As a minority and having grown up in a predominantly immigrant community, I know firsthand the struggles that families face in regards to financial services. Knowledge of and accessibility to credit unions was not something I knew about when opening my first bank account. Fast forward to a decade or two since then, and many minority groups face similar barriers of not being aware of financial services and resources.
Many credit unions lack the tools to properly market to minority households, meanwhile, large banks and predatory lenders have long tapped into this demographic and are making large profits as a result. Credit unions collectively share a desire of making a positive impact on members’ financial lives, especially underbanked and underserved communities like minorities. In an effort to help bridge this gap, I’ve outlined five quick tips on how to help your credit union better reach minority households.
1. Conduct Market Research
You know your members well, but do you know your prospective members well too? Could there be potential barriers or myths discouraging prospective members, specifically minority groups, from applying for membership at your credit union? Whether your credit union is community or federally chartered, conducting market research can be of great benefit. Learning about demographics such as age, ethnic backgrounds, income level, household size, and language spoken at home can help identify any barriers that may be preventing prospective members from looking to you for financial products and services.
2. Make Membership Documents Available in Other Languages
Although Spanish may seem like an obvious choice for translating new membership documents, the U.S. Census data shows that in languages spoken at home other than English, Telugu, Bengali and Tamil have had the biggest growth over the last two decades in the United States. Surely, there has been a shift in demographics and immigration trends in the last few decades and every city and state may have their own unique trends. But as more than 21% of the population speak a language other than English, there may be many missed opportunities in reaching minority households if member documents are only available in English.
3. Align Your Products and Marketing Strategies
What products would be most attractive to minority households? Products and services offered by credit unions are better suited to meet the needs of minority households, as opposed to those that larger banks offer. However, there is a high chance that minority households are not yet aware of these products, let alone that they may be eligible to obtain credit union membership. There should not be a “one size fits all” marketing strategy. Aligning your strategies based on the segmentation of membership groups and prospective members will provide the opportunity to create different messages. Communication can differ in content, language, graphics or channels to become more attractive and better at reaching different groups.
4. Hire or Train Bilingual Personnel
Recognizing and understanding language gaps that may exist, should then become action items. Training or hiring personnel that can better assist in other languages will promote a
more inclusive business environment. Additionally, personnel with similar backgrounds will have the ability to understand members’ needs and empathize with their challenges and goals.
5. Provide Financial Education
To bring your efforts full circle, providing financial education helps both members and institutions alike. Members that are better educated in financial matters can make better choices and can ultimately lead to more engaged member relationships. A large number of credit unions already offer financial education to their members with the help of industry partners that offer great financial education products, content and modules (such as EverFI, SavvyMoney, and GreenPath). However, these tools only work under the assumption that members are fluent in English, literate, have access to internet and/or mobile devices and are familiar with where they can find them. Alternative methods could involve hosting in-person workshops either in a branch or in a community hotspot, or publishing educational videos in other languages via popular social media channels.