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DURHAM, N.C. — There’s been a quiet misconception in the industry that reaching out to serve Latino communities may equate to extending a handout, Carlos Calder?n has noticed.As chairman of the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (www.nlcup.org) Calder?n has heard comments like these but is quick to dismiss them when he shows his non-Hispanic colleagues hard facts about the layers of potential membership opportunities available from this pivotal group.“I used to think serving the minority population, especially Latinos, made good business sense. Now, it’s just good business,” said Calder?n, who is also president/CEO of the $137 million OAS Staff Federal Credit Union, which serves the Organization of American States, a Washington-based body representing 34 countries that promote democracy.Targeting Latino communities was one of the ongoing discussions at a credit union conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2004. It was there that a consensus was formed to support a new organization dedicated to increasing the representation and participation of Latinos in the credit union movement. Calder?n, along with Carla Decker, president/CEO of $41 million District Government Employees FCU, led the effort to form such a group and in 2005, NLCUP was formally incorporated. Today, the group has 40 members and is governed by a board of 13 directors.Two of NLCUP’s goals are to promote the credit union model and credit union membership to the Latino community and sponsor and develop professional Latino leadership and representation at all levels within the credit union system. With 45 million Hispanics in the United States, they are the fastest growing minority group, according to NLCUP. Their purchasing power is expected to grow from $700 billion to $1 trillion by 2010.“Many Latino immigrants know about credit unions but just don’t know how to access them. They rely on payday lenders and check cashing outlets. Many feel there are no other solutions,” Calder?n said. “Until recently, no one had taken the time to say there is another resource that would be advantageous to you.”To that end, NLCUP linked up with the Consumer Federation of America’s Hispanic America Saves, a national campaign launched in 2004 that helps individuals and families save and build wealth. Calder?n said NLCUP’s goal is to sign up at least 15,000 members and 10 credit unions. The group is also in the final stages of signing on with the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Through its core alliances with The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, NAFCU and the Texas and California Credit Union Leagues, NLCUP has been able to use resources to help credit unions target their marketing campaigns to Latinos. Calder?n said it is in the process of securing a partnership with CUNA and is currently working with WesCorp on arranging regional sessions. The NFCDCU hosted the network’s first annual conference a few years ago. The federation is the main sponsor’s of NLCUP’s upcoming meeting in Dallas June 11-14.NLCUP is able to spread its message through several committees, including marketing, political advocacy, education, events, governance, membership and finance. There is also a liaison who keeps the communication lines open between the group and the NFCDCU. The committees meet once a month while the board convenes once a quarter. Generally, the committees will come up with two to three objectives as it continues to build its list of resources in the industry. Credit unions needing a source who can speak to the needs and desires of the Latino member are invited to consider NLCUP. Lately, there has been growing interest in serving the underserved in states such as Texas, North Carolina, parts of New York and in the District of Columbia, Calder?n pointed out.“With our array of speakers, we have someone who specializes in pretty much every area of reaching out to Latinos. We realize that no one solution is going to resolve all issues.”While serving Latino communities is a core goal, having more Hispanics in senior management roles, on boards, as well as throughout the ranks, is just as important, Calder?n said, adding African-Americans fall into this category too.“When you go [to conferences and industry events] and you don’t see any minorities but yet minorities make up 30% of the industry, it doesn’t make sense.”Creating a more diverse workplace is twofold, Calder?n reasoned: recognizing that there is a genuine interest from within the industry to open up opportunities and preparing minorities to move into those various roles. For its part, NLCUP continues to provide forums for Latinos to learn what it takes to advance their careers in the credit union industry.“We can do a better job. If minorities are becoming a larger representation in the movement and if you want this movement to be fully diverse, you have to attract diverse talent,” Calder?n explained.–[email protected]

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