August 1, 2005
By Bill Merrick
In 2000, the population of new Latino immigrants in Charlotte, N.C., grew 410%. In 2001, crimes against these new residents increased 500% because few had relationships with financial institutions and had no safe place to keep their money, reports Deb McLean, vice president of marketing for $132 million asset Charlotte Metro Credit Union.
She spoke at CUNA Mutual Group's 2005 Discovery Conference in Orlando.
After seeking help from local banks (they refused), the Charlotte Police Department asked Charlotte Metro for assistance. The credit union's answer: a new "Safe" account that doesn't require a Social Security number because it doesn't pay dividends that would be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. It also can be used for a share-secured loan, which builds peoples' credit ratings.
In lieu of traditional identification, Charlotte Metro accepts passports, Mexican voter registration cards, visas, and foreign drivers licenses--which is legal and acceptable under National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) regulations, McLean says.
Before reaching out to this community, the credit union examined several aspects affecting service:
The credit union hasn't repossessed any car loans made to Latinos and hasn't charged off any Safe accounts. "You can do this," she says. "The rewards are tremendous. My Latino employees get employment offers from banks all the time but they stay because they're making a difference here."