DES MOINES, Iowa (10/22/09)--Six years ago, Jose Francisco Batres and Martha Alarcon moved to Des Moines, Iowa, from Veracruz, Mexico. They joined Village CU in Des Moines so they could send money to Mexico, which turned out to be a gateway for them to use other credit union services. Alarcon and Batres, who work 14 hours a day in a restaurant, also opened a savings account at the credit union and were invited to serve on the Hispanic Advisory Council at Village CU (EFE News Service Oct. 20). The Iowa Credit Union League told EFE News Service that its credit unions have experienced sustained growth since offering services to the Hispanic community. Latinos have a “high level of participation in the labor force, their family incomes are on the rise, their purchasing power is also growing and they are ambitious,” said Patrick Jury, Iowa league president. Village CU “understood the value of providing services to the [Hispanic] sector with its rapid demographic growth,” Jury said. The credit union’s outreach to Hispanic members has brought in more than $8 million to the credit union. Other Iowa credit unions also are working to attract Hispanics. Des Moines Metro CU began offering $500 loans to Hispanic immigrants to help them establish their credit. The credit unions’ efforts are the “starting point” that eventually lead Hispanics to begin using other services--like direct deposits and business loans, according to Ahmee Vang, remittance specialist at the World Council of Credit Unions. The Hispanic market is often misunderstood by financial institutions because some think they need to wait until Hispanics adopt the services they offer. Financial institutions have to reach out to the market--which is what credit unions are doing, Vang said. To succeed in reaching Hispanics, credit unions need to create a specific marketing plan, train their personnel in Latinos’ financial needs, and offer financial education to immigrants, Vang said. WOCCU statistics indicate that in 2008, $307 billion in remittances were sent from the U.S. WOCCU created a remittance program to help credit unions offer services for Latinos, and credit unions that have used the program have benefited immediately, Vang added.