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NCUA Says Opportunities Abound to Serve Hispanic Members
Thursday, December 3, 2015 6:35 AM

The National Credit Union Administration laid out the challenges and opportunities of serving Hispanics during a live webinar Tuesday. As attendees learned during the 90-minute panel discussion called “Unique Challenges and Opportunities Serving Hispanic Credit Union Members,” the challenge of serving this population is great, but the opportunity might be greater.

That’s because 50 million Americans, or one in six people, are Hispanic in the United States today, a number that’s expected to more than double in the next 40 years, according to the Census Bureau. And of this population, roughly half are either unbanked or underbanked.

To tap this market, credit unions will have to contend with a variety of issues, panelists explained. Not the least of which will be navigating the unique regulatory environment related to serving Hispanics. Newer immigrants often fail to have the required documents to become credit union members, for example, making it important for credit unions to know all of their options in terms of what identification is acceptable for credit union membership.

Once a credit union has a grasp of the regulatory requirements, to truly serve Hispanics, it must begin to build trust with the population. Unless the entire credit union buys into serving Hispanics, the program will have difficulty gaining steam.

“It really starts with having a genuine effort, having an organizational mentality of serving a new community that’s bought into at all levels of the organization,”said panelist Miriam De Dios, CEO of Coopera, a consulting firm that specializes in reaching and serving Hispanics. “This is especially critical in the parts of the country where the Hispanic population may not be the majority yet.”

Added Maria Martinez, president/CEO, Border FCU, Del Rio Texas: “They feel more comfortable when they can speak to somebody that knows their language. I think it’s very important that if you’re going to advertise that you have services in Spanish … you also have to have staff that are going to attend to those people who are going to walk in.”

Additional points made during the webinar:

  • It’s important to understand Hispanic culture. For example, Hispanics often need financing for special parties such as quinceñeras and weddings, and if a credit union offers products specialized to those big life events, the members will remember that, and the credit union will build loyalty;
  • Financial literacy must play a role. Many Hispanics continue to use payday lending services, and credit unions have an opportunity to educate them and guide them away from those predatory lenders so they can begin to build or rebuild credit; and
  • Partnering with local organizations is key. It’s often difficult to build trust with this population, but by partnering with institutions already involved in the Hispanic community, credit unions can leverage the trust these organizations have established.