Tips for Success With Hispanic Consumers
If a credit union is looking to create a beachhead for the future, it could do worse than appealing to the largest, fastest-growing and youngest demographic group in the U.S. And yet, the figures don't show that happening. The demographic group to which I’m referring is Hispanics, nearly half – 46.4% – of whom are either unbanked (17.9%) or underbanked (28.5%).
As credit unions, priding ourselves on our inclusiveness and commitment to helping average working people to get ahead, this should bother us. After all, we know that being underbanked or unbanked makes a person much more vulnerable to financial abuses and can keep them from enjoying the benefits and conveniences of mainstream financial services.
As business people, looking to stay relevant in the hotly-contested financial services space, we should all be having a palm-to-forehead moment about this enormous missed opportunity! So, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct.15), I’d like to share a few basic principles that every credit union can employ to be more effective in appealing to and meeting the needs of a demographic group that is no longer concentrated solely in the West and Southwest, and could hold the keys to your success in the future.
Don't stop at translation. Translating your marketing materials, disclosures and loan documents into Spanish is just the beginning. In addition, it is best not to assume that having a Spanish-sounding surname means a member is fluent in Spanish or is unacculturated; their family may, in fact, have been in the United States longer and for more generations than your own! However, providing the bilingual option – in materials and in service – is clearly one of the most visible ways your credit union can communicate its interest in serving Hispanic members.
Gain cultural competency. Though many older Hispanics are first generation immigrants who are more comfortable discussing complex financial topics in their first language, younger Hispanics are often second or third generation Americans. They are what we’d call “ambicultural” – frequently bilingual, they are equally comfortable with both Anglo and Latino culture. And, of course, it's also important to remember that the Hispanic umbrella encompasses many diverse subcultures, from Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico, to Central and South America. In this context, cultural competency can seem overwhelmingly complex; however, approaching the community with patience, respect and a learner's perspective will be rewarded. Here's an example. For many new immigrants, the membership and account they open with your credit union may be their first experience with a mainstream financial institution – thus, cultivating the relationship may take more contacts and more time than is typical for your average member. But you can expect a strong return on your investment of time, since word-of-mouth is key and brand loyalty tends to be far stronger among Hispanics than it is among other groups.
Create products focused on Hispanics. Because brand loyalty is so valuable, a credit union can reap significant benefits by developing products with Hispanic audiences in mind. This is particularly important with lending products, given that personal debt is culturally taboo among many in this community. At Xceed Financial, we are taking the steps to create immigration/citizenship loans. These loans, with flexible terms and loan amounts, are intended to help our members cover the significant costs associated with a naturalization application, as well as English-language classes and legal fees an aspiring U.S. citizen might incur. While the volume these loans can provide to our credit union is small, offering them is important to us – as a statement of our principles, as an institution rooted in the well-being of working people, and the value we place on our new immigrant members. Naturally, we also hope that members we help to achieve their dream of citizenship will also turn to us as they pursue their other dreams, of homeownership and retirement saving. And we certainly hope they will spread the word among their friends and family members!
We at Xceed Financial don't claim to have all the answers, but we are making sincere efforts to better understand and meet the evolving financial services and financial wellness needs of a community that we believe offers tremendous potential and promise – to our credit union, to our country and to our movement.
Paris Chevalier is chief marketing officer for Xceed Financial Credit Union. She can be reached at 310-607-2083 or firstname.lastname@example.org.