A decade ago, the roots of Coopera were planted by a visionary credit union leader with big dreams for the future. Warren Morrow saw more than 45 million Hispanic people, each working to enrich their communities across the country.
He asked, “How can credit unions become providers of choice for dignified financial services in this emerging community? How can the credit union industry better serve this segment – the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most financially underserved minority group in the United States?”
Rather than wait for those questions to be answered, Warren set out to answer them. His enthusiasm for improving the financial lives of Hispanic consumers was contagious. As more leaders in the credit union movement saw the opportunities, Coopera began to grow.
Over its 10-year history, Coopera has worked with more than 200 credit unions, credit union system organizations and non-credit unions located in 30 states across the country and has served more than 1,000,000 Hispanic consumers. The firm applies the diverse expertise and skill sets of its leadership to carry out the vision of Coopera’s founder.
Within its first year, Coopera, in partnership with the Iowa Credit Union League and Iowa Credit Union Foundation, launched a state-wide asset-building and savings account program for working Iowans and partnered with credit union associations in New York and Louisiana to mobilize more cooperatives around the mission of serving Hispanic members.
By the end of 2009, Texas, Nebraska and Georgia credit union leagues, as well as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) had joined in the mission. Together, CUNA, the leagues and Coopera built tools, conducted research and created educational programs.
As the first decade of the new Millennium was coming to a close, CUNA and Coopera teamed to create El Poder es Tuyo (The Power is Yours), the only Spanish-language personal finance website for Hispanic credit union members. Today, the site reaches Hispanic members in more than 14 states across the country.
Building tools to improve the financial lives of Hispanic consumers continued. In 2001, Coopera partnered with its payments processing sister company TMG, now a part of CO-OP Financial Services, to build a prepaid card especially for the unique needs of the Hispanic consumer. The card was rated as the 5th Most Affordable Prepaid Card by NerdWallet.
Five years into its mission, the Coopera team lost its founder when he passed away unexpectedly. Yet Warren’s crystal clear vision continued to guide the leaders of this fast-moving company.
California and Nevada credit unions got on board in 2012, partnering with Coopera to study the Hispanic consumer segment and create multi-state educational opportunities for credit union leaders.
As Coopera honed its research and training skills, it became evident these were core competencies that could benefit even more cooperatives throughout the country. As a result, the company launched a series of Hispanic Market Analysis tools and an online resource library for professionals who wanted to grow their own Hispanic market expertise. Credit unions using these analysis tools have seen annualized Hispanic membership grow nearly four times as fast as that of non-Hispanic members. What’s more, checking and lending penetration rates at these credit unions have increased twice as fast as that of non-Hispanic members.
In 2015, Coopera’s decade of achievement was recognized alongside its AMC family of companies with one of the highest honors the credit union industry has developed, the Herb Wegner Memorial award.
Over the past several years, Coopera and its partner the Federation have put the Juntos Avanzamos designation on a national stage. A signal to Hispanic consumers that a credit union has their best interests in mind, the designation is another way to communicate credit union’s passion for and willingness to serve the Hispanic community.
Over Coopera’s 10 year history, many strategic partners have helped raise awareness of the struggles faced by Hispanic consumers, but also the great opportunity they represent. These organizations have helped hundreds of credit unions realize the influence and the value of what remains America’s largest, fast-growing, young and financially underserved minority group.
It’s a message that’s expanding far beyond the credit union space. Executives and business leaders in insurance, health care, higher education and many others are answering the call to adapt to the unique needs of a multi-faceted Hispanic consumer segment.
In just under a decade, the Hispanic community grew from 45 million to more than 57 million.
10 million in 10 years. That’s explosive growth. That’s amazing opportunity.
Many of that 57 million are still seeking the American dream. And, credit unions are helping them achieve that, one member at a time. In fact, 25 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are now credit union members.
Coopera’s team of Hispanic market experts is also beginning to work with businesses and organizations beyond financial services. Its leaders, which include De Dios, Client Relations Director Alba Perez, Client Support Specialist Lizeth Aquino and Project Assistant Kenia Calderon, are applying their knowledge of emerging markets to engagement with other industries, as well.
As more businesses, organizations and community leaders are inspired by the credit union movement’s success, Coopera will be there, ready to partner for the success of their organizations and the greater Hispanic community.Leave a comment
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.Leave a comment
Four years ago, we formed a strategic growth alliance to help credit unions expand their Hispanic market outreach efforts. Since the alliance formed, both organizations have leveraged each other’s strengths — Coopera’s Hispanic market expertise and CUNA’s extensive resources — to help America’s credit unions grow membership opportunities by reaching and serving Hispanics.
As a testament to this, our organizations have been able to reach more than 200 credit unions with our collective resources, and in turn, those credit unions have been able to serve thousands of Hispanic members with our help.
Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve accomplished together so far:
And, we’re not stopping there!
