Although River City Federal Credit Union in San Antonio didn’t begin its Hispanic outreach efforts until 2010, management sowed the seeds of that mission six years earlier.
That’s when NCUA granted the $131 million asset credit union approval to serve surrounding Bexar County, where Hispanics comprise more than 50% of the population and continue to grow in number.
The board of directors decided to focus on making the credit union more relevant to its full field of membership, and recognized the potential of this emerging demographic.
“When we began to look at how we were going to truly serve our community, we knew that we had to build capacity to serve this market,” President/CEO Kim Heinze says.
As part of Credit Union Magazine’s focus on Hispanic membership growth initiatives, Heinze and Eve Hernandez, River City Federal’s vice president of marketing and business development, provide insight on the credit union’s current initiatives and strategic goals.
CU Mag: What’s your approach to serving Hispanics?
River City Federal: The credit union’s approach to serving the Hispanic market has been comprehensive. We started with research in the form of the Hispanic Opportunity Navigator program from Coopera, a CUNA strategic alliance partner, and learned about our internal strengths, challenges, and potential market opportunities.
We knew there were some things we could do immediately to enhance our service to the Hispanic market, such as dedicating front-line staff to serve Spanish-speaking members, and providing key marketing materials in Spanish. We also provided buttons to our bilingual staff so Spanish-speaking members could readily identify them. Our outreach efforts have included bilingual community financial education.
We also knew that to truly serve the Hispanic market, we needed to change our infrastructure to serve a market much younger than the group the credit union had served for decades. This led to expanding our branch strategy to the “in-store environment,” upgrades of our core business systems, and investments in new electronic services, including bilingual mobile banking.
We also introduced free checking with no minimum balance, added a second-chance checking program, and restructured our lending department to streamline the process for members.
CU Mag: What are the biggest challenges involved in Hispanic outreach, and how did you address these challenges?
River City Federal: I don’t believe that we have had a single challenge that has arisen in serving the Hispanic market. As a midsize organization, we made significant changes toward a number of initiatives in a relatively short period of time.
Our Hispanic market initiatives have been central to all the improvements and enhancements we’ve made in the past five years. For example, when we developed our mobile app, we made sure we offered a version in Spanish.
CU Mag: How might your Hispanic outreach efforts evolve in the future?
River City Federal: Our Hispanic outreach efforts will expand—particularly the number and types of financial education offerings for members, and education for staff on serving the Hispanic market. We look forward to working on our digital and possibly mobile marketing platforms, which are crucial to reaching Hispanics.
CU Mag: What advice about Hispanic outreach would you offer other credit unions?
River City Federal: Our board, management team, and staff have all supported the Hispanic market initiative since we introduced it. Our advice to other CUs would be to explain the opportunity, and how it aligns with the credit union’s mission and the credit union philosophy.
It’s not just a one-time project to complete, but a path your organization chooses to continue traveling. We submit summary update reports on our ongoing Hispanic outreach efforts to the board of directors several times each year.
River City Federal was part of a CUNA/Coopera study that analyzed the effects of Hispanic outreach programs on operating performance and balance sheet growth.