Growth of Multilingual Communities New Niche for Texas Credit Unions
The cornucopia of languages heard around the country and particularly in Texas, motivated Credit Union Resources Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Texas Credit Union League, to expand its partnership with CTS LanguageLink, a Vancouver, Wash.-based provider of interpretation and translation services. The company said it is able to offer multilingual services in more than 240 languages through highly trained linguists who provide translation, editing and final proofing of all documents.
The Farmers Branch, Texas-based league affiliate said 31% of all Texas households speak a language other than English, a figure notably higher than the country's national average of 18%. To that end, the alliance aims to ensure Texas credit unions are well positioned to serve their growing limited-English speaking member base.
Tom Hodge, senior vice president of Credit Union Resources, recently sent out a questionnaire to 100 of Texas' largest credit unions to gauge their interest in offering language interpretation and translation services. He said he was surprised to learn that more than half said they see a need and would use them on a regular basis.
"One of things I asked was did [the credit union] have anyone on staff who spoke Spanish. I was surprised to hear that the Chinese dialect is becoming more prevalent as the economy becomes more global," Hodge said.
The lead service from CTS LanguageLink will be interpreters, said Stephen Barrow, director of partner programs at the company. Phone interpretations will likely satisfy 90% of all a credit union's needs, he added. Many probably won't need face-to-face interaction, Barrow noted. Hodge said CU Resources worked out an exclusive agreement for credit unions where there are no upfront, monthly or annual fees for the services. The cost is $1.40 per minute with no minimum monthly usage fee. CTS can also do marketing pieces translated into different languages, Barrow said.
"I understand that people are watching every penny. I didn't want it to cost then anything," Hodge said. "If you use these services, it will open up your membership."
Credit Union Resources' board approved the partnership last September. The contract was signed in January and so far, more than two dozen credit unions have submitted applications for services. A handful of Texas credit unions, which Hodge said he could not name, are currently using CTS. The league subsidiary has partnerships with other states including New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Hodge is promoting CTS in Arkansas and representatives have started to make rounds in the other states. He said this is not an attempt to infringe on what service corps at other states leagues are doing. However, he said he is available if they want more information about the interpretation services.
Barrow said the $36 billion Navy Federal Credit Union is currently using CTS at its call center. Estelle Allen, public relations specialist at the Vienna, Va.-based financial institution, confirmed that a partnership has recently formed.
"We are happy with the service they provide. At this time, we have not utilized the services of CTS long enough to comment in an article," Allen said.
In the January 2009 issue of the Texas league's magazine, Hodge encouraged credit unions to consider interpretation and translation services as a means to not only "help serve the enclaves that no one is serving because of a language barrier" but to be a differentiator from other financial institutions.
"When someone comes in who doesn't speak the language, just think how they're able to walk through the [credit union] lobby and with a simple phone call, an interpreter is on the line," Hodge said.
Barrow offered further proof that a multilingual country is fast approaching. Citing a Jan. 27 article on Amarillo.com, he said the top five languages spoken in Amarillo, Texas, are Spanish, Burmese, Somali, Vietnamese and Farsi. The biggest increase in demand for interpretation have come for Burmese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Somali and Spanish, in that order. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau data showed immigration is expected to add one new immigrant person every 36 seconds each month. Barrow said CTS' arrangement is tailored specifically to credit unions, which he believes are more likely to use the interpretation services.
"Businesses are more likely to do business with those who speak their native language," Barrow said. "It's a largely untapped market. Credit unions have the perception that they really want to reach out to their communities."