Reach Out to the Hispanic Market: Four Steps

July 13, 2010
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Adapt to the new market


  • Coopera Consulting, Des Moines, Iowa
  • El Poder es Tuyo, a Spanish-language personal finance Web site for current and potential Hispanic members. "El Poder es Tuyo" translates to "The Power is Yours" in English.

The other half of the battle is adapting to the new market instead of waiting for it to adapt to your credit union. Doing so involves four key areas:

1. Personnel. Staff should reflect their communities in terms of language and culture. In most markets, recruiting Spanish bilingual and bicultural staff is essential. Train staff, managers, and board members about this market’s cultural nuances, and the benefits of serving the Hispanic community.

2. Products. Credit unions have products relevant to Hispanics, but they may not package these products in ways that are clear or useful to this market.

Some credit unions start with affordable transactions, then steer Hispanic members toward loans and deposits. Many Hispanics are uncomfortable with financial institutions. You need to gain their trust, then make them a more participatory part of your membership.

Services and activities that have become more prevalent in serving the Hispanic market, according to CUNA’s 2009-2010 Survey of Potential Members, include risk-based lending, acceptance of taxpayer identification numbers, Spanish-language materials, low-cost international remittance services, ads/articles in the Spanish-language media, nonmember check cashing services, and Spanish-speaking staff.

3. Processes. Some processes (i.e., credit analysis and identification) were established without sufficient understanding of Hispanics’ unique circumstances, especially those of immigrants. Credit unions must adjust these processes to serve this market.

The same goes for lending policies. You can’t use the same policies for this group as with a white-collar field of membership. If you do only A and B lending, you’ll have a tough time.

4. Promotion. Traditional advertising and marketing might be relevant so long as the local Hispanic market has been segmented and their needs and values are understood. But the most effective strategy for reaching most Hispanics is to activate grassroots social networks, use word-of-mouth advertising, provide financial literacy, and partner with key messengers within the Hispanic community.

Credit unions can overcome language barriers without having a huge bilingual staff—it’s certainly possible for someone who speaks only English to be welcoming and to make members comfortable.

Warren Morrow is CEO of Coopera Consulting, Des Moines, Iowa.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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