CU Hero nominee Cano embeds Navigant CU in community

March 23, 2015

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (3/24/15)--A credit union's services should reflect the needs of the community it serves.

No one may understand that concept better than Sandra Cano, Navigant CU assistant vice president/business and community development, who in three short years has transformed the way the Smithfield, R.I.-based credit union conducts business.

Cano is one of three nominees for Credit Union Magazine's "CU Hero of the Year" award, which recognizes credit union professionals who relentlessly promote the credit union philosophy, dedicate themselves to credit union principles, and make a difference in their communities. Voting is under way.

When Cano arrived at Navigant, a community to which the credit union belongs--Central Falls--was mired in financial and political strife, which prompted the exodus of many Central Falls residents.

Simultaneously, the Latino population in the community had begun to grow.  

"This is a 100-year-old credit union with a strong foundation in the community, but newer residents felt disconnected," Cano told Credit Union Magazine. "They didn't know what a credit union was or what we did. My task was to come up with ways to engage them."

Cano believed engaging with the underserved Latino community would be a big opportunity for Navigant to eventually serve this demographic.

Part of that engagement included introducing more diversity into the credit union's staff, as she believed residents would be more comfortable working with people who looked like them and who could speak their language.

That diversity, which can now be seen at Navigant, makes a huge difference, she said.

"We weren't serving the community right in front of us," Cano said. "I created an engagement committee for staff so we could work as a team, understanding the cultures around us. I wanted to show them that while we may be different, we have the same basic needs and that no matter the culture, we want everyone to feel comfortable walking through the door."

Cano has paved inroads for Navigant to better serve and engage young professionals and small businesses as well. 

Credit Union Magazine Credit Union Hero of the Year