilingual staffing and marketing materials
    To best serve its Hispanic membership population, approximately 55 percent of the credit union’s staff members are bilingual. And, SCCCU publishes a bilingual, online quarterly newsletter that contains useful news and educational content, as well as information on promotional offers, to keep members up-to-date on special enrichment programs and the credit union’s community involvement efforts.

    Also, according to Carr, SCCCU’s marketing department makes sure marketing materials within the branches are available in both English and Spanish. “These materials help establish a welcoming and inviting environment for Hispanic members by creating a more language-neutral atmosphere,” added Carr. “For example, we maintain bilingual brochures on topics like identity theft — these materials help our Hispanic members understand their rights, and they provide them with the tools to resolve problems related to this type of fraud.

    “We believe everyone should have the chance to begin a new chapter toward personal sustainability,” concluded Carr. “Through our community partnerships and resources, we are able to help members achieve success in their life plans. Our Hispanic members have expressed their appreciation for our efforts to promote their financial well-being, and we continue to be proud of the work we are doing to support this vitally important segment of our community.”

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