Foundation Graduates New Class of Bilingual Tellers

Credit Union Foundation Of Maryland and the District of Columbia
PO Box 190
Glenelg, MD  21737-0190
443 325-0771

Attn: Kyle Swisher, Executive Director

The Credit Union Foundation of MD & DC has graduated a new class of bilingual tellers who have started their careers on the front lines in nine credit union branches.

Following an eight-week teller training course to prepare the candidates for career placement in two participating credit unions, Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore (MECU) and State Employees Credit Union of Maryland (SECU), nine new graduates joined the program’s thirteen graduates from the first phase of the Foundation program.

Job training and placement are just one benefit of the initiative.  Increasing credit union membership and providing affordable financial services for unbanked communities comprised of families for whom English is a second language is the program’s primary goal.  Bridging cultural and language gaps by training and placing culturally-similar frontline staff in credit unions is seen as the means to that end.  According to the Filene Research Institute, a public policy think tank located in Madison, WI, over one quarter of Latino communities are unbanked[1] leaving them subject to predatory lenders, high-fee financial products, and theft.

The program attracted initial funding through the Maryland Small Grants Program of the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.  The Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development pledged additional funding with the Foundation and the employing credit unions supplying additional funding and resources.

MECU and SECU provided both the employment opportunities and enhanced the training by allowing the teller candidates to serve one-day-per-week at their branches during the eight-weeks of training.

The candidates were trained in teller and computer skills, business communications, financial literacy, business ethics, and basic accounting.  Additional emphasis on member service and regulatory compliance was also provided.

Trainees were recruited from among the ranks of the unemployed, paid during their eight-weeks of training, and began full time employment at MECU and SECU immediately upon graduation.

The project was envisioned by Foundation Executive Director Kyle Swisher who conceived the program to address the issue of predatory lending practices often aimed at un-banked populations.

“Our Foundation works closely with credit unions throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia.  We share a concern and desire to make sure affordable financial services are available to everyone in our communities,” noted Swisher.  “It made sense that employing culturally-similar tellers in credit unions was a good way to extend non-profit banking services and offer a better alternative to check cashers, pawn shops, and payday lenders who often prey on these communities.”

But before bridging the language barrier Swisher needed to enroll the cooperation of the hiring credit unions, find the right training partner, and secure funding.  “We piloted this program about two years ago and we took what we learned from that experience to launch this year’s program,” Swisher said.

The Foundation partnered with Globaltech Bilingual Institute in East Baltimore, a training facility that focuses on programs for the Hispanic community.  The partnership proved a good fit during the 2009 pilot when together they formulated the recruitment, funding, and training strategies needed for a successful effort.  Pat Steil, Vice President at Destinations Credit Union, provided the teller-specific training over the eight-week training regimen.  Tina Mike, Asst. VP, Financial Education at APG FCU, provided the financial literacy training, and Phil Monetti, Principal, The Integrity Team, offered business ethics training.

“It’s our hope that we can expand the offering into other areas of the State and the District where unbanked communities can benefit from additional bilingual teller staff,” noted Swisher.

The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, The Credit Union Foundation of MD & DC, MECU and SECU sponsored this program.

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