We have several joint initiatives planned for our anniversary year, including:
We are so pleased to have been working alongside such a well-respected, reputable organization like CUNA for the last four years. By working together, we have truly been able to positively influence the growth and direction of the credit union industry. We look forward to what we’ll accomplish together in the future!Leave a comment
Please join us in voting for Warren Morrow, founder and late CEO of Coopera, to be the recipient of Credit Union Magazine’s 2013 “CU Hero of the Year” award. The four nominees for this year’s award exemplify the credit union philosophy of “people helping people” and have truly gone the extra mile to extend credit union service in their communities.
Mr. Morrow founded Coopera with the belief that Hispanics need credit unions as much as credit unions need Hispanics. He believed deeply in helping underserved Hispanics receive dignified financial services. By bringing financial stability to a home, Mr. Morrow believed, you could begin to address other social issues. Sadly, Mr. Morrow passed away in February, 2012.
To learn more about Mr. Morrow, read A Man of Integrity, written by Mark Condon, CUNA’s Senior Vice President, Business and Consumer Publishing, as well as Credit Union Magazine’s recent article on Mr. Morrow “Latino CU Visionary Leaves Legacy.”
Help us honor Mr. Morrow as “CU Hero of the Year,” CLICK HERE TO VOTE TODAY! No login needed. Voting is open until May 17.
Please help us spread the word by sharing the message through your personal network and social media connections. Thank you!Leave a comment
Warren Morrow: July 26, 1977 – February 15, 2012
Born to an American father and Mexican mother in Mexico City, Coopera Founder Warren Morrow’s identity and love for his Latino community was shaped in part by his experiences as a young person assimilating into the U.S. culture; specifically by the lasting impression left on him as he watched his mother struggle in her transition to American life.
On February 15, 2012, Warren’s family, friends, coworkers, the credit union movement and the Latino community suffered an inexplicable tragedy when Warren passed away at the age of 34. As we remember the passing of Warren on this tragic date, there will be much sadness and disbelief relived by the many people Warren touched, but there will also be many things to reflect on and be thankful for as we look back on his immense impact.
Growing up, Warren came upon credit unions unintentionally, as many of us do. A Tucson-based credit union helped him and his father obtain a car loan when he was starting college. The loan paid for the car he would drive from Arizona to Iowa as he started attending Grinnell College.
In his 34 years, Warren was nothing short of amazing. He accomplished what many of us only dream of. Not only was Warren the founder and CEO of Coopera, he was a visionary leader with a selfless heart.
When Coopera was started, the concept was ahead of its time in the credit union industry; it was a progressive idea coming from progressive leaders in the state of Iowa. While Iowa isn’t typically thought of as a Hispanic mecca, it continues to be a gateway for Hispanic immigrants, similar to other Midwest states. Today, Coopera continues to pursue its mission of partnering with people, businesses and communities for new economic opportunity by helping credit unions across the nation serve the Latino community as an opportunity for growth.
Our late founder would be thrilled to witness Coopera’s growth, adding 12 new clients in as many months last year. He’d be inspired to see us chasing down our strategic objectives, knocking down hurdles and pursuing his vision with gusto. And he’d be humbled to know we have been joined in our mission by Gustavo Grüber as Coopera Vice President. I see many similarities between Gustavo and Warren, as both exude warmth, fire and a contagious “can do” spirit.
Warren was a proponent and a believer in working together for a common good. He catalyzed a spark within the credit union industry. He brought awareness and created momentum around the Hispanic market being a solution to the growth challenges of credit unions.
Warren once said, “Working to demonstrate the value of underserved and disenfranchised communities is a lifelong mission that will always motivate me.” His passion for serving the community certainly helped reinvigorate the unique credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people,’ and his work has left an indelible mark on the entire credit union movement.Leave a comment
By Guest Blogger and Interim Coopera CEO Murray Williams
Coopera celebrated its five-year anniversary last week. Not an insignificant milestone – and one we would normally toast with gusto. But the day took on a more reflective and bittersweet tone, as we remembered Coopera’s founder and our friend, Warren Morrow, who unexpectedly passed away on Feb. 15.
Warren was not only Coopera’s CEO, he was my good friend and close colleague for more than six years. We shared a lot of special milestones together – both professionally and personally. So yesterday was emotional for me, Miriam, Anna and the rest of the team, knowing this time we’d be toasting with Warren from afar.
We all carry a piece of Warren’s spirit with us. I am unequivocally better for knowing him and proud to have a small role in moving his vast legacy forward. There’s never been a more critical time to champion Coopera’s work of “doing well by doing good.”
Miriam and I recently participated in CUNA’s Government Affairs Conference and came back energized about the future. From CUNA’s Hispanic Outreach Committee efforts, to the programs of the Network of Latino Credit Union Professionals (NLCUP), to the countless credit union leaders who are making Hispanic outreach a strategic priority, the thought leadership in our movement is astounding. We’ve never felt more momentum or urgency in our collective cause.
In fact, it was Warren’s cause, as well as his vision and his collaborative spirit that has largely brought our industry to where it is today – to bring dignified financial services to the underserved Hispanic community.
The future is incredibly bright. The need is great. Credit unions are uniquely positioned to meet that need. And Coopera will be there to help lead the charge – now and for years into the future.
Warren would be proud.
Happy Anniversary, mi amigo.
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