DES MOINES, Iowa-To proceed with growth strategies to reach the Hispanic market, the CU must first understand the unique characteristics of the local Hispanic population.

"It's time to have a Hispanic outreach program in place," said Miriam De Dios, CEO of Coopera, a subsidiary of the Iowa CU League that specializes in Hispanic marketing, "It will not just be enough to begin marketing to the community. You have to understand who the community is, where the Hispanic population within your field of membership is from-as that can vary greatly-and what they need to create a program targeted to them. Build your foundation first."

De Dios said that those careful first steps can prevent the credit union from alienating potential Hispanic members, who spread the word-good and bad-quickly throughout friends and families.

"Credit unions need to build trust and awareness in the local Hispanic community," said De Dios. "There is huge lack of awareness within the Hispanic community of what credit unions are, what types of services they provide, and how they can meet the Hispanic community's needs."

De Dios noted that seven-million Hispanic U.S. households are underbanked or underserved, and the 2010 U.S. Census reports that one in six U.S. residents is Hispanic. By 2050, analysts predict that ratio will soar to nearly one in three


Service With Dignity

Outreach efforts should include partnering with community organizations, small businesses, and the Hispanic chambers of commerce, said De Dios. "Grassroots outreach is important. But a lot needs to be done. A, lot of these organizations want to make sure the Hispanic community receives the types of services they need in a dignified manner, and that is where credit unions can really help. They can offer financial services in a better manner than these fringe financial service providers, and offer more services that the Hispanic community needs to improve their financial lives, such as credit-building products."

Products offered have to be relevant to the Hispanic population, so therefore check-cashing services, prepaid reloadable cards, a basic checking account, and then possibly micro loans and credit-building loans and commercial loans, De Dios pointed out.

The Coopera CEO emphasized that growth strategies to reach the Hispanic market should be aligned with the CU's overall growth goals. "We work with credit unions on that," she said. "Reaching the Hispanic market should be a catalyst for the credit union to reach its overall goals."

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