U.S. Treasurer, National CU Leaders Address Attendees
(June 16, 2008 – Dallas, TX) Nearly 300 credit union leaders gathered on June 11 in Dallas, Texas for the opening of the 5th Latino Credit Union Conference, organized by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) and the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP). Credit unions from as far away as Hawaii and Mexico attended the event, held in conjunction with the Federation’s 34th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved.
Major sponsors of the conferences included the Texas Credit Union League, NeighborWorks America, CUNA Mutual, The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, UNFCU Financial Advisors, Coopera Consulting, Southwest Corporate FCU, and SLI Group, Inc.
The four day conference began with a keynote presentation by United States Treasurer Anna María Escobedo Cabral, who discussed the foreclosure crisis in America. Cabral spoke candidly about the scope of the problem, but expressed optimism in finding a solution. “We know that the housing crisis itself is a manageable issue,” said Cabral. “We have been able to determine that there are roughly 1.7 million families facing foreclosure who took out subprime loans between June 2005 and 2007.”
She called on all credit unions to continue doing everything they can to help educate consumers about the services available to help them keep their homes. “It’s not unusual for people to hide their heads in the sand when they’re facing difficulties,” Cabral said. “But there’s nothing to be gained in a situation where someone is facing foreclosure on their home if they delay [seeking assistance].”
Cabral applauded credit unions for their efforts to provide financial education and affordable financial services to low- and moderate-income Americans, helping them build wealth and accumulate assets.
Leadership Forum Promotes Credit Union Service to Latinos
| From left to Right: Harriet May, CEO, GECU (El Paso, TX), Dick Ensweiler, CEO, Texas Credit Union League, Maria Martinez, CEO Border FCU (Del Rio, TX), and John Herrera, VP for Advocacy, Self-Help CU and Founder Latino Community CU (Durham, NC).
Cabral was followed by the Latino Leadership Forum, featuring Dick Ensweiler, CEO of the Texas Credit Union League; Bill Cheney, CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues; and Harriet May, CEO of Government Employees Credit Union (GECU) of El Paso, Texas, the largest CDCU in the country with more than $1.5 billion in assets. Leadership Forum panelists highlighted the need, the opportunity, and the responsibility of credit unions to become leaders in serving Latino communities.
Cheney opened the forum by talking about how credit unions can serve new Americans, including people whose immigration status might be in question. “We have in California a number of credit unions who have been extremely successful in accepting the Matricula Consular [consular identification] for new members and existing members, and that’s something that the League has been encouraging.” He acknowledged that the immigration status of the people carrying the consular identification is sometimes controversial, but stressed that “credit unions are not immigration attorneys, nor a police force, and once the credit union’s Board of Directors has determined what the credit union’s field of membership is, it becomes the credit union’s responsibility to serve the entire field of membership.”
Cheney explained that the Matricula Consular is “a perfectly legal and a perfectly acceptable form of identification,” and noted that the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has published numerous briefs and position papers outlining the legality of credit unions to accept these alternative forms of identification.
Dick Ensweiler spoke next about the incredible opportunity for credit unions to serve the Latino market. He emphasized the importance of identifying major defining factors of Latino groups within each specific community as a way for credit unions to design programs and services tailored to the needs of their membership.
He explained that attracting Latinos to credit unions requires not only an understanding of Latino language and culture, but also knowledge of the types of services they really need. According to Ensweiler, credit unions should start with basic services such as remittances, check cashing, debit/ATM cards, and basic savings and checking accounts, and expand upon those as their Latino membership base expands.
Under Ensweiler’s leadership, the Texas Credit Union League developed the Juntos Avanzamos program. Once credit unions meet certain criteria in service to Latino populations they are allowed to fly a flag that designates them as a Juntos Avanzamos credit union. This helps direct potential Latino members to credit unions whose services meet their specific needs.
Harriet May, the final presenter, described her philosophy in serving members. “People ask me for my business plan to serve Hispanics, and I tell them we serve Hispanics because that’s our community. Our credit union members are 80% Hispanic… Maybe I need a business plan to serve our non-Hispanics,” she joked. “This is something we do because it’s our culture, because it’s the right things to do, and because it’s simply good business,” May said. “Credit unions serve their community, and our community is Hispanic. That’s why we serve Hispanics.”
This is precisely the message conference organizers hope attendees will take away with them as they return to their communities across the country.
NLCUP's strategic focus is to unite and strengthen credit union resources to more efficiently serve the Latino community's financial needs. NLCUP provides access to the system by the foremost experts and practitioners in reaching and serving the Latino community and helps fill the knowledge gap between credit unions and consumers. For more information visit: www.nlcup.org.
© 2008 National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.