Together, we advance: Using our movement’s strength to serve all

October 11, 2019

This year, Hispanic Heritage Month feels different. As the credit union movement continues to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the industry, credit unions have taken a hard look at ways to serve traditionally underserved communities, and that work is paying off among Latinx communities across the country.

By the numbers, the Latinx community, which is already the nation’s largest minority segment, is slated to triple by 2050, representing 30% of the US population. Already, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals reports that Hispanics account for 63% of new home homeownership gains in the last decade, while the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce cites that Latino-owned companies have grown 31.6% since 2012, more than double the growth rate of all businesses across America (13.8%).

On the whole, Latinx people represent nearly 20% of the labor force and hold a purchasing power of $1.7 trillion.

This growing, powerful segment of the population is far-too-underserved, though. According to the Fed’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018, 11% of all  Hispanics are unbanked and 23% are underbanked. That’s almost 20 million consumers who need access to the affordable and responsible financial products and services that credit unions offer.

Meeting that need not only makes real business sense, but also fulfills the credit union mission to serve the underserved. If we make asset building tools such as mortgages, student loans and financing for micro and small businesses available to this market, we’ll be amplifying that positive impact and at the same time, becoming that trusted partner for this community that will fuel more growth and relevance for decades to come. We can do well by doing good!

More and more credit unions are doing that work, too. This year, the Juntos Avanzamos designation, which recognizes credit unions committed to uplifting and serving the Hispanic and Latinx community, has been granted to a record number 100 credit unions. Started by the Texas Credit Union League more than 15 years ago and now led by Inclusiv, the Juntos Avanzamos program has expanded across 26 states, DC and Puerto Rico, reaching more than 7 million members across 868 credit union locations.

The designation, which translates as “Together We Advance,” reflects the very core of our people helping people philosophy.

At Inclusiv, we envision Juntos Avanzamos as the standard that will ensure a more consistent experience for Latinos, serving as the platform to connect the vast network of community-based organizations and local governments that promote the financial inclusion of immigrant communities.

The lack of such a national network has been a huge barrier to connect with the Hispanic market because of the difficulties for consumers to identify those credit unions that have the capability and the interest to meet their financial needs as immigrants and low- or moderate-income Latinos.

As the credit union movement continues to focus on ways to serve the underserved, better-reflect the communities we operate in, and create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive indsutry, serving the Hispanic community is not only timely, but a moral imperative found in our very roots.

St. Mary’s Bank, the first credit union in the nation, was established to serve French Canadian immigrants that came to New Hampshire at the beginning of the century, who faced with the indifference and open hostility from the banking industry. A century later, the situation is the same. What is different now is that we have a strong and vibrant credit union industry that can and should serve everyone.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month.

Pablo DeFilippi is Senior Vice President of Membership and Network Engagement at Inclusiv, a certified CDFI intermediary and credit union network committed to helping low- and moderate-income people and communities achieve financial independence through credit unions.