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WINSTON SALEM, N.C. – The answer to the question of how credit unions can effectively serve the Hispanic community can be found at Allegacy Federal Credit Union. Well before the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Hispanics are the largest minority segment and will comprise one-fifth of the population in 2020 making it the largest and most dominant group, the $893 million credit union has partnered with the local Hispanic League of the Piedmont Triad (HLPT) for the past six years. Together the organizations plan and work on such events as Spanish Nite, a fundraiser for scholarship awards and Fiesta, an annual multicultural street fair with an average attendance of over 15,000 people. The relationship has also helped spark most of the credit union’s creative approaches to better serving the Hispanic community. Allegacy En Espanol – a branch within a branch designed to offer a comfortable environment for Allegacy FCU’s Spanish-speaking members is the latest endeavor. “We didn’t want a completely separate branch because we want those members to feel comfortable enough to walk into the mainstream,” said Allegacy FCU Hispanic Market Business Development Manager Melody Garcia. “So the idea was to keep the two `branches’ together and decorate the En Espanol area with a Hispanic flair, a great waiting area since they come in with their family members and have a bilingual team ready to assist them.” Garcia says the staff not only speaking Spanish but actually being members of the Hispanic community is important. With branch employees Gener Martinez from Mexico and Ingrid Cassetta from Guatemala ready to greet and help members, they have that aspect covered. “When we are sponsoring events or are out in the community people like to see Hispanics representing the credit union,” said Garcia. “That trust builds and they relate better to that person because they feel it is not just someone who speaks the language but someone who understands the culture. There are differences – for example you have to know that meetings can take longer with Hispanics. You may be talking to members for about an hour and half about family and other topics and then the last five minutes is when you start talking about the checking account.” In addition to accepting the Mexican Matricula Consular as identification and creating a global account, the credit union has developed an array of high demand financial services including a first time auto buying program, secured credit cards and other credit establishing programs, and an equitable access account where money is deposited here and an ATM card is issued to family members in South America or Central America where the funds can be withdrawn with the card. “We also think that education is very key in this market so we’ll also be offering one seminar a month at Allegacy En Espanol and we’ll also take suggestions from the members about what they want covered and work from there to further develop,” said Garcia. “A very important part of our mission is to partner with others in the community and that means not just at our branches but to also be where we are needed from schools to community centers.” According to Allegacy FCU Senior Vice President of Marketing/Business Development and Allegacy Investment Group Wealth Management Cathy Pace, acceptance in the Hispanic community is something that comes with time and takes a strong commitment. “Too many financial institutions say they serve the Hispanic market but all they have are a few brochures and applications in Spanish- that is not service,” said Pace. “It takes more than that. My first year on the HLPT board I was the only Non-Hispanic and my first thought was I don’t know if I can do this. By the third year I didn’t feel like an outsider. My point is that you have to get involved and the issue of trust works both ways.” Allegacy FCU has a layered approach to targeting the market that includes not just Spanish brochures, applications and bilingual staffers at all its locations but also community outreach, financial literacy efforts, a separate dedicated budgets for Hispanic marketing/program development, and having past HLPT President and Children’s Museum Outreach Coordinator Pat Gardea serve on the board. Garcia also has a weekly radio talk show on popular local Spanish radio station La Movida. The hour-long format allows for an education and question and answer section. “We know financial education can be boring so we do our best to make it fun and offer premium tickets for concerts or events,” said Garcia. “We average about 80-100 phone calls per show so I’m usually there after the show has already ended but it is another great way to establish ourselves and build that trust in the community.” Just through word of mouth, member response to the Allegacy En Espanol branch has been steady says Garcia and plans are underway to open similar branches in three more locations. While the first branch took about six months to get up and running Garcia thinks subsequent branches will take less time. An official grand opening will be held in July and promotional efforts will include advertisements in local Hispanic newspapers and direct mailings to 5,300 Hispanic households in the area. “The response has been great and we are very pleased, a lot of people have come in with their family and we’ve already done two first auto buyer loans,” said Garcia. “Our key belief is that the program can’t remain the same so we are constantly researching the market to keep developing out-of-the-box ideas that will better serve and grow with this market.” [email protected]

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