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Iowa credit unions are finding steady growth in both assets and members as they reach out to underserved Hispanic communities, according to the Iowa Credit Union League and World Council of Credit Unions. The $8.3 million Village Credit Union, Des Moines, is typical of the trend, the league and WOCCU said. Jos? Francisco Batres and Martha Alarc?n provide one example. They are hard-working Mexican-American immigrants. The pair, who moved to the United States from the Mexican state of Veracruz six years ago, puts in 14-hour days at a Des Moines restaurant. They also are active members of VCU, which serves anyone who lives or works in Polk and surrounding counties and which has increased its efforts to reach Hispanic residents. The couple originally joined VCU to send money home to Mexico using World Council of Credit Unions’ international remittance program IRnet, a service offered through credit unions by the for-profit WOCCU Services Group. The credit union’s fees were lower and the service friendlier than they were at the large commercial bank the couple previously patronized. Eventually, Batres and Alarc?n opened a savings account to save enough money to educate their daughter Nayeli and one day open their own restaurant. The pair also joined VCU’s Hispanic advisory group, providing insights into helping the credit union increase its membership by reaching deeper into Des Moines’ growing Hispanic community. VCU quickly became one more Iowa credit union to see the value in providing services to this rapidly growing demographic. “The Iowa Credit Union League believes credit unions have a huge opportunity to help solve the current economic crisis by serving the underserved Hispanic market,” said Patrick Jury, the league’s president and CEO. “Hispanics demonstrate a high workforce participation rate, increasing household income, collective purchasing power and booming entrepreneurship, all elements that will help credit unions drive membership, portfolio and asset growth.” ICUL in 2006 also formed Coopera Consulting specifically to help Iowa’s credit unions better serve the state’s Hispanic market, Jury said. Coopera’s success has led to additional work with credit unions or credit union systems in Louisiana, Nebraska, New York and Oregon and, most recently, as a CUNA partner to develop a credit union strategy to serve Hispanics nationwide. “The work that Coopera has done with Iowa’s credit unions has helped them reach out effectively and serve these communities. Across the United States, we have seen Coopera’s positive impact on credit unions seeking to improve their services to Hispanics,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Success is determined by how well credit unions understand and adjust to Hispanic cultural elements that contribute to their member loyalty.” –[email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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