Cynthia Colón received the 2022 Marketing Professional of the Year Award from the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council.
She started at GTE Financial as a communications specialist and is now assistant vice president of multicultural inclusion strategy at the $2.7 billion asset credit union in Tampa, Fla.
She spoke with CUNA News about GTE Financial’s multicultural program, the importance of providing resources for Spanish-speaking members, and career advice for aspiring communications professionals.
Cynthia Colón: I started at GTE by leading the credit union’s communications and public relations efforts and now I have taken a lead role in developing and strategizing the credit union’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and multicultural programs. Today, I serve as the assistant vice president of multicultural inclusion strategy and manage a team that works together to support our Hispanic and multicultural marketing efforts.
GTE’s multicultural program started from scratch six years ago. The credit union did not have a plan that would specifically target the Hispanic market; nor did it have any of its marketing materials, products, or services available in Spanish. When I first started my career with GTE, I saw the need for a strategic plan that would get us closer to working hand in hand with the Hispanic community.
After extensive research, meetings with other credit unions and leadership, our multicultural initiative was given the green light and "diversity" and "inclusion" were formally approved by the board of directors in GTE strategic guidance. I quickly got started translating brochures, flyers, and posters, and sponsoring events that directly targeted the Hispanic market.
Our chief executive officer and president, Brian Best, was the first to advocate for better resources for our Spanish-speaking members—without his belief in serving a vibrant Latino membership and community, GTE would be vastly different. We now serve 41,261 Hispanic members (18.5% of total membership) and 183 Latino employees (36% of our total workforce) in a high-growth Hispanic community comprising 26% of the Tampa population.
As the multicultural program grew, more enterprise projects were built. This was a significant indicator of the longevity that the program would have with GTE for years to come.
It is amazing how much we have been able to accomplish and the positive influence we’ve had. Many of our campaigns and marketing strategies throughout the years have not been dependent on a large budget. We have planted seeds all throughout our community, and we are truly seeing the impact.
A: To me, multicultural inclusion means the ability to market to a community that is underserved and unbanked, and to bring new opportunities and bilingual services to our current membership and those we bring on through our efforts.
Being able to understand your own finances and not depend on others to translate is an incredible feeling.
A: What excites me most is the support and encouragement I get when presenting a new idea. We are not afraid to try things we know will help our membership.
With any new project, buy-in from the executive team is key. I have been fortunate that our executive team, led by our CEO, is open-minded and appreciates new and innovative ideas.
It has been exciting to build our multicultural team for six years and to see where it is today.
A: It feels phenomenal to start something from scratch and see what you have built flourish. To see the multicultural program at GTE flourish has been the highlight of my career.
I strongly believe in the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.” Being able to offer someone the possibility of financial freedom is wonderful, especially if it is in their own language.
Many of our members come from other countries and do not understand the credit system or buying process. But they know they can come to the credit union and get information in their preferred language.
Using our innovative technology to reach more people through marketing and digital channels is a true accomplishment.
A: Don’t keep ideas that will help your organization or membership to yourself. Share them with your supervisor or someone you know will work with you to develop the idea.
Don’t be afraid. It may not happen right away, but it will eventually.
A: I love music and traveling. My family is in New York, so I go often to visit them.