Connecting With the Growing Hispanic Market
Nearly one in six people in the United States is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but many credit unions are missing out on connecting with that market. This market group, which controls $1.3 trillion in buying power, will have a projected reach of $1.7 trillion by 2020, according to Nielsen research.
CU Times asked three pros what credit unions can do to tap into this market and how to get started. Here's their advice:
Do: Have relevant products for the underbanked and unbanked.
Don't: Limit your offerings to prepaid cards and money transfers.
Things like remittance products, prepaid cards and check cashing are common go-to products for credit unions and other financial institutions that want to attract more Hispanics, but those aren't the only products Hispanics want.
“‘If you build it, they’ll come’ — it doesn't work like that,” National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions SVP of Membership/Business Development Pablo DeFilippi said. “The Hispanic community is so diverse that it's not about just one product.”
The median income of Hispanic householders is $42,491, according to the U.S. Census. A better strategy is to use products and services as a way to help people get to know the whole credit union.
“If we look at the unbanked market, that first-generation market, there's some transaction-based products that are meeting the needs of the community today outside the traditional financial mainstream, like remittances or prepaid cards,” Coopera Consulting CEO Miriam De Dios noted. “Those tools are very helpful to engage initially, to help folks kind of meet them where they are today. But they’re also looking for access to credit building, which will lead to lending products. They’re interested in purchasing cars and ultimately obtaining a home and things like that.”
Financial planning is also in huge demand, though few financial planners are courting the market, she said.
Do: Offer bilingual personnel and paperwork in Spanish.
Don't: Assume Hispanics only prefer Spanish.
“Yes, you are going to have to make an investment in terms of making sure that you have bilingual services,” DeFilippi said. “But that doesn't mean every Hispanic wants to be talked to in Spanish.”
“I think that we — and this applies to every nationality — I think that people just want us to feel like you respect the culture,” he said.
Most Hispanics — 65% — are not foreign born, according to the U.S. Census. Those who are new arrivals to the country might prefer Spanish, but younger, tech-savvy Hispanics and second- and third-generation Hispanics frequently prefer English, De Dios added.
“Right there, you have two segments,” she said.
English-preferring Hispanics are often heavily courted by multiple institutions, she noted.
“If they don't already have a financial institution relationship, it can be very difficult to attract them or take them away from the current relationship that they have,” she said.
The most untapped market has a higher percentage of Spanish-preferring customers, which means credit unions may need to look at how they recruit and hire if they want to connect with that segment, De Dios explained. Spanish-language phone lines and interpreters can help in the short-term but may quickly become inconvenient and even create some frustration. Credit unions have to invest in human resources.
“You want to have that capacity internally and have frontline staff that are not only bilingual, but also bicultural, who can help members through that entire experience,” she noted.
Do: Make an effort to connect with the Hispanic community.
Don't: Assume branches can only be in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods to succeed.
“I think that people tend to get overwhelmed, but when it comes to serving the Hispanic market, I think that this is just like any other business development opportunity. You have to make an investment, you have to develop the market by establishing that relationship with the community, and it takes time,” DeFilippi said. “It doesn't pay off overnight. We are looking at some people who have never banked before or people who have been taken advantage of. People don't trust anybody anymore.”
Branch location is secondary to value proposition if the credit union is working with community partners, De Dios added.
“If the market isn't being served well, people will go to that branch,” she said. “It may not be convenient at first, but certainly if they have everything in play, such as bilingual personnel, if the products are relevant, if they can get access to products because the credit union has allowed for flexible documentation — especially for that unbanked immigrant market — if all those other things are in place, then I think the location issue can be overcome.”
Ultimately, attracting this new demographic is a long-term strategic investment, not a to-do list that can be completed by Friday, DeFilippi said.
“It's not just about making sure you’re bringing in enough revenue this year; it's really looking at your future. Are you going to be here ten years from now if you don't really learn how to serve this demographic?” he said.
By the numbers
About one in six: Number of people in the United States who are Hispanic (17.6% of the population), according to the U.S. Census.
56.6 million: Number of Hispanics in the United States as of July 1, 2015, according to the U.S. Census.
$42,491: Median income of Hispanic householders, according to the U.S. Census.
14.4: Percentage of Hispanics 25 and older with at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Census.
$1.3 trillion: Buying power of the Hispanic community today, according to Nielsen.
$1.7 trillion: Projected buying power of the Hispanic community by 2020, according to Nielsen.
14th largest in the world: Economy U.S. Hispanics would have if they were their own country.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016; The Nielsen Company, 2016
How one credit union does it
In 2005, Vacaville, Calif.-based Travis Credit Union, which today has $2.6 billion in assets and 186,000 members, began studying how it could tap into the Hispanic market.
“As we started watching the Census reports, we knew that the growth of the Hispanic community was going to be a business case in the future,” Travis CU Director of Corporate Relations Sherry Cordonnier said.
After about four years of research and planning, Travis dove into the market in 2009, focusing on grassroots marketing that helped it build relationships in the Hispanic community. In addition, the credit union translated its product and service messaging into Spanish, created Spanish-language branding elements, and rebranded and relaunched signature loan products, among other things. The credit union also hired Spanish speakers, and the board decided to accept the matricula consular, an identity card issued by the Mexican consulate, as a form of ID, Cordonnier said.
“We know trust is a big factor, so I would say it is important to have someone who speaks Spanish in the branch — at least one person,” she said. “People will drive the distance or go where they feel comfortable and familiar.”
By 2015, 22% of Travis CU's members were Hispanic, Cordonnier reported.
“We took the time to realize it was going to be a long-term investment, number one, and we listened to our Hispanic community. We now have a Hispanic advisory committee that is composed of leaders throughout the counties that we serve who come to the table every quarter,” she said.