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Iowa CUs benefit from serving Hispanics
DES MOINES, Iowa (9/8/09)--Jose Francisco Batres and Martha Alarcon moved to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Veracruz six years ago. They put in 14-hour days at a Des Moines restaurant. They also became active members of Village CU, which serves anyone working and living in Polk and surrounding counties.
Click to view larger image Village CU members Jose Francisco Batres, center, and Martha Alarcon, right, are saving up for a restaurant and to pay for the education of their daughter, Nayeli, left.
The couple joined VCU to send money home to Mexico using World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) international remittance program, IRnet, a service offered through credit unions by the for-profit WOCCU Services Group. The credit union's fees were lower and the service friendlier than at the large commercial bank the couple previously patronized. Eventually Batres and Alarcon opened a savings account so they could save enough money to educate their daughter Nayeli and one day open their own restaurant. The pair also joined VCU's Hispanic Advisory Group to help the credit union increase its membership penetration deeper into Des Moines' growing Hispanic community. VCU quickly became one more Iowa credit union to see the value in providing services to this rapidly growing demographic. "The Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL) believes credit unions have a huge opportunity to help solve the current economic crisis by serving the underserved Hispanic market," said Patrick Jury, league president/CEO. "Hispanics demonstrate a high work force participation rate, increasing household income, collective purchasing power and booming entrepreneurship, all elements that will help credit unions drive membership, portfolio and asset growth." ICUL in 2006 formed Coopera Consulting to help the state's credit unions better serve Iowa's Hispanic market, Jury said. Coopera's success has led to additional work with credit unions or credit union systems in Louisiana, Nebraska, New York and Oregon, and most recently, with Credit Union National Association to develop a credit union strategy to serve Hispanics nationwide.
Click to view larger image Discussing the advantages of serving Hispanic members are, from left, Patrick Jury, Iowa Credit Union League president/CEO; Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions executive vice president/chief operations officer; and Murray Williams, Iowa league chief operations officer. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions
"The work that Coopera has done with Iowa's credit unions has helped them reach out effectively and serve these communities. Across the U.S., we have seen Coopera's positive impact on credit unions seeking to improve their services to Hispanics," said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president/chief operations officer. "Success is determined by how well credit unions understand and adjust to Hispanic cultural elements that contribute to their member loyalty. Coopera is a great resource for serving Hispanics and providing cultural sensitivity that can result in a groundswell of new member applications," said Branch. Like VCU, Des Moines Metro CU (DMMCU) has benefited from serving the city's Hispanics. It had been losing members as the city's limits expanded westward. After a demographic analysis, DMMCU discovered a large population of working class Hispanics and Sudanese in the downtown neighborhoods near the credit union. The groups were not being served. The credit union reformulated its marketing mix to include Spanish radio stations and publications. It also offered credit-building loans starting at $500 to help new immigrants establish credit and gain a foothold in the local economy. Membership grew, and the credit union found itself in nontraditional services, including sending remittances through WOCCU's IRnet. Credit union staff even helped one couple sort out purchase problems with a local auto dealership as part of their auto loan application and another member cope with identity theft. The extra effort has been worthwhile, said Traci Stiles, DMMCU's business development manager, because news of the credit union's services spread rapidly by word-of-mouth through the Hispanic community, resulting in an influx of members. "This is a market segment that is very loyal and a pleasure to serve," Stiles added.
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