Credit unions in the U.S. have faced a similar dilemma when marketing to immigrant populations: How does an institution communicate with members who can neither understand English nor read or write their own native language?
For Australia's $12 million Traditional Credit Union, the solutions are pictures and audio technology.
According to a World Council of Credit Unions release, TCU is based in Darwin and was founded in 1994 to serve the country's Aboriginal population scattered across Australia's Northern Territory. The credit union has faced a longstanding challenge of reaching members who come from an oral tradition that speaks its own language but does not read or write.
Within the next month, TCU will introduce marketing materials that illustrate its services and use attached audio units similar to those found in greeting cards to describe their services in native languages.
"We're developing posters that show services in pictures and have pop-out audio units that can change as the language or services change," said Morgan Hoyes, TCU's business development officer. "This will better help us serve our diverse members."
Using an approach already developed by OneTalk Technology, an Australian firm that specializes in audio products designed to reach the country's indigenous population, the approach combines professional graphics with language translations that make it easier to reach members. The program is already used by Australia's indigenous health care providers and will augment the translation services provided by Aboriginal tellers and managers, who make up roughly 75% of staff members in TCU's 11 branches.
"We've heard a lot about the work TCU does in taking its services to Aboriginal people," said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, who recently visited the credit union's Galiwinku branch on Elcho Island off Australia's northern coast. "The credit union was established at the request of tribal elders, and that support has been important to their ability to provide financial empowerment."
TCU, which offers basic financial services to 7,000 indigenous members, works to overcome cultural expectations that require families to share their assets with other family members, according to Robyn Lacey, TCU's human resources manager. Despite the challenges, the credit union plans to open small branches in 11 more Aboriginal communities in 2011.
"Financial literacy is an issue," Lacey said. "We're making progress, but it is not going to happen overnight."