Improve Service to Hispanics

Lingering misconceptions might hamper your staff’s ability to serve this fast-growing audience.

January 29, 2014
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Hispanic couple

Hispanics are the largest, fastest-growing, and youngest ethnic group in the U.S.—but they’re also the most underserved by financial institutions.

More than 50 million Hispanics live in the U.S., and their average age is 27. About half are unbanked or underbanked. From 2000 to 2010, the U.S. Hispanic population grew 43%, and trends suggest one of three U.S. residents will be Hispanic by 2050.

subscribefrontline“Hispanics are clearly credit unions’ largest growth opportunity,” says Miriam De Dios, CEO of Coopera, a CUNA strategic partner that helps credit unions connect with this audience.

Although credit unions have worked to remove barriers that prevent or discourage Hispanics from becoming members, lingering misconceptions might hamper your front-line staff’s ability to serve these members.

Coopera offers information in these areas to increase understanding and improve service:

• Immigration status. A 2012 poll by the National Hispanic Media Coalition indicates nearly one-third of Americans believe half of Hispanics are in the U.S. illegally. In reality, 76% of Hispanics living in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. And by 2020, second-generation Hispanics will outnumber their parents.

• Proper identification. The Customer Identification Program, outlined in Section 326 of the USA Patriot Act, specifically allows your credit union to use several forms of identification to serve these members. 

These include a passport, matricula consular (the most popular form of Mexican personal identification issued to immigrants living in the U.S.), cedula (a national identity document used by many Central and South American countries), and an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). 

Proper identification and verification of the matricula consular and other foreign identification cards are important training points. But ultimately, the process is no different than learning to recognize and verify driver’s licenses from other states.

• Products and services. Credit unions often believe Hispanics use only check cashing and money transfer services, Coopera says. But at credit unions working with Coopera, Hispanic members’ level of service usage and loan penetration are competitive with overall member averages.

• Document translation. Conducting business and having documents available in Spanish will put some members at ease and serve as an important way to connect with your members. But you don’t have to translate all of your documents at once; instead, translate them at your own pace.

• Service to family members. If you just focus on second-generation Hispanics, you’re missing the boat on a first generation that’s in the workforce and is more
likely to be unbanked or underserved. And you’re missing a chance to connect with parents whose children more likely will become members.

“The younger second generation is still learning its financial behaviors from the first generation, and still needs a connection to the culture,” De Dios says.

This article first appeared in Credit Union Front Line Newsletter, the monthly sales and service newsletter for branch staff and their managers. Subscribers can choose to receive the print edition or PDF version.

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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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