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Taking a Proactive Approach to Assist Immigrants

By Jennifer Esperanza, Senior Director of Organizational Culture and Strategy

​April 1, 2024

Imagine this: a Spanish-speaking member walks into your branch carrying a briefcase full of paperwork. He confides to one of your frontline staff about his latest worry—losing his family’s home. With the assistance of a bilingual staff member, you further learn that this member, an immigrant, took part in a private sale agreement to purchase his first home in America. This has all the signs of a predatory lending scheme. Your credit union works immediately to assist him by securing a home loan for him with your credit union, relieving him from the private sale agreement. You were able to help him secure a stable loan with more reasonable terms, which puts his mind at ease and his family on their way towards financial stability. This story, shared by Peninsula Credit Union is one of many stories we hear about and signals the need for more credit unions to become “all-hands-on-deck” advocates for immigrants’ financial success.  

Immigrants are a large segment of our population, with a significant need for reliable financial services. Regardless of their status (U.S. citizen, green card holder, refugee, undocumented, waiting on asylum hearing, etc.), many immigrants still lack access to traditional banking services and often rely on expensive alternatives such as payday lenders and check cashing retailers, or worse—predatory lending schemes. Credit unions such as Peninsula Credit Union take a holistic approach to get to know their members on a deeper level, proactively identifying areas where alternative solutions may better meet their needs.

Credit unions have the tremendous potential to grow their membership (and their bottom lines) by staying attuned to the financial realities of immigrants in their communities. Taking the time to listen to members’ concerns about monthly stressors, for example, might lead to new loans that can get them out of a predatory lending scheme. Offering signage in other languages and having bilingual staff can also go a long way in signaling to immigrants that they’re welcome to do business with you. Other examples of signaling a proactive immigrant approach include:

  • Marketing Member Diversity - Creating marketing collateral in different languages or using member photos or testimonials on social media is one way to represent the diverse community you serve and creates a sense of belonging and trust for members or potential members.

  • Educate through Community Outreach Programs - Reach out to local organizations that service immigrant groups and highlight how your credit union offers affordable options for cashing and depositing paychecks, opening savings accounts, and credit-building loans. Referrals through already trusted and established organizations will help build your credit union’s credibility in the immigrant community.

  • Accepting Alternative Identification – Be open to accepting alternative forms of identification to open an account, such as Matricula Consular IDs and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) and train your staff on how to accept these IDs. Being flexible to meet immigrant members where there are will make them feel welcome at your credit union.

  • Partnering with Community Outreach Programs - Partnering with organizations and regularly attending or sponsoring events that serve immigrants will increase your credit union’s visibility in the community.

For 17 years, Coopera Consulting has helped credit unions effectively serve their immigrant communities, promote financial inclusion, and grow their membership base. Contact us today to schedule a meeting on how Coopera can help your credit union lead the charge towards immigrant financial stability.

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