Solid Foundation Creates Successful Hispanic Outreach

‘When you lay the proper foundation, you are bound to have success.’

May 13, 2014
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In 2006, Des Moines (Iowa) Metro Credit Union performed an in-depth analysis to determine whether opening a new branch was the best way to grow its membership base after several years of negative membership growth.

The analysis revealed the $47 million asset credit union wasn’t maximizing opportunities to reach and serve the households around the credit union’s existing locations. Before it opened a new branch, Des Moines Metro’s leadership decided it would make sense to improve penetration in its current markets.

“We determined that the local Hispanic community was an ideal demographic target for growth,” says Traci Stiles, the credit union’s business development manager. “Our branch is located near the Des Moines Hispanic community’s homes and workplaces. We knew we could gain board and staff support to offer much-needed services that would meet Hispanic members’ financial needs. It made a lot of sense for us to become a more active member in this community.”

Stiles and her team knew they needed help to move in this new direction, and turned to Warren Morrow at Diverse Innovative Solutions, the precursor to Coopera, for guidance.

“Coopera has been a key resource for us,” says Stiles. “In collaboration with Coopera, we have been able to keep up-to-date on best practices in the financial industry, as well as the Hispanic community, to gain new ideas for better serving our membership.”

Coopera has also helped Des Moines Metro better understand the differences between Hispanic consumers and other members. Armed with this knowledge, the credit union’s leadership has developed products and services that best match the Hispanic community’s cultural and lifestyle nuances.

One of the first products Des Moines Metro implemented was remittance services through Vigo. It also initiated a credit-builder loan program.

“Our Credit Builder Loan has been the most successful product we’ve implemented to date,” says Stiles. “We started the program in the fall of 2009, and we’ve had over 65 members who have graduated from the program. The program has given us the opportunity to help members with one-on-one financial education as they build their credit. We’ve had minimal risk by using consistent underwriting guidelines, and the program has created loyal, life-long borrowers.”

In the first quarter of 2012, the credit union introduced the Coopera Prepaid Reloadable Visa card, which is tailor-made for the Hispanic market.

According to Stiles, the Coopera Card has turned out to be a popular product with the credit union’s entire membership. “We have sold more than 165 Coopera Cards since the launch.”

Over time, Des Moines Metro has enhanced its member referral program to capitalize on the increased referral potential offered by the Hispanic community. Today, any current member who refers a new member to the credit union is entered into a monthly drawing for $100.

Products and services were not the only areas the credit union retooled to better focus on growing its Hispanic membership. The credit union also had to examine its policies and procedures to make sure they accommodated growth in the Hispanic market.

“We examined and altered our policies to allow Hispanics to use matricula consular cards and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to open accounts,” says Stiles. “We also educated our staff about various forms of compliant identification.”

Des Moines Metro also re-evaluated its marketing efforts to best target the Hispanic community. Today, the credit union’s efforts include bilingual materials, member testimonials, and advertising in the local Hispanic media.

The credit union recently used a testimonial from a female Hispanic member who purchased her first car through the credit builder program. “We solicit feedback from our bilingual staff on existing and new products and services,” Stiles says. “We also make them aware of our community advertising campaigns to make sure we are doing everything we can to be successful.

“We also track the language preferences of our members so when we do a bilingual direct mail piece we can identify members who speak Spanish,” she continues. “And we use Coopera’s Hispanic Member Analysis and Hispanic Opportunity Navigator to track our progress with our target market on a monthly and quarterly basis. Whenever we consider operational, product, or service changes, we have to keep the Hispanic market in mind because it’s becoming a larger part of our membership.”

Community outreach

Des Moines Metro has become heavily involved in community outreach efforts, such as the Bank On Central Iowa initiative. This program brings together financial educators and financial institutions to help improve financial education and access to underserved consumers, including Hispanics.

“We strive to continually form partnerships with businesses and organizations, like Hispanic Educational Resources, that serve the Hispanic population in our area,” Stiles explains. “We participate each year in the local Latino festival during Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as provide volunteers for other cultural events throughout the year.”

She says the credit union has made huge strides in serving the Hispanic community over the years. The biggest indicator of success, according to Stiles, is membership growth.

“Prior to our efforts with the Hispanic community, we were experiencing negative membership growth,” she says. “In 2009, we began to see positive membership growth and have had positive growth every year since. Our average member age also continues to decrease. We have built the solid foundation with our board, staff, and local community. Our hard work is paying off.

“If a credit union has buy-in from all levels of the organization—the board, management, and staff—it can successfully serve the Hispanic market, or any target demographic,” Stiles continues. “It’s important to monitor, track, and recognize when processes, procedures, products, and services need to be evaluated and adjusted. When you lay the proper foundation, you are bound to have success.”

This case study is an excerpt from Coopera's Iowa Hispanic Opportunity Report, commissioned by the Iowa Credit Union League.

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