CUs are doubling down on the Latino and immigrant market

I’m writing this article in response to a recent announcement titled, “Anti-immigration proposals work against economic growth goals” posted by Cathie Mahon, President/CEO, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (the Federation), Maria J. Martinez, President, NLCUP and CEO, Border Federal Credit Union, and Miriam De Dios, CEO, Coopera.

First, I’d like to recognize all three of the authors and their organizations for the great work they do in credit-union focused, purpose-driven financial inclusion for underserved and Latino markets. They represent the “who’s who” in credit-union consumer impact and quality of life community development.

Latino-focused credit unions are more relevant

For six years, I’ve been working with credit unions focused on serving the Latino community, partnering to build out Latino-focused community development programs. I can tell you, without exception, these credit unions are among the most relevant financial institutions in the communities they serve. Truly, without these credit unions, their underserved Latino consumers would have no other “non-predatory” alternative. These credit unions are the very definition of relevance – the state of being closely connected or appropriate. Isn’t that what we’re all after? Relevance in the lives of our members and the communities we serve?

In the wake of the recent and tumultuous rhetoric we’ve all heard regarding immigration and the Latino market, we are seeing more credit unions step up and double down on their intent to serve Latino and immigrant communities.

Below are three recent credit-union examples of how a few of our friends are embracing their Latino and immigrant communities at a critical time, a time when their attention is needed most.

Each of these credit unions are recipients of the Juntos Avanzamos (Together We Advance) designation. This award recognizes credit unions committed to serving and empowering Latino consumers. Credit union leaders from the Cornerstone Credit Union League, the Federation, Coopera, and six other credit union leagues are working with 70 credit unions across the country to meet the tremendous demand in the Hispanic and immigrant markets, and to demonstrate that serving these demographics is both a sustainable business strategy and vital to fulfilling credit unions’ collective goal of helping people of modest means achieve financial independence.

Lower Valley Credit Union ($110 million, Sunnyside, WA) – Yesterday, LVCU unveiled its new full-service Kiosk in a local Mexican food store. In partnership with Fiesta Foods, LVCU will be leveraging the Kiosk to serve Latino consumers, many of whom are unbanked, non-citizens. Besides offering ITIN loans and financial education at the interactive Kiosk, the credit union will be helping lower-income immigrant consumers pursue a path to citizenship. Since 2014, the credit union has helped more than 1,000 consumers obtain citizenship. LVCU received its Juntos Avanzamos designation in January of 2016.

LVCU’s new Kiosk is designed to provide Latino and immigrant-focused access to financial products and services.

Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union ($750 million, Seattle, WA) – On Feb. 14, 2017, SMCU was recognized with the Juntos Avanzamos (Together We Advance) designation. In addition to their recognition, SMCU formally opened its Beacon Hill branch in the heart of its Latino and immigrant community. Through this new location and as part of its partnership with the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and El Centro De La Raza, SMCU will grow its new Citizenship Loan program to help new immigrants finance their path to U.S. citizenship, and to increase financial inclusion through affordable products and services to Latinos and immigrant consumers.

SMCU CEO Richard Romero was presented with the Juntos Avanzamos award at SMCU’s new Beacon Hill Branch. LTR: NWCUA CEO Troy Stang,Pablo DeFilippi VP of the Federation, and SMCU EVP Tonita Webb.

Point West Credit Union ($100 million, Portland, OR) – On Jan. 25, 2017, PWCU and the Consulate of Mexico in Portland announced their new partnership to promote financial education to the Mexican community in the Portland metro area. The partnership was formalized at a signing ceremony at the Consulate of Mexico. Through this partnership, PWCU provides workshops and assistance in Spanish on financial issues, including credit, budgeting, and savings. This outreach is part of its vision of providing its community “banking without borders.” Besides financial education, PWCU provides much-needed lending to its underserved Latino and immigrant community. PWCU received its Juntos Avanzamos designation in August of 2016.

PWCU Amy Nelson and Stephen Pagenstecher ink their partnership with the Portland based Mexican Consulate.

Try thinking of serving the Latino/immigrant market this way

Imagine that a new, large potential credit-union sponsor moved into your community. This new “group” employs thousands of young millennial workers – each in need of affordable products and services. The group doesn’t have any relationships with any other financial institutions. It needs a non-predatory financial institution in the community to meet its growing needs. Seriously, how many of us would jump on this opportunity – nearly all of us! If you have an emerging Latino and/or immigrant market in your potential field of membership today, this is the scenario you are faced with!

Why it matters

I believe our relevance as credit unions corresponds directly to the level of need found in the communities or groups we serve.

The Latino community needs us and we need them. We need young, loyal borrowers and members, and they need affordable access to credit and services. This vibrant demographic is growing, and will be the source of organic credit union growth and improved profitability for years to come. Affordable access to credit and other services offered by credit unions will help these individuals create stronger credit profiles, build assets, and enjoy a better quality of life. It’s a win-win relationship. The credit union movement was created for beneficial scenarios like this.

Today, millions of people living within our communities live in fear and they lack non-predatory financial resources. If ever there was a time for the credit union community to step up and embrace this community, it’s now. The exciting news is that in spite of the fearful rhetoric, more credit unions are stepping up, taking a stand, and demonstrating the true credit-union difference.

Make your voice heard

This week, thousands of us will be making our annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to advocate the credit union difference with our legislative representatives. If you or a member of your team will be making the Hill visit, and you serve a Latino/immigrant market, I hope you will share a story of impact that demonstrates how your credit union is making a difference in your Latino/immigrant community. I encourage you to join Juntos Avanzamos. For more information about this initiative please click here.