GreenState Credit Union ($7.5B, North Liberty, IA) is serious about serving Iowa’s growing Latino community. So much so that it has hired someone to lead those efforts full time.
After spending nearly five years at the Des Moines-based Hispanic marketing consultancy Coopera,
Kenia Calderon Ceron joined GreenState in March as the cooperative’s first vice president/bilingual business development director.
A native of El Salvador, Ceron, her parents, and two younger siblings walked across the U.S. border when she was 11 in search of a better life away from the rising gang violence in her home country. Ceron talks about the decision to leave and her family’s hope for the future in an opinion piece for the New York Times.
Ceron is now a graduate of Drake University who has committed her career to helping immigrants access safe, responsible financial services as a key component of creating and sustaining successful lives here in America. Here, she talks about her new role at GreenState.
Why did GreenState create the role of bilingual business development director?
Kenia Calderon Ceron: The credit union created the role at the beginning of 2021 to have someone dedicated to developing and executing strategies to create and build relationships in the Latino community in our field of membership.
What opportunities does this role address?
KCC: The Latino market is one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. More specifically to Iowa, the Latino community will double in size by 2050. We have an opportunity to make sure Latino households have access to great financial products and services. They’re a community with many aspirations and dreams. We have an opportunity to be their trusted partner in their financial journey.
Check out “Anatomy of GreenState Credit Union” to learn how Iowa’s largest credit union has grown despite the best efforts of adversaries and what investments the Hawkeye State cooperative is making to reach even greater heights. Find this and more in Callahan’s quarterly journal, Credit Union Strategy & Performance.
What challenges does it address?
KCC: Although the Latino community is quite loyal, its members tend to not trust financial institutions. That’s especially true for immigrants who come from countries where financial institutions are not insured or regulated like they are in the United States. Our main objective is to build trust with this community and communicate how much safer and beneficial it is to trust us with their money than it is to keep it at home.
CU QUICK FACTS
GREENSTATE CREDIT UNION
HQ: North Liberty, IA
DATA AS OF 3.31.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 21.5%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 15.2%
What market are you targeting? Is it all Spanish-speaking people? Are there other groups you’re targeting?
KCC: Our focus is emergent bilingual communities with an emphasis on the Latino community. We currently have staff members who speak Spanish, French, Bosnian, Turkish, and Cantonese. Our goal is to keep growing our bilingual staff to help our refugee and immigrant members in their preferred language.
What products and services specific to the Latino market does GreenState offer?
KCC: We’re starting with creating website and membership documents in Spanish. We’re also exploring products to help us compete with payday lenders. We’re committed to moving Iowans into a formal relationship with a credit union and breaking the toxic cycle with predatory businesses.
What made you a great fit for this job?
KCC: During my time at Coopera, I guided credit unions across the United States in their journey to grow among the Latino market. I worked with them from strategic planning to implementation.
My credit union partners were diverse in asset size and location. Therefore, I learned what practices work for some and what practices do not. With my background and the credit union’s leadership, I’m confident we will become the preferred financial institution of the Latino market in our state.
Who do you report to?
KCC: I report to Amy Henderson, our executive vice president of consumer services.
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What are your areas of responsibility?
KCC: I lead an internal working group to solicit and provide feedback on GreenState’s progress within our Latino market and emergent bilingual initiative. I also identify new business opportunities and business partnerships as well as develop strong relationships with partner decision-makers. Finally, I serve as the primary liaison within the Latino community and create internal growth and retention strategies.
What’s your daily routine?
KCC: I prepare informational materials for department leaders, facilitate internal conversations about our emergent bilingual members and ITIN lending practices, connect with Latino leaders, and execute recruitment for bilingual openings.
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How do you track success in your job?
KCC: By our bilingual recruitment numbers, membership growth among our emergent bilingual members, and the loans they’re accessing from our credit union.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
KCC: I stay up to date with demographic growth changes and consumer reports about underserved communities.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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