Altura Credit Union with $638 million in assets (formerly Riverside County’s Credit Union), is located in Southern California where the Hispanic population now represents the largest ethnic group (40.57%) followed by White (38.85%), Asian (10.19%) and African American (7.30%). (2000 U.S. Census Data)
Donna Michalka, AVP Marketing , at Altura said that the credit union has always served the Hispanic community but made a commitment and business plan to serve this segment three years ago.
Altura Credit Union developed a multiple year strategic plan. Some main actions include:
Reach Target Market. Altura felt it could reach second generation families the quickest. They are made up of parents born in another country, such as Mexico, with children that often serve as translators.
Match Ratio of Bilingual Employees to Marketplace. Hire at least 40% bilingual staff members. (This is a goal, but doesn't have a requirement.)
Transcreate Marketing Materials into Spanish. Ensure the credit union is bilingual with its branch marketing, brochures, surveys, and community events.
Support Hispanic-Based Community Events. Find a balance of supporting Hispanic-based events with others and ensure at least one bilingual staff member is present at each assigned shift of all events.
Open a Branch. (a.k.a. "Office of Good Neighbor Services) Opened a branch in Coachella, Ca. with DACE (Desert Alliance for Community Empowerment), a government mandated organization, and the City of Coachella in February 2005. Hired all bilingual staff. The branch predominantly helps the Hispanic community (95%), many of whom are migrant workers, to allow access to financial services. A DACE representative is housed in the facility with branch staff and helps with housing, healthcare, immigration services, and other issues.
Provide Financial Education. 2004: Teach financial literacy classes twice per week and wave membership fee to join the credit union if the individual shows the certificate of completing the course.
Altura Credit Union's latest strategic initiative resulted from the 118 graduates out of 204 enrollees of the financial course program. "We felt that we needed to reach more people" says Michalka. The credit union approached the most listened to Spanish language station and purchased five 2-minute spots from 7:00a.m.-10:00a.m. every week for the next 35 weeks. This non-traditional marketing strategy was made possible, in part, by a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF).
These radio spots are not commercials. They are quick snippets of financial counseling, or "consejero financiero". The spots teach listeners about financial responsibility including how to build credit. At the end of each spot, the credit union offers a free gift, a pocket sized FM radio, that can be collected by visiting the Coachella branch. The credit union will track how many people they reached by the number of visitors. The spots will begin running on May 3.
One challenge the credit union wrestles with is choosing the most universally understood Spanish dialect. After speaking to several different translators and sources and not being able to reach a concensus on the "correct" dialect, the credit union was advised by a widely-circulated, Spanish-language newspaper, La Prensa, that the Spanish-language media uses a certain standard language which the credit union plans on employing in its own marketing campaigns.
Since the opening of the "Office of Good Neighbor Services" in February, "the results have exceeded our expectations," says Michalka. The Grand Opening brought standing-room only attendance, including representatives from the USDA, the United Farm Workers, City and Chamber officials, as well as representatives from many of the area's elected officials. Since Feb. 4, 2005, the credit union has opened 271 new accounts and has gained more than $1 million in deposits and secured more than $400,000 in loans, all totals being higher than originally forecasted for this little, "unbanked" community.