Build bridges of financial inclusion
How serving the underserved benefits communities and credit unions.
Credit unions are deeply tied to their communities. While each community is unique, all have people in need.
It’s up to credit unions to serve people in need with responsive financial products and services.
“We have to be intentional about financial inclusion. Our staff reflects our community, and they tell us when they see or hear things that don’t seem fair,” says Corey Tresidder, vice president of information technology at $260 million asset Guadalupe Credit Union in Santa Fe, N.M.
He and Jessica Jacobson, director of deposits, strategy, and operations at CNote, addressed the 2023 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Conference Thursday in Denver.
“Continue conversations with your members,” Jacobson says, adding that CNote invests in diverse communities to increase economic mobility and financial inclusion. “As needs evolve and grow, track where you can be most supportive.”
Guadalupe serves rural communities, low- to moderate-income areas, Indigenous communities, Hispanic families, and new immigrants. It offers several products aimed at providing financial empowerment, including subprime loans, individual tax identification number (ITIN) lending, payday loan alternatives, emergency cash loans, and more.
The credit union actively supports the community, participating in disaster recovery efforts, collecting donations, teaching financial education courses, and hosting meetings about community needs. One Guadalupe branch adjusted its hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. to accommodate working class members before or after their shifts.
While financial inclusion efforts are part of credit unions’ mission, they’re also good for business, improving institutions’ reputation and visibility, and boosting membership and business.
“It may seem daunting, but you don’t need to revamp your credit union to take steps toward inclusion,” Tresidder says. “We’ve made it part of who we are, and it’s made us more successful. Staff really see the value of what we do.”
So do people in the community, including nonprofits and other organizations that partner with Guadalupe.
“We’re all allies in this fight,” Tresidder says. “It’s too difficult to recreate the wheel. We’re consistently reading, researching, and evaluating what others are doing and what we can bring back to our communities.”
“People want to be part of the responsible, reliable, and impactful work credit unions are doing,” Jacobson says. “Partnerships enable you to expand your offerings and serve more members, so tell the story of the impact you’re creating in your community.”
Tresidder offers two starting points for credit unions looking to serve the underserved:
- Address barriers. “Ask your membership if they feel excluded from any services or if they trust you,” he says. “If people don’t feel comfortable or can’t access their services, address those friction points first.”
- Be truthful and genuine. Look at your existing policies, procedures, and terminology to uncover possible negative impacts.