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  • Credit Union ‘Jump Starts’ Staff Passion for Hispanic Member Service with Immersion Exercises, Training

    Posted by on February 13, 2017

    Buy-in from management was a critical first step to developing the Prime Financial Credit Union’s (PFCU) Hispanic member growth plan. And it did not come easily. After all, the credit union was still recovering from a conservatorship, and prudent board members wanted to be sure the plan would be strategic and well-executed.

    “We saw this large population that really needed our products and services, and we wanted to do it right. Just throwing up a sign that said, “We speak Spanish,’ was not going to cut it,” said Colleen Jakubowski, PFCU’s chief operating officer.

    To lay the groundwork for their strategic roadmap, the credit union began working with Coopera on a series of surveys to reveal the true needs of the Hispanic community in Milwaukee. Coopera also spoke with PFCU’s staff to uncover sentiments employees may not want to share with the credit union’s leadership.

    “Coopera’s staff took us through an immersion exercise where we went to a local market for lunch,” said Jakubowski. “We were challenged to speak Spanish the entire time and to get to know people in the community. It was something of a cultural awakening for us. That activity really jump-started the passion. We learned a lot about a culture we didn’t know, and came away understanding that’s exactly what we can do for our members.”

    PFCU Mobilizes Team of Volunteers

    Training bilingual employees to not only speak the right words but also have the cultural awareness to adequately explain financial products was critically important, as well. In January 2016, PFCU mobilized a team of 13 volunteers who are now leading the execution of the credit union’s Hispanic growth plan. Divided into subgroups, such as marketing, Spanish language and compliance, the team is playing an instrumental role in the development and launch of PFCU’s new branch location.

    PFCU has also developed a business curriculum for a class of Spanish speaking employees who want to expand their knowledge of the U.S. financial system vocabulary. According to PFCU Director of Organizational Development Amy Goratowski, these individuals are highly engaged and passionate about continually improving their skills.

    Among the challenges Jakubowski and Goratowski cite is difficulty containing staff excitement about the prospect of gaining new members from the Hispanic community. “We can’t do it all,” said Goratowski. “We still have to be frugal, but the great thing about this community is word of mouth. Once they become aware of all we have to offer, it will be huge.”

    To read more about PFCU’s Hispanic membership growth strategy, download “Hispanic Member Growth Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.”

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    3 Steps to Ensure Inclusivity is Not a Fad

    Posted by on January 24, 2017

    Financial inclusivity as a growth strategy is quickly gaining traction in the community banking space. In fact, the trend recently garnered the attention of the hugely popular, national financial advice site Nerd Wallet.

    Writer Juan Castillo reported:

    Hispanics in the U.S. have long been known as “the sleeping giant” for their potential as a substantial and still-growing voting bloc. Now, some in the financial services industry are getting serious about targeting Hispanics — and Hispanic millennials in particular — as a prime source for market growth.

    As the concept of reaching out to fast-growing markets like the Hispanic segment earns wider interest, it will be important for financial institutions to adhere to the fundamentals before going “all-in.” This will prevent staff from viewing the strategy as a fad and help them to see it as a part of the financial institution’s long-term plan.

    There are essential first steps that must be taken on the front-end of any financial inclusion strategy, particularly when the credit union or community bank is targeting a segment of people new to mainstream banking.

    Step One: Build the Right Organizational Mentality

    Financial institution leaders must communicate the philosophical and business imperatives of serving a new market to build buy-in at all levels of the organization from frontline staff and management to board members and C-suite executives.

    Step Two: Adapt to the Market

    Do not expect the people you want to serve to adapt to you. Develop a comprehensive plan for how you will improve processes and products, as well as train employees and prepare your branches.

    Step Three: Create a Strategic Plan

    Define your opportunities and challenges with an eye to your specific local communities. What does the market look like in your city? Are there nuances across age, geography, acculturation factors? Create a roadmap encompassing groundwork, personnel training, product adaptation/development, processes and marketing. Set ongoing measurements and continue to nurture that all-important staff buy-in with frequent updates on milestones and wins.

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    Focus Groups Help Idaho Credit Union Identify Hyperlocal Issues

    Posted by on July 28, 2015

    Side view of three mid adult people sitting and talking

    Side view of three mid adult people sitting and talking

    An intentional, strategic focus on the Hispanic member experience has become a top priority for Idaho Central Credit Union (ICCU). The cooperative’s home state saw the Hispanic population increase by 17 percent from 2000 to 2010, and several of its 26 branches are located areas rich in Hispanic culture.

    michaelwatson (2)Although the credit union has long worked to translate materials and hire bilingual personnel, there has not been a formal plan in place for actively engaging the Hispanic community and the credit union’s existing Hispanic members. Before developing that plan, however, Marketing Manager Michael Watson wanted to ensure the credit union did its homework.

    “There’s a lot of national research out there specific to the Hispanic consumer to which we could have turned,” said Watson. “Yet, we wanted results specific to our local markets. What may be true for most Hispanics may not be true for the Hispanics in eastern Idaho, for example. We needed to truly understand the unique needs specific to our community members.”

