Community CUs As Partners & Leaders

Understand your community's values to earn members' trust.

December 07, 2010
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Forging strong partnerships has helped the $98 million asset Latino Community Credit Union grow faster than it could have on its own, says Erika Bell, vice president of strategy and services for the Durham, N.C. institution, which won the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) 2010 Community Credit Union of the Year Award for credit unions under $250 million in assets.

At $1.8 billion asset HarborOne Credit Union, Brockton, Mass.—top winner in the category of credit unions with more than $250 million in assets—credit union officers serve on the boards of every major organization in the community, says Leo MacNeil, senior vice president, community relations. This gives HarborOne a sound understanding of both the business and social needs of the marketplace.

In a Credit Union Magazine interview, Bell and MacNeil reflect on their community roles.

CU Mag: Describe the communities you serve.

Bell: Latino Credit Union serves low-income Latino and other immigrant communities in North Carolina. The credit union was created to provide a safe place for Latinos and the unbanked to keep their money. Now in its 10th year, we’ve grown to 53,000 members and provide access to a full package of affordable financial services and education.

We have members from Puerto Rico as well as all 18 Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America, most notably Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Colombia. Because our services are tailored to new immigrants, the credit union also has significant member groups from non-Spanish, non-Latino countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. 

MacNeil: HarborOne is a Massachusetts state-chartered, community-based credit union founded in 1917. Our field of membership consists of those who live or work in Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, and Barnstable counties. HarborOne has 155,000 members, and is a leading mortgage lender south of Boston and one of the leading indirect auto loan leaders in the state.

CU Mag: What are the keys to your growth and success?

Bell: Latino Community was created as an innovative grassroots response to a wave of violence against the community, based on the perception that Latinos carry cash. The credit union has been created by and for the community it serves. 

All staff are fully bilingual and bicultural. The majority are immigrants themselves, so they’re able to relate to members. 

Partnerships with State Employees’ Credit Union, Self-Help Credit Union, El Centro Hispano, andthe North Carolina Minority Support Center have helped us grow and expand much more quickly than we would have been able to on our own.

MacNeil: HarborOne has a visionary board of directors and an enthusiastic staff led by a dedi-
cated management team. We recognize that creating advocates among our members is the best form of marketing success. Having a good understanding of our community and believing we have a role to fill have provided us with an opportunity to do well by doing good. 

Our staff carry out our mission every day. As a result, their knowledge and understanding of our goals and objectives and the actions that we’re taking are critical.

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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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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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