Reaching Out

CUs take to ferries and float planes to serve indigenous communities.

September 23, 2011
KEYWORDS family , native , services
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

'Just like you'

Because half of First American Credit Union’s member households earn less than $15,000 per year, the members’ biggest need is for check cashing, checking accounts with debit cards, and small personal loans—sometimes for as little as $100, says Rico Bautista, president/CEO of the $75 million asset credit union.

The Casa Grande, Ariz., institution serves the Navajo Nation and other tribes. Their only financial services alternatives are payday lenders and title loan companies. “We still provide lines of credit or personal loans for $100 or $200 even though many financial institutions don’t,” Bautista says. “They’re not profitable, but we focus on what our members need and we’ll continue to offer such services.”

First American also offers “free checkless checking” for members who’ve had credit problems in the past. The account provides a debit card but doesn’t allow check writing.

The credit union recently launched a rebranding effort with the slogan, “We’re just like you!” It’s designed to tie First American to the communities it serves.

“We treat all our members the same, regardless of their occupation, income, or needs,” Bautista explains. “We treat our members just as we’d like to be treated.”

The biggest mistake mainstream financial institutions make when trying to serve this market is trying to mold consumers to their business model, he adds. “Instead, they should genuinely approach these markets based on their needs and wants.”

That approach has worked well at Tongass Federal. “Many financial institutions see native communities as high-risk,” Fawcett says. “But if they put faith in the community, the community will respond in kind and be very loyal.”

Serving indigenous people “makes us stronger, better, and cohesive as a financial cooperative,” Fisher adds. “There really is strength in numbers, and we need everyone.”


Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

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.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive