The Hispanic/Latino segment represents the largest minority group in the U.S.
(14% of the population) with an annual purchasing power of $700 billion. Charlotte
Metro Credit Union with $132 million in assets felt the impact of this segment
beginning in the late 1990s when the Hispanic population exploded in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the population that exploded. Robberies against
this largely cash and carry society in Charlotte increased by 550 percent. Deb
Mclean, vice president marketing at Charlotte Metro said, “We saw that credit
unions have a tremendous opportunity to do the right thing and serve the under-served.”
The Safe Account
Charlotte Metro Credit Union Profile
State Ranking by Assets:
Charlotte Metro Credit Union began by asking two questions:
Question: Can we serve a person who does not have a social
Answer: Yes – If the account is not dividend-earning it isn’t
reported to the IRS, thereby eliminating the need for a social security number
Question: Can we serve members that are not U.S. citizens?
Answer: Yes – unless your credit union bylaws require citizenship
The credit union then introduced the Safe account. It is a non-interest earning
account with a $25 minimum. Photo identification and proof of address is required,
but a social security number is not.
“You still have to maintain due diligence, field of membership eligibility,
obtain official Photo Identification and records, but what we found is that
flexibility is key,” said McLean. Charlotte Metro accepts passports, Mexican
Voter Registration Cards, and Visas. They also apply the same checks and balances
including running The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) records, verifying
income and reporting credit risk transfer (CRT) transactions.
The Safe Account is designed to be a first step into the credit union. Members
are then offered a series of core services including a checking account, debit
card, share-secured loan, overdraft line of credit, low-limit Visa credit card,
and finally an auto loan.
Key Success Factors
Charlotte Metro offered a few factors that have contributed to their success:
- Implement cultural diversity training for staff
- Recruit bilingual employees
- Hire certified translators
- Ensure all delivery channels are Spanish capable
- ATM network, home-banking, welcome letters, etc.
- Meet the Latino leaders in the community
- Get involved with the community
The Latino press now calls Charlotte Metro for quotes concerning its perspective
on the community. McLean said, “It is quite an achievement for “little” Charlotte
Metro Credit Union to be quoted side-by-side with Bank of America, the mayor
of Charlotte, and our Congressional Representatives!”
Results Demonstrate Loyalty
Charlotte Metro Credit Union reports that the average services per “typical”
member are 3.2 vs. 5 for its “underserved” member. Fifty to seventy five members
join each month with this account and many “graduate” to a regular share account
after acquiring an Individual Tax Identification Number. Fifteen percent of
its new membership growth is Latino and the credit union no longer has to recruit
for bi-lingual employees – they come to the credit union.
Charlotte Metro is featured as a case study in the Market
Update: Programs for the Underserved. More information on Hispanic marketing
and serving the underserved is available in the strategic collection, Expanding
Service Offerings to the Underserved.