By 2050 Hispanics will be 29% of the U.S. population.

How’s Your Spanish?

Immigration reform may be a hot-button issue right now, but credit unions need to open their doors wider now — assuming they want to stay relevant in the future.

According to Pew Research Center, the population of the U.S. will rise from 296 million to 438 million by 2050. Almost all (82% or 117 million) of that increase will be from immigrants (67 million) and their U.S.-born descendants (50 million).

That means by 2050: Hispanics, already the nation’s largest minority, will make up 29% of the population, Asians will grow to 9%, while blacks hold steady at 13%, and whites drop from 67% to 47%. The Center’s findings are “based on detailed assumptions about births, deaths and immigration levels” — and they do note that trends can change.

What does this mean to my Credit Union?

Things will change. Keep in mind that these changes will occur over the next 40+ years, but here’s a good reason or two to embrace this change now: 56% of the nation’s 40 million Hispanics have never held a bank account, however those financial institutions that have developed a relationship with them have found them to be very loyal.

Some parts of the country will change faster than others

And you may be surprised where. A CU we work with in Miami is of course well aware of this trend, while a small town CU in the Midwest has been a bit stunned by how fast the change is happening around them. Their area’s economic base is industrial, so as long as the companies need workers, there will be an influx.

It’s not just about Spanish.

Remember that an immigrant who came to this country is different than an American who speaks Spanish. There are at least 12 different cultures and versions of language within the Hispanic community. So Mexican means Mexican, not Guatemalan or Cuban. You may need to undertake some extensive street research to understand the demographic makeup of your Hispanic population.

Get them in the door first.

Ask them what services they care about most. These may be the same things driving them to the predators of the financial world: check cashing, money orders, phone cards, sending money home, paying bills, etc. Get them coming in the door first, then start offering the small business loans, checking and other basic services. Realize that savings products may never be considered an option.

Make them comfortable.

Even if you hire Spanish-speaking tellers, your existing branches may be intimidating. Consider additional stand-alone locations near their homes with a more relaxed look that is comfortable for both you and them.


Kent Dicken

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