America's Credit Union Conference
Mariam De Dios

Emerging Financial Markets Are Opportunities for CUs

Ten million households are unbanked and 24 million are underbanked.

July 1, 2013


Low- and moderate-income people who are either underbanked or unbanked, along with a growing U.S. immigrant population, present credit unions with opportunities in emerging markets. That’s the message attendees heard at a workshop Sunday at the 2013 America’s Credit Union Conference (ACUC).

CUNA’s ACUC, which started Sunday, runs through Wednesday in New York City.

The Emerging Markets Workshop—hosted by Cathie Mahon (above left), president/CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, and Miriam De Dios (above right), CEO of Coopera—presented the characteristics of the emerging market that create opportunities for credit unions to seize. Coopera is the only emerging-markets company in the credit union industry with an exclusive focus on the Hispanic member.

Mahon said that 8.2% of U.S. households—or 10 million households—are unbanked. Also, 20.1% of U.S. households—24 million households--are underbanked. Meanwhile, one-fourth of U.S. households tried Alternative Financial Services (AFS) products in the past year, and one in 10 have used two or more ASF products.

“This presents an opportunity for credit unions,” Mahon said. “Community development credit unions (CDCUs) have developed tools to identify missed opportunities and develop strategies to better serve their markets.”

CDCUs have developed strong partnerships with housing, microenterprises, community-based organizations, local governments and the private sector, she added.

De Dios said emerging markets include underserved/unbanked, low-income, Hispanic and immigrant populations. Growth opportunities should reflect a credit union’s membership as well as increase membership and product and service use, she added.

“Hispanics are the largest, fastest-growing, youngest, and most-underserved U.S. market,” De Dios said. Hispanic market segmentation and the impact of immigration reform are opportunities and strengths for the credit union industry, she added.

Coopera’s mission is to partner with people, businesses and communities for new economic development, she said. Coopera and CUNA are in an alliance to grow Hispanic membership.

Coopera is finalizing a Hispanic Growth Return on Investment Study, De Dios said.

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