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Hispanic Initiative – Village Credit Union

Credit Union :Village Credit Union
Assets :$8,220,000
Address :601 E. Court Ave | Des Moines, IA 50309

Details :

Key Credit Union Data:

  • Loan/share ratio: 74%
  • Members: 1,997
  • Hispanic members: 9%
  • Avg. shares/member: $3,426
  • SAFE Account average: $330
  • Number of ITIN accounts: 86 – 4% of all members; 46% of Hispanic members
  • % of loans using ITINs: 2%
  • Avg. shares/ITIN member: $358

Background:

Enrique Cruz-Garcia joined Village Credit Union in early 2008 at the recommendation of a friend. He brought his two-year-old daughter with him and was fearful that she would be a disruption in the credit union as he tried to open an account. The credit union representative who opened the account for him brought out toys and candy to keep the youngster engaged. Cruz-Garcia was so delighted by the service he received, he became motivated to be a part of the credit union. He became a member of the credit union’s Hispanic Outreach Advisory Group, at that time, a six-member group that met every three months to provide advice and input to the credit union regarding its outreach efforts to the Hispanic community.

He remained motivated enough to take a part time job with the credit union in March 2008 and in January 2009, Cruz-Garcia became the credit union’s Hispanic Community Development Director. Prior to joining the staff of Village CU, Cruz-Garcia worked with the Diocese Catholic Charities and through that organization he had many contacts and resources within the Des Moines Hispanic community, including churches, schools, legal aid organizations, day care centers, etc. In his new capacity at the credit union he has been able to bridge many of these organizations and their clients/families to the credit union environment. Cruz-Garcia explains that part of his job today is “to go to these organizations and talk with their leaders about credit unions in general and the benefits of membership.” Although he may be representing Village CU, he emphasizes to people that “credit unions won’t hurt or abuse their members with unfair practices and fees.”

Today:

The credit union’s membership growth ratio has been averaging 5.8% during 2009. One year ago, Cruz-Garcia points out, the credit union’s percentage of Hispanic members was three percent. Today it is nine percent. About two percent of total loans today are made using Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) for those members who don’t qualify for social security numbers.

The credit union’s Hispanic Outreach Advisory Group today numbers 12 and the members continue to meet every three months. They review the credit union’s products and services and offer advice regarding their adaptability/suitability for the community. It was input from this group that motivated the credit union to start accepting ITINs for loan purposes. Village CU expresses its thanks to members of the advisory group though such things as lunches, gift certificates, and recognition/appreciation dinners.

Services Offered:

  • Alternative forms of identification including the Matricula Consular card and border registration card for Mexico
  • SAFE accounts – non-interest bearing share accounts for those members without social security numbers or ITINs
  • ITIN loans
  • International Remittances through IRnet’s VIGO program for as low as $6
  • Money orders up to $1,000 for $2
  • Auto loans for those with no or thin credit up to 100% of the NADA trade-in value, providing the member can provide alternate forms of credit, such as four months of on-time utility payments, letters from landlords reflecting on-time rent payments, furniture rental/purchase statements showing on-time payments
  • Unsecured credit for those with no or thin credit based on a three-step process: $600 initially to be repaid over a 6 to 12 month term; then, $1,000; then a larger unsecured amount as the person establishes a credit history with the credit union
  • A limited no-fee checking account for those members with ChexSystems records where members are given a debit card with a $100 spending limit; then after two to three months of demonstrating their ability to manage the card, the limit is increased; then eventually members are moved into a regular checking product with overdraft protection
  • Hispanic Housing Coalition – a group of real estate professionals that are committed to helping the Hispanic community purchase homes and are willing to comply with a code of trust that ensures consumers will be treated fairly and charged reasonable fees. The group consists of appraisers, inspectors, realtors, and lenders. In return, the credit union refers members to the coalition.
  • Budget and credit counseling.

Marketing Strategies:

At $8.3 million in assets, Village CU has only four full time employees, including the CEO, and one part time marketing person. Everyone wears multiple hats. Cruz-Garcia and a teller are bi-lingual. There is little money for advertising. “Word-of-mouth is the best marketing strategy,” states Cruz-Garcia. “When people learn that we offer a friendly and accepting environment, and experience that openness, they tell their family and friends – just as I did.”

Cruz-Garcia also admits to a love for writing so he will write editorials or educational articles to a local newspaper to help create awareness. Then of course, there are his contacts within the community and he is often invited to make presentations about credit unions in general, and Village CU specifically.

Measures of Success:

  • The percentage of Hispanic members has increased from three percent a year ago to nine percent of overall members today. Des Moines itself has a Hispanic population of about 6.8%.
  • The credit union’s overall membership growth is 5.8% for 2009 at a time when credit unions nationwide are experiencing growth of little more than one percent.
  • The membership growth rate for 2009 is exceptionally impressive given the credit union had a declining membership for the previous seven years.

Additional Information:

Village CU partners with Coopera Consulting for research and advice about serving the Hispanic market. Coopera was formed by the Iowa Credit Union League in 2006 to help the state’s credit unions better serve the Hispanic market. It was through Coopera’s advice that Village CU formed its Hispanic Outreach Advisory Group, notes Cruz-Garcia. For the future the credit union is exploring Saturday hours and perhaps even accepting utility bill payments at the credit union branch. Cruz-Garcia explains he has spent time on Saturdays in area grocery stores observing consumers who come in, cash their checks for 2-5% of the face value, make their utility payments, then buy their groceries. He believes these are services the credit union could offer at much more reasonable rates.

Cruz-Garcia would also like to see the Hispanic community become more comfortable with saving at traditional financial institutions, like his credit union. He explains that Hispanics save – but in the form of cash, not in a savings account. So when he is cashing a check for a member, he asks if the member would be willing to leave $2 or $3 in his/her credit union account to start a small savings account. “The members generally agree,” says Cruz-Garcia, “but they need to be asked. They need to be encouraged to save.”