Nicaraguans in US Identify Financial Service Needs
Survey reveals trust is main selling point
Nicaraguans living in the United States participate in a focus group discussion on remittance and financial services.
Madison, WI—Nicaraguans living in the
United States tend to select remittance
providers based on word of mouth, according to a
survey conducted by World Council of Credit
Unions and Central de Cooperativas de Ahorro
y Crédito Financieras de Nicaragua, R.L.
(Nicaragua's Central Service Organization, CSO),
in Miami, Florida, last fall. The survey
explored ways to better market International
Remittance Network (IRnet®)
services to US-based Nicaraguans and
investigated the demand for new financial
products such as mortgage loans and savings
accounts that could be offered to remittance
Last year, remitters in the US sent nearly
60,000 transfers amounting to $15.5 million to
Nicaragua through IRnet. The remittances
can be sent from a (i) credit union to a credit
union; (ii) credit union to a non-credit union;
and (iii) non-credit union to a credit union.
The largest number of remittances to Nicaragua
comes from Miami, where nearly 23,000
Nicaraguans reside. Florida is home to 44% of
Nicaraguans living in the United States.
Over five days, 400 Nicaraguan passersby in
Miami neighborhoods of Little Havana and
Sweetwater responded to the World Council/CSO
survey. Focus groups also provided greater
understanding of senders' financial service
preferences. Respondents were current remitters,
approximately 86% of whom sent between $100 and
$500 to Nicaragua at least once a month.
The majority of respondents remain loyal to a
money transfer service based on recommendations
from a friend or family member living in the
United States. Their decision on a remittance
service depends on speed of delivery, trust,
cost, agent's proximity and other products
offered with the service.
Most people knew very little about the
characteristics of credit unions, and only one
of the 400 survey participants was aware that
credit unions in Nicaragua delivered money
transfers from the US.
Though 86% of respondents said they intended
return to Nicaragua, more than three of every
four participants did not hold a savings account
there. The majority of survey respondents
expressed interest in opening a savings account
in Nicaragua. Half of the Nicaraguans
interviewed had savings accounts in a US-based
The surveys also revealed that, given the
option, Nicaraguans in the Miami area would
consider taking out mortgage loans in Nicaragua.
Only two of every five people interviewed owned
a home in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan credit unions aim to address the
needs remitters expressed for new remittance-
linked financial products. There are challenges
to overcome, however, given that most
respondents were skeptical of products and
services advertised through email or telephone
and said they would be more confident in a
service that had a physical office in the Miami
The CSO will present the survey information
its member credit unions in Nicaragua to better
inform them of the senders' market and services
they could promote. World Council will also
share the results with money transfer
organizations to expand outreach efforts and
increase the awareness of IRnet.
"It's exciting to see credit unions go the
mile to add value to the remittance service,"
said Chris McHugh, World Council CDP consultant
for Nicaragua. "This research initiative
responds to the needs of both remitters and
beneficiaries, and it will help leverage the
remittance funds into productive, sustainable
activities. The multiplying effect can achieve
real economic development at the grass-roots
A full report of the survey will be available
the research section of World Council's website
in April. For more information on IRnet,
The United States Agency for International
Development (USAID), through the Cooperative
Development Program (CDP), funded the research.
It has supported World Council's development of
low-cost remittance services through credit
unions in Nicaragua since 2003.
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.