Latinos Are the Least Served Group by Financial Institutions

Credit unions and other financial institutions would gain new members and customers if they adapted to the needs of the growing Hispanic market, the group "least served" by the financial sector, an expert in the subject said.

"The credit unions must understand that the face of the U.S. consumer is changing and that for there to be growth, (they) must adapt to new consumers, instead of forcing those consumers to adapt to (them)," Miriam De Dios, vice president of Coopera Consulting, in Des Moines, Iowa, told Efe.

De Dios emphasized that, according to reports, 50 percent of U.S. Hispanics do not have a traditional relationship with financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions, but rather use alternative financial services, generally at higher cost.

"Because of that, there's a great opportunity," she said.

The Mexican-born De Dios grew up in the United States, where she saw her parents "suffer due to many things, including not knowing the U.S. financial system."

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That personal experience led her to become interested in financial matters and five years ago she joined Coopera, attracted by the vision of founder Warren Morrow.

Morrow was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and an American father and spent part of his childhood there before moving to Tucson, Arizona. Later, he studied biology at Iowa's Grinnell College, where, in 1999, he founded the non-profit Latino Leadership Project that, after several transformations, became Coopera Consulting.

Coopera is now the property of the Iowa Credit Union League.

Morrow died unexpectedly in February at age 34. "It was something unexpected and impacted us deeply. Warren was a very passionate person and believed in the idea of bringing dignified financial services to the Hispanic community through the ... credit unions," De Dios said.

She feels that she and her colleagues should continue with Morrow's mission to "help the community to get ahead."

One of the ways to do that, she said, is to educate Hispanics about traditional financial services.

But the other option is to educate the credit unions about the need to implement a systematic process to serve the Hispanic market.

"Having a strategy to better serve the Hispanic community is a need nowadays for the savings institutions and credit unions. It's something good they should do and also it's an investment in their future," De Dios said.

By attracting new Hispanic members, credit unions can reduce the average age of their members, thus creating a "sustainable future."

"Hispanics are a solution to the challenges of the financial institutions, since they represent a young and new market with a growing buying power and an appetite for a variety of financial services. The credit unions need the Hispanics, and the Hispanics (need) those credit unions," she concluded.

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