Laying a foundation for success with the Hispanic market

Published: September 18, 2017 by Sacha Ricarte


National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

With one in six U.S. residents being Hispanic, all communities are impacted by the contributions of Hispanics—and now is a great time for financial institutions to reflect upon their largest growth opportunity. What is the best way to reach Hispanic consumers? What are the nuances of the Hispanic market? What are some of the myths FIs have about the Hispanic community?

Miriam De Dios Woodward, CEO of Coopera, a Hispanic market strategy firm that helps credit unions reach and serve the Hispanic consumer segment, recently chatted with Experian about serving the Hispanic market. Here she shares her thoughts:

Are there special considerations or insights credit unions should know when serving the Hispanic market?

It’s very important to understand the Hispanic market is nuanced.

There are 22 Spanish-speaking Latin American countries from which prospective Hispanic credit union members may hail. Add to that the fact, many U.S.-born Hispanics think, speak and behave differently than their parents and grandparents. Layer over this the existence of segments like small business owners or Millennials and you can begin to see the complexities involved with targeting and serving a multi-faceted Hispanic market.

A smart Hispanic membership growth strategy will be based on segmentation, so credit unions should be willing to invest upfront in good market research. You have to understand what your local Hispanic community really looks like before you can mobilize your teams and leadership around serving them well.

Are there particular consumer trends you have seen in the Hispanic community that impact the financial services space?

The increasing digitization of financial services is a trend that definitely impacts Hispanic consumers. That’s because Hispanics typically over-index in studies that look at consumer use of connected devices, online banking and social media. A good Hispanic membership growth strategy will take mobile and digital products and services into account and will be tailored to the specific needs of local Hispanic communities.

People often assume the Hispanic market is largely centered in states like California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Are you finding that credit unions outside of these southwestern states are discovering they too need to build out a strategy in partnering with this consumer base?

Absolutely. Hispanic population growth is happening far beyond so-called “gateway states” like those you mention above. In fact, states such as North Dakota, Kentucky, Louisiana, Delaware and Maryland actually saw the largest Hispanic population growth between 2007 and 2014.

Midwestern states, too, are discovering just as many opportunities for engagement with their own growing numbers of Hispanic residents. Iowa and Wisconsin, for instance, each experienced explosive growth rates and now count Hispanics among one of the largest, fastest-growing and youngest groups in their cities.

With a comprehensive and strategic approach to Hispanic membership growth, credit unions in unexpected places can become the preferred financial institution for this important segment. That’s because a great number of Hispanics in the U.S. are not tethered to an existing financial relationship.

For more on this, check out our recent white paper Hispanic Member Growth Not Just for ‘Gateway States’ Anymore.

What are the biggest myths financial services companies have about the Hispanic community?

While there continue to be many misconceptions about the multifaceted Hispanic community, the following three continue to prevail most heavily.

  1. Myth: Hispanic consumers are only interested in transaction-based products. Check cashing and remittances are necessary services for many first generation Hispanic segments. At the same time, many of these consumers are interested in long-term relationships. Our own research indicates product penetration increases at a faster rate among Hispanic members as compared to non-Hispanic members when credit unions execute a strategic plan.
  2. Myth: The majority of Hispanics are undocumented. This misperception has been somewhat renewed this year with all the political back and forth on the subject of immigration. That’s why it’s so important for credit unions to educate – from the inside out – stakeholders on the facts. Many people do not know, for instance, that of the country’s more than 52 million Hispanics, most are native-born Americans, and nearly three in four are U.S. citizens.
  3. Myth: The law prevents us from serving immigrants. There are many forms of acceptable government issued identification, such as passports and consular cards that are in full compliance with the Patriot Act and Customer Identification Program rules. In addition, financial institutions can compliantly lend to individuals who have Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. In fact, the NCUA wants credit unions to serve Hispanic members, including Hispanic immigrants.

For more on this, check out the recording of the NCUA hosted panel, “Unique Challenges and Opportunities Serving Hispanic Credit Union Members.”

For a credit union seeking to build a relationship with this community, what are your recommendations? Are there particular products or touchpoints they should focus on?

Solidifying the right organizational mentality first is an important best practice. Building buy-in, doing the market research, developing a comprehensive strategy based on segmentation and defining what success truly looks like – these are all a part of laying the foundation for success with the Hispanic market.

Credit unions should also be smart about talking to and partnering with local organizations that already know – and are trusted by – Hispanic residents. Conducting focus groups with the leaders of these groups and the people they serve can give credit unions a wealth of information about the makeup of their local Hispanic community and the value they might bring to the community.

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