    To do so, Watson worked with Coopera to organize three focus groups, each set in a different area of the ICCU field of membership. The goal was four-fold:

    1. Better understand the financial services experience of local Hispanic communities to help guide strategies for the credit union’s Hispanic growth efforts
    2. Learn how the local Hispanic communities think and feel about financial institutions
    3. Identify cultural nuances within the Hispanic community to assist in better serving these communities
    4. Provide a means of evaluating products and services for the community and how to best communicate those products and services

    Among the many learnings generated by the focus groups, Watson said several stand-outs will shape the way the cooperative’s Hispanic member experience plan is drafted. These include educational and product development opportunities, as well as guidance on how and where to market the credit union’s services. Digital banking, emphasis on family/childcare and strong attention to consistent internal training were other high-priority issues identified through the focus groups.

    Initially, Watson was skeptical about the authenticity of the results if participants knew ICCU was the host of the focus groups. However, he now believes revealing the credit union as the organizer has been beneficial.

    “Sharing that it was ICCU behind the effort allowed us to gain a deeper level of feedback about actual experiences we may not otherwise have gotten,” said Watson. “Additionally, because the participants knew it was us, there is also now an expectation that we use the data to make a difference in their experience. In fact, a couple of our participants said, ‘We’ll be watching.’”

    Watson and the ICCU management welcome this attention, as they look to prove their commitment to serving this important and growing segment of members. More focus groups and a unique plan for ongoing engagement of focus group participants are expected in the near future.

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    Five Keys to a Great Remittance Program

    Posted by on September 23, 2014

    Remittance stand in the Dominican Republic, captured by Coopera's Anna Pena on a World Council of Credit Unions-sponsored trip to the region.

    With intense growth of the Hispanic market across the country, more U.S. credit unions are looking to add money transfer programs, known as remittances, for Hispanic immigrants with family in Latin America.

    And now may be an ideal time to play in the market.

    U.S. remittances to developing countries reached $404 billion in 2013 and are predicted to grow to $516 billion by 2016, according to the World Bank. At the same time, an increasing number of providers have dropped their remittance programs, leaving a competitive opening for credit unions.

    The shuttering of many long-time remittance providers is due to an unprecedented compliance burden. This has also led to the development of an industry that is, as this PaymentsSource article puts it, “ripe for startups.” There are now even international start-ups looking at the U.S. with aspirations of market dominance.

    As the remittance industry shape-shifts to meet increased scrutiny from regulators, some credit unions are looking to find new partners who can help them compete in this important space.

    Credit unions should view remittances services as a value-added tool designed to increase the depth of the membership experience. Coopera’s research (performed in conjunction with the World Council of Credit Unions) found that remittance services, when combined with an intentional Hispanic growth strategy, can earn a credit union much higher volumes as compared to those credit unions without a strategic approach.

    If your credit union is looking to develop or make changes to its remittance offering, here are a few things to keep in mind:

    Understand the geographies you must serve – Not all remittance providers serve the same locales. Before creating a partnership, understand your Hispanic members’ countries of origin and the available locations within a typical recipient’s country.

    Survey the competition – Examine your local market to understand how you can provide the most competitive offering. What other local organizations are providing remittance services? What are they charging? What are their hours of operation, etc.?

    Investigate the alternatives – When issued to a Hispanic cardholder in the U.S. alongside a secondary card for a family member in Latin America, a reloadable prepaid card like the Coopera Card is an affordable and accessible option for sending money outside the country. What’s more, reloadable prepaid cards do not require compliance with the CFPB’s remittance transfer disclosure requirements.

    Know your compliance burden – While the cost of compliance will mostly fall on the shoulders of third-party service providers, credit unions will be held ultimately responsible for providing the appropriate disclosures.

    Develop a member experience strategy – How will the credit union transition first-time remittance users to more products? Incentives like offering the fourth or fifth remittance free can keep remitters coming back to your shop for more remittances, but how will you engage them with other products and servicesfor the long-term?

    Especially given recent industry upheaval, remittances are a much-needed service for Hispanic immigrants with family members residing in Latin America. In fact, Coopera has made remittances a best-practice solution for credit unions looking to invest in the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most underserved segment of the U.S. population. While there are certainly barriers to entry, keeping the above pointers in mind can help you break through those obstacles to deliver a needed solution to your Hispanic members and prospective members.

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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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    Are Hispanics Really ‘Emerging?’

    Posted by on March 20, 2012

    The 2010 U.S. Census revealed that one in six U.S. residents is Hispanic, and among children, it’s one in four. By 2050, analysts predict that statistic will soar to one in three.

    When you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why the term “emerging,” which has been used to describe the U.S. Hispanic community, isn’t really all that fitting today. For that reason, it’s no longer appropriate to think of the Hispanic consumer as someone your credit union may need to court in the future. Rather, you need to understand how to market to this type of consumer today.

    In cooperation with CUNA, Coopera regularly surveys credit unions of varying sizes. This research has shown that a much higher concentration of credit unions have focused on serving the Hispanic market in recent years. Between 2008 and 2009, we found that the number of credit unions either executing or planning Hispanic-market programs more than tripled.

    Undoubtedly you have witnessed the growth of the Hispanic market in either yours or a neighboring community. While getting ahead of the curve may no longer be possible, there is still a tremendous opportunity to tap into the power of this population now. We advise you not to wait another year.

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