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October 23, 2014   

Young Credit Union People // 2012 WYCUP Winner - Miriam De Dios

 

Meet Miriam De Dios

CEO, Coopera

Des Moines, Iowa, USA

As a recent World Council Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) scholarship winner, Miriam De Dios, CEO of Coopera in Des Moines, Iowa, leads the only credit union service organization in the United States that helps credit unions grow their membership by bringing dignified financial services to the Hispanic market. De Dios was Coopera's first employee more than five years ago, and she recently took the organization's helm after Coopera's founder and CEO, Warren Morrow, unexpectedly passed away this year. Coopera is owned by Affiliates Management Company, the holding company of the Iowa Credit Union League, and is the Credit Union National Association's exclusive Hispanic outreach partner.

In addition to her work at Coopera, De Dios serves on the board of three local non-profit organizations: the Iowa International Center, Hispanic Educational Resources and Latinas para Un Nuevo Amanecer, all of which serve Hispanic immigrants. She was recently elected to the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals board, a national non-profit organization that promotes the credit union model and credit union membership among Latinos. De Dios also teaches English as a second language (ESL) to first-generation adult immigrants as a part-time professor at Des Moines Area Community College.

We asked De Dios for insights into her success and how Coopera is tackling difficult organizational challenges.

What are your roles and responsibilities at your organization?

As CEO, I ultimately promote Coopera's approach to serving Hispanics throughout the U.S. credit union industry. This comprehensive approach has helped credit unions and credit union industry organizations position themselves for long-term growth by serving Hispanics. I'm also responsible for carrying out our company's strategic plans, as well as overseeing our operations.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your organization?

The biggest challenges we see Coopera facing are closely aligned with the challenges we see U.S. credit unions facing as a whole. These challenges include lack of membership growth, increased regulatory scrutiny, increased mergers and acquisitions, weakening select employer groups, an aging membership and saturation of the market. As our client credit unions contend with these challenges, it constrains their ability to strategically position themselves for growth. This directly impacts our ability to promote Hispanic outreach as a strategic growth priority.

How are you trying to overcome these obstacles?

By continuing to help credit unions adopt a Hispanic growth strategy and realize the philosophical and business imperatives of serving the Hispanic community. We do this through ongoing education, awareness building and by collaborating with other credit union organizations who want to see credit unions grow through the Hispanic market as well.

Who has been your greatest role model?

I have two great role models including my mother and the late Warren Morrow, founder of Coopera. Amongst many things, my mother taught me the meaning of perseverance, sacrifice, dedication and also instilled in me the drive to pursue the American dream. Among many other things, I learned a lot from Warren about humility, making a difference, pursuing a passion and collaborating with others for a common good.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in my mentors, in the organizations I work with or am involved in, in my ESL students, in the work I do and the people I work with, in my upbringing, in my family and friends, in my heritage and in books, movies and music.

What advice would you give to other young credit union professionals?

Pursue a career you enjoy and you are passionate about and don't give up looking for it if you haven't found it yet, or better yet, create it if it doesn't exist. Also, know that you have the power to create the future by your actions, therefore make every action count.

How has winning a WYCUP scholarship enabled you to achieve your personal and professional goals?

This has been an amazing experience. This opportunity has allowed me to take a step back and think about the possibilities within the credit union movement from a global perspective. Through WYCUP, I've become more aware of the phenomenal work that young professionals are doing all around the world. This experience has allowed me to share my experiences with others and to network with people whom I would have otherwise never been able to.

Learn more about the WYCUP program and how you can apply or nominate a rising leader at your organization at www.woccu.org/wycup.