How Community 1st Plans To Build Business With Latinos

Joining the Juntos Avanzamos program, recruiting a bilingual market manager and electing a Latina board member are all ways to better connect with a budding potential membership.

The Juntos Avanzamos certification is a way for credit unions to underscore their capabilities in providing policies, procedures, products, and services to meet the financial needs of a Hispanic population. But earning the certification is no small feat.

For Community 1st Credit Union ($580.1M, Ottumwa, IA), the vetting process took two months from start to finish. But the 56,745-member cooperative knew it had to go all in when it decided to become the first credit union in Iowa to earn the Juntos Avanzamos certification.


Community 1st Credit Union
Data as of 12.31.16

HQ: Ottumwa, IA
ASSETS: $580.1M
ROA: 0.47%

And now, the credit union can take advantage of the many opportunities the designation affords.

Coopera, a Latino marketing consultancy affiliated with the Iowa Credit Union League, is working on the Juntos Avanzamos program with Community 1st and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

The Federation took Juntos Avanzamos ? which translates to together we advance ? national approximately 18 months ago after it was created and nurtured for 10 years by the Texas Credit Union League and its successor, Cornerstone Credit Union League.

With a comprehensive and strategic approach to Hispanic membership growth, credit unions in unexpected places can become the preferred financial institution for this important segment, Coopera president and CEO Miriam De Dios writes in a new report titledHispanic Member Growth Not Just for Gateway States Anymore. That’s because a great number of Hispanics in the U.S. are not tethered to an existing financial relationship. When credit union leaders realize serving Hispanics is not only an investment in the cooperative but also the right thing to do, the results can be incredible.

The Juntos Avanzamos program has two logos, one in English and one in Spanish.

Coopera was a natural fit to work with credit unions aiming for the designation. But Community 1st has taken a step further than designation and hired someone specifically to work with that emerging market.

David Suarez immigrated from Ecuador in 2006 and is now Community 1st’s first bilingual community development manager. Most of Suarez’s professional life has been in the media reporting, writing, and broadcast work butnow it’s all about credit unions.

Community 1st uses the consulting services of Coopera. Find your next marketing solution in Callahan’s online Buyer’s Guide.

Here, Suarez talks about the credit union and the Juntos Avanzamos program, which has been a major focus for his new position.

When did Community 1st join the Juntos Avanzamos program?

David Suarez: We applied online through the Federation webpage in December 2015. We got our approval email in February 2016 and did our special designation acceptance ceremony on May 5.

Why did the credit union seek certification?

DS: The Hispanic population is growing fast in Iowa, and we can see those demographic changes in several communities where we’re located. Since 2015, we’ve been escalating our efforts to reach this segment of the population.

We filled a community outreach position in June 2015 and started implementing several Hispanic initiatives inside and outside our organization. When we learned about the Juntos Avanzamos designation, we applied to be a part of this nationwide network of credit unions improving their best practices working with Hispanics.

Pictures help tell the Juntos Avanzamos story for Iowa’s Community 1st Credit Union. Click on the titles to see the images.

1. Edith Cabrera-Tello, Community 1st

Edith Cabrera-Tello is the youngest and only Latina board member at Community 1st Credit Union in Ottumwa, IA.

2. Sanchez & Suarez

Guadalupe Sanchez, Mexico’s Consul in Omaha, NE, and David Suarez of Community 1st sign a memorandum of understanding at a ceremony on April 4, 2016.

3. Suarez & Hanshaw

Community 1st president and CEO Greg Hanshaw (right) and David Suarez, bilingual community development specialist, show off the credit union’s Juntos Avanzamos certificate during an official designation ceremony on May5, 2016.

4. Festival Latino Ottumwa

During the Festival Latino Ottumwa held Sept. 17, 2016, Community 1st worked to gain the trust and business of its immigrant community.

5. Festival Latino Ottumwa 2

Juntos Avanzamos means Together We Advance in English. And, of course, Together is Better in the Community 1st sponsorship booth at the credit union’s Festival Latino Ottumwa.

6. Festival Latino Ottumwa 3

Aztec-themed performers added some spice to the festivities at the credit union’s Festival Latino Ottumwa.

7. Ftbol Sponsor

Community 1st sponsored a soccer tournament as part of a community festival targeted to the Latino members of its field of membership.

How demanding was the Juntos Avanzamos certification process?

DS: Completing the form was simple. We made some adjustments in our operations, etc., to qualify for the designation. It was not a demanding process, but rather an invigorating and welcomed one.

What kind of overall growth do you expect from the program and your outreach? How will you measure success?

DS: We can expect at least an annual 1% or 1.5% growth in membership from our outreach program. We will measure our success using annual data provided by Coopera, Raddon, and our own in-house metrics.

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What tips would you offer other credit unions preparing for Juntos Avanzamos certification?

DS: We’re still in the learning process about how we can best reach the Hispanic market. But we can say it’s important to consider hiring a bilingual outreach person to approach the Hispanic community and its leaders.That person needs to be not only bilingual but also bicultural so he or she can understand the language and the social behavior of the people with whom he or she is working. Many of the community meetings and community events will be held afterhours or on weekends, so the candidate needs to be flexible with schedules.

Also, consider increasing the size of bilingual staff, including tellers, lenders, and mortgage originators. We highly recommend efforts to have at least one bilingual branch manager and member of the board of directors.

