HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union ($1.3B, Honolulu, HI) operates 10 branches on the island of Oahu and two on the island of Maui. The natural beauty and the cost of importinggoods to the islands make the cost of living one of the highest in the nation. According to a February 2014 Forbes article, 80% of islandfood and 100% of the oil is imported from the mainland. With 87% of the state’s energy coming from oil, it’s no wonder groceries and utilities cost 55.6% and 67.9% more than national average, respectively.
In Honolulu County, where all 10 of the credit union’s Oahu branches are located, the median household income is higher and the poverty level is lower than the state’s; however, there are still low-to-moderate income consumers that need financial services geared toward their specific needs. HawaiiUSA, a Native CDFI, attempts to satisfy that need through its Life Events Assistance Program (LEAP), a financial education program it started in April 2013 to provide employees, members, and the broader community the resources to achieve financial stability and reach financial goals.
In this Q&A, Scott Kaulukukui, senior vice president of marketing and community outreach, talks about LEAP and HawaiiUSA’s status as a Native CDFI.
Can you detail the LEAP program?
Its various parts include:
- Employee certification: All HawaiiUSA employees will be certified in one of two levels of certification.
- Marketing and branding: We will use all delivery channels to communicate our commitment to financial education and reinforce our life matters brand internally and externally to the members and community.In an effort tobrand LEAP with our financial education activities, you will begin to see the LEAP logo on our website pages that reference financial education information and tools.
- LEAP website: This micro-site will house financial education information, tools, and resources for our employees, members, and the community.
- Partnership and product development: We will seek future partnerships with non-profit organizations that offer programs or resources we are not subject matter experts on or do not have the resources to implement.We will also be exploring newproducts and services to help members facing financial hardships.
LEAP Employee Certification (Roles)
|Roles||Level One||Level Two|
What course does LEAP offer?
SK: All employees are required to participate in the online certification program.No classroom type sessions are offered at this time. Future plans include offering these sessions to our membership and community.
The program is managed by our AVP-community outreach as one of her job duties. We have a group of trusted advisors made up of employees from branches, HR, and lending. They are responsible for helping to enhance the program.
LEAP Employee Certification (Implementation)
|Implementation||Educational Courses||Recommended Exercises|
Level One & Two
Level One & Two
Level Two only
Level Two only
*available as podcast
Why did the credit union see a need for this kind of a program?
SK:As an education-based credit union, we interact with the public schools in Hawaii. Financial education is not included in our school system’s curriculum, and many high school graduates have no idea about personal finance.So we felt there was a need to provide financial education in the schools. As you know, there is also a great need for this type of help in the community. As a credit union and CDFI, we felt it was in perfect alignment with our mission and brand oflife matters. So we wanted to provide our employees financial education that they can use for themselves, their families, and, of course, our members.
Financial education is not necessarily for those who are challenged financially. Many do not know where to turn for advice and we felt we could be that resource.
Who does the credit union target for this program and how do you market it?
SK: We initially targeted our 320 employees and got them certified [see above chart for the necessary courses]. We then incorporated it into our marketing communications to our members and the community. We have targeted the life eventsthat occur in our members’ lives and our messages lead with education. We have extended elements of our program to groups to teach and use with their students or participants.
What resources or investments does this require? What benefits does the credit union receive?
SK: The biggest resource the credit union needs is time from the staff. As mentioned, one person manages the program and we need buy in from all employees, including senior management. We also invested in third-party partners for ourLEAP online content and educational materials.
It is our duty to give back to the community and provide valuable resources and tools. It also is our differentiator. If we lead with education, we can fulfill with our products and services. We know there is a need to provide this type of resource andthe positive responses we’ve gotten so far make it worth it.
What are some of the best practices you’ve discovered?
SK: Obtaining buy-in on all levels is crucial.For starters, we formed a focus group that consists of staff from all areas and levels of the credit union to assist with developing the program. We also introduced the courses and assignmentsin four phases to ensure the staff was not overwhelmed.
HawaiiUSA is a Native CDFI. How much of your membership fits into that classification?
SK: The definition of native for the CDFI program is pretty broad, so it is difficult to tell what percentage of our 124,000 membersfit in the classification. With that being said, the 2010 census bureau indicates that 10% of Hawaii’s 1.3 million population is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
This program is not limited to those who fit that classification, but how does it benefit those individuals specifically?
SK: Inclusive in the program are educational materials and tools to help with budgeting, personal finance, understanding credit, and more. Also, being a CDFI, we have partnered with other CDFIs and community groups that serve this populationto provide information and resources.
How does the information these individuals need differ from other members?
SK: We do not look at it as a difference between group classification as much as there is a need in our community to provide financial education. The difference comes from those who are willing to seek out assistance and those who choosenot to.
Beyond financial education, what are the goals of this program?
SK: The goal of the program is to have all of our staff certified in some aspect of the program. We are currently at 99%. We also want members who make better decisions with their finances, which we know is a far-reaching goal. We measurethis through a low delinquency rate, a high loan-to-share ratio, and minimal use of overdraft or courtesy pay programs.
As told to Erik Payne