Understand Hispanic Identity
The Hispanic population in the U.S. is large, fast-growing, young, and—when it comes to financial services—one of most underserved groups in the marketplace. Credit unions need to understand this population, both as potential employees and members.
Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group. At more than 50 million people, they make up 16% of the U.S. population, and by some projections, that share could increase to nearly 30% by mid-century.
Helping Hispanics navigate the U.S. financial system is an important part of the overall credit union mission, according to Miriam De Dios, vice president of Coopera, an Iowa-based economic development firm focused on the emerging Hispanic market.
Bringing Hispanic members into the fold, De Dios says, is the best hope credit unions have for lowering the average age of their members—a growing concern in the movement.
“Credit unions realize that the face of the American consumer is changing and that to grow membership, they must adapt to new consumers, instead of forcing them to adapt to the credit union,” says De Dios.
Toward that goal, valuable insights on how Hispanics identify themselves are presented in a recent study, “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity,” produced by the Pew Research Center (pewhispanic.org). The report includes insights in the following areas.
“Hispanic” or “Latino”? Most don’t care, as one-half of those surveyed say they have no preference for either term. But among those who do, “Hispanic” is preferred. When a preference is expressed, “Hispanic” is preferred over “Latino” by more than a two-to-one margin—33% versus 14%.
Race and culture
When it comes to describing their identity, most Hispanics prefer their family’s country of origin over pan-ethnic terms. According to the study:
Most Hispanics don’t see a shared common culture among U.S. Hispanics. Sixty-nine percent say Hispanics in the U.S. have many different cultures, while 29% say Hispanics share a common culture.
Hispanics, however, have lower levels of personal trust than among the general population. When it comes to dealing with people, you can’t be too careful, according to 86% of Hispanics. Only 61% of the general public says the same.
Hispanics tend to be religious, especially immigrants, 69% of whom say religion is very important in their lives. That compares with about half of U.S-born Hispanics.
Credit union leaders in many states and localities are thinking about how to reach and serve the Hispanic population.
One way for credit unions to pursue membership growth strategies with local Hispanic communities is through the use of Coopera’s Hispanic Opportunity Navigator. It’s an industry-accepted assessment that Coopera has completed for more than 50 credit unions across the country, says De Dios.
The Navigator supplies a road map to follow utilizing three Hispanic growth stages—discovery, emerging, and best practice.
“Hispanic outreach is an indispensable investment in the future,” says De Dios. “Yet having a Hispanic growth strategy on its own won’t generate the kind of success a credit union needs.”
Coopera’s approach integrates a Hispanic growth strategy with the credit union’s overall strategic plan—a combination that will ultimately create a sustainable membership, according to De Dios.
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