Charlotte Metro Offers the Underserved a “Safe” Step

Learn how Charlotte Metro ($132m) successfully reached the Hispanic segment, reporting an average of 5 services per member.

Untitled Document

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


Charlotte, NC

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 security number?

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.




April 4, 2005



No comments have been posted yet. Be the first one.