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Credit is key to Hispanic outreach says lender
NEW YORK (9/22/09)--When reaching out to unbanked Hispanics, credit unions may want to consider offering them credit, instead of just trying to target them with an account. James Gutierrez, founder of Progress Financial, which gives small loans to Hispanics with limited or no credit history, said not having a credit score is like “not having a face.” He said his business tries to “build that face” by helping Hispanics establish credit scores (American Banker Sept. 21). Progress Financial has funded $20 million in loans during the past four years. It hopes to begin working with financial institutions, and has applied for status as a community development financial institution. The company makes uncollateralized loans for $350 to $2,500. The annual interest rate is 36% and average loan terms are nine months. Payments are due biweekly. Many credit unions already follow the advice. They offer short-term loans under programs such as the Ohio Credit Union League’s StretchPay. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has identified Hispanic outreach as a top priority for credit unions. The Hispanic population is expected to reach nearly 103 million by 2050, and about 40% to 55% are unbanked. They access fringe financial service providers such as check cashers, remittance shops, and pawn shops--many of which charge exorbitant fees, according to CUNA research (News Now June 23).


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