Eliminate Barriers For Hispanics

How one CU reached out, built trust, and empowered its local Hispanic market.

June 23, 2015

Greater Iowa Credit Union’s move into the Hispanic market started with remittances transfers about eight years ago.

The $330 million asset credit union in Ames, Iowa, wanted to make sure local consumers could effectively send money to their families throughout Latin America.

“We wanted to make sure members and potential members were getting their money’s worth and a fair deal,” says Greater Iowa’s President/CEO Scott Zahnle. “Fair was the biggest word there.”

The credit union accomplished that goal working with the World Council of Credit Unions and Coopera. Over time, the relationship with Coopera grew as the credit union expanded its products and services to meet the growing Hispanic market in their area.

Two important changes included:

  • Offering credit builder loans to help immigrants establish a credit history in the U.S; and
  • Accepting individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN), in lieu of social security numbers, as a valid form of identification for various products and services.

“Coopera helped us bring these new products and services to the market in the most efficient way possible,” Zahnle says.

Partnering with a group such as Coopera, that has experience in the marketplace, saved the credit union time and money, he says.

The two biggest hurdles Greater Iowa faced in the effort were building trust in the community and internal support at the credit union.

“It is imperative that you have buy-in at all levels of your organization. Obviously, you are going to start with the board and make sure the board is aware, but the frontline staff also have to buy-in,” Zahnle says.

Going forward, Zahnle and John Kenjar, the credit union’s vice president of marketing and public relations, plan to continue reaching out and building trust with Hispanics, by

  • Paying attention to immigration decisions by the federal government;
  • Adding more bilingual staff; and
  • Being cognizant that immigrant families come from many different cultures and have different needs from one generation to the next.

“We want to make sure that we do not create any barriers to our products and services and we keep everything as open as we can,” Kenjar says.