The biggest element to working with the Hispanics in our areas is to work hard to gain their trust. If you can gain their trust, they’re going to join your credit union and they’re going to stay with you faithfully for generations.

What changes did the credit union make to earn the certification?

DS: We promoted the position of bilingual community development specialist to bilingual community development manager. I keep the management team up-to-date about the work being done in the community.

I work in partnership with other community leaders to provide financial education and to sponsor community events and other activities that affect the Hispanics in our region, for example, the visit by the Mexican Consulate or an immigration presentation.

My position was created to put a greater focus on reaching the Hispanic membership and population at large. There is an incredible amount of networking in our communities, as well as significant opportunities to share our credit union’s story,including all the services we offer.

Also, one of the members of our bilingual staff was promoted to branch manager in one of our locations with a lot of Hispanics members. And a bilingual Latina was elected as a new member of our board of directors in January 2016. She is a Hispanicleader in Ottumwa, where we’re headquartered.

How has Community 1st promoted the certification?

DS: Our ceremony on May 5, 2015, got a lot of attention from the local media, Hispanic newspapers, CUNA and NAFCU magazines, and CU Times.

Two Languages. One Program.

Juntos Avanzamos certification requires all printed communications be bilingual. When Community 1st hosted an acceptance ceremony for the designation, it handed out identical programs in English and Spanish that outlined the credit union’stax identification number acceptance policies and how even its higher-risk loan rates beat those of payday lenders.

View English program.

View Spanish program.

The Juntos Avanzamos flag also flies at all our branches to announce to the public that we provide a friendly environment for everybody, but especially for Hispanics who are not fluent in English.

What products and services does Community 1st offer that are particularly popular/useful to Hispanic members and potential members?

DS: We’re an inclusive credit union. We do our best to accommodate all our members and potential members, giving them the opportunity to access all our services and products. That’s why we accept alternative IDs ? consularID and tax identification (ITIN) numbers ? to open accounts or lend money to our members. We also created an immigration loan to help our members cover the fees to become permanent residents or American citizens.

The Juntos Avanzamos flag also flies at all our branches to announce to the public that we provide a friendly environment for everybody, but especially for Hispanics who are not fluent in English.

David Suarez, Community Development Manager, Community 1st Credit Union

What new products and services do you anticipate adding for that membership group?

DS: Recently we got our approval from the IRS to become Certified Acceptance Agents to help people complete their W-7 form to apply for their ITIN numbers. This service will be free for all applicants. Our strategic marketing planfor 2017 also calls for creating two additional loans for Hispanics: Quinceaeras (Sweet 15) loans and vacation loans.

Talk about the new partnership with the Mexican consulate in Omaha, NE.

DS: On April 4, 2016, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mexican Consulate there. The objective is to create a framework for the collaboration between the parties with the goal of implementing an inclusive financialeducation program that allows continuous information flow about secure methods of money transfer to Mexico, the advantages of bancarization [creating access to banking services], and a variety of workshops and financial education seminars forMexican nationals who reside abroad.

Stats Help Tell The Tale Of Hispanic Market Potential

There were an estimated 178,620 Latino residents of Iowa as of July 1, 2015, making people of Latino origin the state’s largest race or ethnic minority. Latinos constitute 5.7% of the state’s total population.

Here are some more demographic statistics about that growing market for credit unions, courtesy of David Suarez at Community 1st:

  • The Latino population in Iowa grew by 116.6% from 2000 to 2015. That’s 96,147 people.
  • The projected Latino population of Iowa as of July 1, 2050, is 441,049, or 12.9% of the state’s population, according to a 2016 report from Woods & Pool Economics Inc.
  • In Iowa, 11.2 % of the Latino population was under age 5 as of July 1, 2015.
  • There were 32,108 Latino families in Iowa in 2015. Of these families, 75.4 % include children under 18 years of age.
  • The median income of Iowa’s Latino households in 2015 was $38,141. The median household income for the whole state was $54,736.
  • The per capita income for Latinos in Iowa was $13,791 in 2015. For the state, $28,628.
  • The Latino poverty rate in Iowa was 25.6% in 2015. For the whole state it was 12.2% that year.

We also support the mobile consulates, which provide documentation and information to Mexicans living far away from the consulate office. They come to our area two or three times a year.

Finally, we visit the consulate office once every two months to teach financial education classes to people visiting the Consulate for their services.

Talk a bit about the credit union’s Hispanic board member.

DS: Achieving diversity objectives is important for credit unions and their boards of directors. Community 1st Credit Union recently welcomed Edith Cabrera-Tello to its board. Edith brings a unique perspective to the credit union’sleadership as its youngest director and the only Latina board member.

Here’s what she says about it: The Juntos Avanzamos designation is not only helping the Hispanic community; it’s helping everyone in our area. A lot of that has to do with awareness and exposure to new things. Take for example,board members working to properly pronounce Juntos Avanzamos. You can see their desire to do so correctly. They have seen the importance of the designation and all the efforts that come with it. They understand that the better we serve our community,the greater return there will be on the investment.

What’s the deal with the credit union’s partnership with the USDA?

DS: We’re working in partnership with many organizations in all the communities we’re in, including the Department of Agriculture, which has many programs to help low-income people access affordable housing, especiallyin rural areas. We’re working with the agency’s bilingual housing specialist in Iowa, teaching financial education classes in Spanish to people who want to access grants and information about the USDA’s programs. In the sameworkshops, we promote our ITIN mortgages.

March 15, 2017

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