Iowa CUs Profit from Serving the Hispanic Market
WOCCU’s International Remittance Program Adds to Service Experience
| Village CU members José Francisco Batres (center) and Martha Alarcón (right) hope to save enough money in their credit union account to open their own restaurant and pay for the education of their daughter Nayeli (left).
DES MOINES, Iowa—José Francisco Batres and Martha Alarcón
are hard-working Mexican-American immigrants. The pair, who moved to the United States from the Mexican state of Veracruz six years ago, puts in 14-hour days at a Des Moines restaurant.
They also are active members of Village Credit Union (VCU), which serves anyone
who lives or works in Polk and
The couple originally joined VCU to
send money home to Mexico
using World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) international remittance program IRnet®, a service offered
through credit unions by the for-profit WOCCU Services Group. The credit
union’s fees were lower and the service friendlier than they were at the large
commercial bank the couple previously patronized. Eventually Batres and Alarcón
opened a savings account in hopes of saving enough money to educate their
daughter Nayeli and one day open their own restaurant.
The pair also joined VCU’s Hispanic
Advisory Group, providing critical insights into helping the credit union
increase its membership by reaching deeper into Des Moines’ growing Hispanic community. VCU
quickly became one more Iowa
credit union to see the value in providing services to this rapidly growing
“The Iowa Credit Union League [ICUL]
believes credit unions have a huge opportunity to help solve the current
economic crisis by serving the underserved Hispanic market,” said Patrick Jury,
the league’s president and CEO. “Hispanics demonstrate a high workforce
participation rate, increasing household income, collective purchasing power
and booming entrepreneurship, all elements that will help credit unions drive
membership, portfolio and asset growth.”
ICUL in 2006 also formed Coopera
Consulting specifically to help Iowa’s
credit unions better serve the state’s Hispanic market, Jury said. Coopera’s
success has led to additional work with credit unions or credit union systems
in Louisiana, Nebraska,
New York and Oregon and, most recently, as a CUNA partner
to develop a credit union strategy to serve Hispanics nationwide.
| WOCCU EVP and COO Brian Branch (center) discusses the advantages of serving Hispanic members with the Iowa CU League's Patrick Jury (left) and Murray Williams (right).
“The work that Coopera has done
with Iowa’s credit
unions has helped them reach out effectively and serve these communities. Across
the United States,
we have seen Coopera’s positive impact on credit unions seeking to improve
their services to Hispanics,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president
and COO. “Success is determined by how well credit unions understand and adjust
to Hispanic cultural elements that contribute to their member
loyalty. Coopera is a great resource for serving Hispanics and providing
cultural sensitivity that can result in a groundswell of new member
Like VCU, Des Moines Metro Credit
Union (DMMCU) is another client of Coopera that has benefited from serving the
city’s Hispanics. Previously, the credit union had been losing members as Des Moines’ city limits have
expanded westward. After a demographic analysis, DMMCU discovered a large
population of working class Hispanics and Sudanese in the downtown
neighborhoods near the credit union who were not being served. The credit union
reformulated its marketing mix to include Spanish radio stations and
publications. It also started offering credit-building loans starting at US$500
to help new immigrants establish credit and gain a foothold in the local
As a result, DMMCU’s membership
began to once again grow, and the credit union found itself in non-traditional
services, including sending remittances through WOCCU’s IRnet. Credit union staff even helped one couple sort out purchase
problems with a local car dealership as part of their auto loan application and
another member cope with identity theft. The extra effort has been worthwhile, according
to Traci Stiles, DMMCU’s business development manager, because news of the
credit union’s services has spread rapidly by word-of-mouth through the
Hispanic community, resulting in an influx of members.
“This is a market segment that is
very loyal and a pleasure to serve,” Stiles added.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.
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Contact: Rebecca Carpenter
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions