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This Is What a Credit Union Designed for the Hispanic Community Looks Like

The Juntos Avanzamos designation indicates credit unions that are committed to serving Hispanic and Immigrant communities. 

By Bianca Gonzalez

In March, Granite Credit Union became the first credit union in Salt Lake County, Utah, to receive the Juntos Avanzamos designation. With the designation, the institution became part of a growing network of credit unions that are committed to serving Hispacing and immigrant communities by being accessible to Spanish speakers, conducting demographic research on the local Hispanic community, offering accessible and relevant affordable housing programs, and much more. 

As the Hispanic/Latino population continues to rise in pockets across the U.S. — including by 37.6% in Utah from 2010 to 2020 — the community demonstrates an increasing market opportunity for CDFIs and other credit unions. The Hispanic and immigrant communities also face barriers when it comes to accessing financial products and services that CDFIs are uniquely positioned to address. 

Juntos Avanzamos, which means “together we advance,” is the byproduct of an international relationship between the Mexican credit union system and the Texas credit union system. It began in 2002 as the People-to-People Partnership between Caja Popular Mexicana (CPM), the California Credit Union League, the Texas Credit Union League (now known as Cornerstone League), and the World Council of Credit Unions.

"There was this strong interest in Mexico and Texas to understand how they could better serve the Hispanic population on each side of the border," explains Pablo DeFilippi, executive vice president of the Inclusiv Network. "CPM's interest was to maintain their connections with Mexican migrants that were coming to the US."

While it started as a cross-border collaboration, Cornerstone League saw the opportunity to create an educational marketing plan to build trust between credit unions and the Latino community in Texas, many of whom are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Mexico. As of 2021, 40.2% percent of the Texan population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.

It wasn't until 2015 when Inclusiv began leading the initiative at a national level that Juntos Avanzamos became a designation. "Because of the work that our network has already done, we had already identified some clear barriers that needed to be removed," DeFilippi says. The Juntos Avanzamos designation demonstrates that a credit union is able to overcome those barriers for their clients.

Many traditional banks accept only U.S.-issued forms of identification and social security numbers in order to open accounts with them, which alienates non-citizens from even the most basic access to their institutions. This is why a Juntos Avanzamos credit union must accept non-U.S. resident forms of identification — such as passports, a medical consular, and ITIN numbers, a tax processing number available for some residents who aren’t eligible for a SSN. 

After meeting the minimum requirements for the designation, CDCUs must then demonstrate that they cater specifically to the Hispanic and immigrant community by earning at least 42 out of 62 possible points on a questionnaire. The questions cover subjects like whether their products are competitively priced and accessible to Spanish speakers, as well as how much Hispanic representation is among board members, front-line staff and upper management.

"We believe at its core that credit unions are the best type of organization to serve everyone in the community regardless of where they come from or the language they speak," says René A. Vargas Martínez, Director of Inclusiv's Puerto Rico Network. "Hispanic members are also loyal to the institution. Removing barriers generates growth for everyone, but it also generates high-quality business for the institution."

Today, Juntos Avanzamos designations span over 27 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, with California, Texas, New York and Florida boasting the most Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions. Yet, the need is even greater. 

A recent study from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions on the experiences of immigrant members of credit unions found that there is a large, untapped market for equitable financial products and services. Immigrant members also tend to participate in word-of-mouth marketing. More than half of members learned about their credit union through friends and family and an additional 10% through community referrals. Moreover, 82.6% of members have recommended their credit union to friends and family.

From the study: “When you give someone an opportunity and take a chance with them when all other doors are closed, it builds incredible loyalty, sometimes for life. As immigrants become more engaged in the credit union, they are highly likely to talk about it to other members of their community. And deeper member engagement creates greater opportunities for greater community discussion and word of mouth.”

This story is part of our series, CDFI Futures, which explores the community development finance industry through the lenses of equity, public policy and inclusive community development. The series is developed in partnership with Next City