Miriam De Dios

Five Simple Ways to Attract Hispanic Members

Hispanic outreach is an investment in your CU’s future, and there are ways to start small.

June 14, 2012

As the face of the American consumer changes, is your credit union ready to adapt to the financial needs of these new consumers?

Here are five simple things you can do this year to attract Hispanic members.

1. Understand America’s changing population

The 2010 U.S. Census revealed that one in six U.S. residents is Hispanic. And according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in early May, minorities accounted for 92% of the nation’s population growth over the last decade.

Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group. They make up the majority of immigrants and they tend to be younger and to have more children than non-Hispanic whites.

For example, the Census revealed that nearly 26% of the total U.S. births between July 2010 and July 2011 were Hispanic. Births of Hispanics are largely what’s driving the population growth, not immigration—a common misconception.

With the Hispanic population on the rise and nearly half of the Hispanic community lacking mainstream financial services, your credit union is in the perfect position to distinguish itself from the competition.

Yet, there are nuances to consider when endearing Hispanics to your credit union. The Hispanic community can be hesitant to join the financial mainstream because of the history many have with the financial institutions in their home countries.

Plus, many financial institution policies create unnecessary barriers that prevent Hispanic consumers from obtaining financial services. Some U.S. institutions have failed to treat Hispanic customers with dignity and respect.

Understand the nation’s changing demographics and educate your staff, leadership, and board members about the true investment potential of outreach to Hispanic members.

2. Learn more about your local Hispanic community

One way for credit unions to expand their presence with the local Hispanic community is by asking the right questions.

In Coopera’s experience, Hispanic consumers prefer high levels of member service, valuing personal relationships over things like speed and efficiency. With a culture of “people helping people,” we believe credit unions are well-suited to providing the Hispanic community with the financial services it needs.

To leverage its advantages with the Hispanic population, your credit union should take a hard look at the distribution of Hispanic residents in neighborhoods surrounding your branch locations, as well as the percentage of local Hispanics who prefer communicating in Spanish. This will help determine your credit union’s readiness for successful Hispanic engagement.

Facilitate a focus group with members of your local Hispanic community to learn more about their specific needs. The information you gather from this focus group interaction will help you evaluate your credit union’s cultural and operational disposition to serving this new market.

It will also supply a starting point for the development of a customized strategy for achieving your Hispanic membership growth goals.

3. Involve your staff

Financial services in general can be difficult to navigate—even more so if you’ve never had a traditional relationship with a financial service provider. Consumers might not understand the credit union difference, and financial products and services may be confusing.

Therefore, any courtship of Hispanic members will require a strong commitment to financial education.

Prepare your staff to serve Hispanic members. Challenge your bilingual employees to think of all the different aspects of navigating the U.S. payments system and train them on how to address relevant financial topics and to use financial terminology in Spanish.

As with any language, there may be more than one way to say a particular word or phrase. Therefore, your bilingual staff must be on the same page as to how they explain the credit union difference, credit terminology, and other financial terminology in Spanish.

4. Offer introductory products to attract new members

Creating products and services to specifically meet the needs of underserved Hispanics will take your members down the path to financial responsibility and could convert them into long-term, loyal members. This strategy will also help you garner the trust and loyalty of both first- and second-generation Hispanics.

Credit unions offering introductory products such as prepaid reloadable cards specifically tailored to the Hispanic market, will be among those achieving the greatest success.

But, don’t just sell your members a prepaid reloadable card. Distinguish your credit union from other providers by also teaching cardholders how to use the card and how other products and services the credit union offers can help them build credit or meet other financial goals.

5. Develop community partnerships

While pertinent product offerings are a great start, reaching a Hispanic membership base is an effort requiring the support of your community and your staff.

Begin by partnering with community organizations that have already established relationships with the Hispanic community and have earned their trust. These may include area employers, human services organizations, nonprofits, colleges, and universities.

Providing financial education or doing grassroots marketing and advertising through community partners and local Spanish media will also help you break down some barriers.

Hispanic outreach is an investment in your credit union’s future, and there are ways to start small. Make the commitment to serve this market and your credit union will be well-positioned to capture a loyal and growing member base—as well as to achieve growth rates exceeding industry averages.

MIRIAM DE DIOS is CEO of Coopera, which is celebrating five years of helping credit unions reach and serve the Hispanic marketplace.