CU Puts Members’ Needs Above Bottom Line

Veridian CU learns the nuances of Hispanic outreach.

May 13, 2014

Veridian Credit Union in Waterloo, Iowa, has a long history of offering innovative and affordable financial services to members.

One way Veridian differentiates its business from other financial service providers is by offering services specifically designed to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of those in greatest need—including the local Hispanic community.

For Veridian it’s not about the bottom line; it’s about best serving members’ financial needs.

“Many years ago, Veridian recognized a need to offer Latinos in our communities more affordable products and services compared to the expensive alternatives they were using,” says Angela Weekley, Veridian’s community inclusion manager. “We also understood that our credit union’s value to members was to help them build a successful financial future, rather than offering one-off solutions.”

To aid its efforts, Veridian began working with Coopera to better understand the nuances of the Hispanic culture, learn more about what this market needed, and build a relationships with the Hispanic community. Coopera also gave Veridian guidance in hiring bilingual staff, as well as marketing and tailoring its product and services mix to this demographic.

According to Shelly McGill, Veridian’s Central Iowa regional manager, offering the right products and services was crucial to meeting Latino members’ unique financial needs. One of the actions Veridian took was to give members a viable alternative to expensive payday-loan centers and check-cashing services.

To do this, Veridian introduced an affordable alternative to traditional payday lending outlets in early 2007. “The Payday Lending Alternative [PAL] loan features a savings component to help break the cycle of dependency on payday loans,” says McGill. “This program was a success almost immediately. Just two years after it was introduced, Veridian had already awarded more than 4,700 PAL loans to both Latino and non-Latino members.”

Veridian also started offering the Coopera Card, a prepaid card tailor-made for the Hispanic market. Other popular products include Quinceañera loans, checking and savings accounts, share certificates, credit cards, and home equity loans.

Veridian also became an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) acceptance agent to help community members apply for their ITIN numbers through the IRS. Plus, it offers interest-bearing safe savings accounts and loans to Hispanic members without traditional forms of identification and documentation.

Veridian’s ITIN loan offerings include credit builder loans, auto loans, and consumer loans (including PAL), and share-secured co-signer loans. The credit union also offers financial education to help immigrant families better acclimate to the U.S. financial system.

Prior to hiring additional Spanish-speaking staff, the credit union incorporated an AT&T Language Line to help English-speaking staff serve Spanish-speaking members.

To support these products and services, Veridian also began to enhance its internal infrastructure for Hispanic outreach. “We make a point to hire bilingual staff in our branches when the opportunity makes sense, even adding more staff in those locations with greater non-English speaking populations,” says Weekley, who notes the credit union currently employs 23 Spanish-speaking staff in its 26 branches. “We implemented a diversity training program for all employees to make sure everyone is on board with the company’s goals and efforts.”

Weekley adds that Veridian started its Hispanic outreach by forming an advisory council made up of staff and local community members. It helped the credit union better understand the Hispanic community’s needs and make recommendations on how Veridian could best meet those needs.

Veridian continues to focus its external marketing efforts on targeting Latinos. “We create bilingual brochures and collateral for our products and services,” says Weekley. “And we advertise in Spanish newspapers and on local radio stations. We make sure to participate in public relations opportunities, like providing information or quotes for articles in newspapers and magazines, to build awareness about Veridian and its outreach efforts.

In addition to its marketing initiatives, Veridian’s external outreach efforts include participating in local events. Every year, staff participate in local Latino Heritage Festival and Cinco de Mayo celebrations, in addition to hosting an annual Sunset Salsa event.

Each July, Veridian is the presenting sponsor for Festival Latino de Cedar Rapids.

All of these efforts have been successful thanks to the credit union’s hard work and dedication to this mission of improving its members’ lives. To continue its success, McGill notes that Veridian keeps up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations in the financial industry, makes sure the cooperative is offering products and services that not only make sense for members but that also comply with the law.

“Because we are a cooperative, rather than a for-profit business,” says McGill, “we can focus on doing what’s right for our members. Our results prove this is the right approach. In 2012, we experienced 10% growth in our Latino membership.”

Currently, 6,398 of the credit union’s 174,000 members are Latino.

“We truly listen to the voice of the people,” Weekley says. “We ask them for input and then deliver what they want. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and will continue to look for ways to grow our efforts and opportunities in the future.”

¶ This case study is an excerpt from Coopera's Iowa Hispanic Opportunity Report commissioned by the Iowa Credit Union League.