|Jeff Hardin, the North Carolina CU League's director of communications (left) joins Caja Morelia's Alejandro Rojas (center) and Homero Ambriz to learn about IT at Truliant FCU in Winston-Salem, N.C.|
GREENSBORO, N.C.—When a delegation of executives from Caja Morelia Valladolid, one of Mexico's largest credit unions, arrived at the North Carolina Credit Union League offices last week, it was to teach as well as to learn. The five Mexican representatives visited several North Carolina credit unions to better understand technology and to offer marketing tips and techniques to help the state's credit unions better serve their Hispanic members.
The Caja Morelia delegation wasn't the only group of foreign credit union officials to visit North Carolina in recent months. In October, two staff members from Godo Credit Union in Suriname came to the league and North Carolina credit unions to learn how to better achieve front-line efficiencies, handle growth and deepen member relations.
Both visits were related to the league's partnerships with Caja Morelia and the Suriname Credit Union League as part of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships program.
"Many questions are asked and ideas exchanged during these visits," said John Radebaugh, president and CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League. "In the process, we all see that the worldwide credit union movement seeks a very powerful common purpose—finding new and innovative ways to serve the needs of members."
According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, North Carolina has one of the country's fastest growing Hispanic populations. Between 1990 and 2000, that population grew 394% to 378,963 from 76,726. Hispanics today comprise nearly 5% of the state's population. More than 65% of North Carolina's Hispanic population is Mexican in origin, making Caja Morelia's marketing lessons particularly valuable to participating credit unions.
The Caja Morelia delegation spent a week touring North Carolina credit unions, including Truliant Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem, where Truliant President and CEO Marc Schaefer demonstrated the credit union's advanced delivery technologies. Truliant uses home banking, video kiosks, smart cards and a soon-to-be-implemented program that will allow members to scan and cash checks from the comfort of their homes. Homero Ambriz, Caja Morelia's IT manager, and Bob West, Truliant's chief information officer, also compared notes on system infrastructure, hardware and design, as well as programming, software development and data management.
The delegation had further technology discussions with Charlotte Metro Credit Union and learned about the importance of lobbying from Ryan Donovan, CUNA & Affiliates' vice president of legislative affairs, who spoke at a North Carolina chapter meeting during the visit. The group also met with Luis Pastor, CEO of Latino Community Credit Union in Durham, where they discovered how a strong commitment to credit union philosophy has helped the community development credit union attract and serve members.
"Among the very valuable things we are taking away from this visit to North Carolina are the actions credit unions take for preserving the essential principles of cooperation," said Amaury Coria Ramirez, Caja Morelia's database administrator. "The universal cooperative principles must be preserved."
The delegation repaid its hosts by offering a four-hour workshop at the league offices on marketing strategies to attract Hispanic members. More than 15 participants from eight North Carolina credit unions listened as Iliana Lopez, Caja Morelia's marketing director, stressed the importance of recognizing the cultural differences and realities of current and potential Hispanic members and their families. She said building trust and confidence is critical to attracting and retaining Hispanic members and that credit unions should stress personal contact through community outreach and youth programs.
Lopez explained Caja Morelia's marketing strategies, which include "street promotions," such as participation in parades and festivals; a credit union mascot to support its youth marketing efforts, a bumblebee in Caja Morelia's case; strategic alliances with other Hispanic social groups; and sports marketing, which includes sponsoring the local soccer team. Strong connections with the Hispanic community can also help North Carolina credit unions capture their share of the growing remittance market, Lopez added.
Based on the lessons Caja Morelia learned in the way North Carolina credit unions serve other member groups, they should have no trouble meeting the needs of Hispanics, said Alejandro Rojas, Caja Morelia's manager of planning and development.
"We saw firsthand how credit unions successfully build trust and confidence with their members," Rojas explained. "They thoroughly support their mission and consistently strive to provide additional benefits and added value to members. That's something important that we have learned."
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.