A decade ago, the roots of Hispanic solutions firm Coopera were planted by Warren Morrow, a visionary credit union leader with big dreams for the future. In 2007, at 45 million people strong, the U.S. Hispanic consumer segment was the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most financially underserved minority group in the country. In response to the segment’s explosive growth and strong need for fair and dignified financial services, Morrow challenged the movement to become providers of choice for all Hispanics in the U.S.
“Warren wasn’t the type to sit around and wait for the tough questions to be answered; he set out to answer them,” said Miriam De Dios of Morrow, who died suddenly while serving as CEO of Coopera in 2012. De Dios now leads Coopera as the firm’s CEO. “Warren’s enthusiasm for improving the financial lives of Hispanic consumers was contagious. As more leaders in the credit union movement saw the opportunities, Coopera began to grow.”
Over its 10-year history, Coopera has worked with more than 200 credit unions, credit union system organizations and non-credit unions located in 30 states across the country and has served more than 1,000,000 Hispanic consumers. The firm applies the diverse expertise and skill sets of its leadership to carry out the vision of Coopera’s founder.
“In its 10-year history, Coopera has not only expanded the reach of credit union industry, but elevated the financial wellbeing and dignity of the Hispanic population in the communities it serves,” said Jim Nussle, CUNA president and CEO. “CUNA’s partnership with Coopera truly serves the principles of the credit union movement as the founders envisioned it. We look forward to many more years of success together.”
What follows is a small sample of the successes and milestones Coopera accomplished in conjunction with several strategic partners over the last decade.
2008 – In partnership with the Iowa Credit Union League and Iowa Credit Union Foundation, Coopera launched a state-wide asset-building and savings account program for working Iowans and partnered with credit union associations in New York and Louisiana to mobilize more cooperatives around the mission of serving Hispanic members.
2009 – Texas, Nebraska and Georgia credit union leagues, as well as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) joined in the mission. Together, CUNA, the leagues and Coopera built tools, conducted research and created educational programs.
2010 – CUNA and Coopera teamed to create El Poder es Tuyo (The Power is Yours), the only Spanish-language personal finance website for Hispanic credit union members. Today, the site reaches Hispanic members in more than 14 states across the country.
2011 – Coopera partnered with its payments processing sister company TMG, now a part of CO-OP Financial Services, to build a prepaid card especially for the unique needs of the Hispanic consumer. The card was rated as the 5th Most Affordable Prepaid Card by NerdWallet.
2012 – California and Nevada credit union leagues came on board, partnering with Coopera to study the Hispanic consumer segment and create multi-state educational opportunities for credit union leaders.
2013 – “As Coopera honed its research and training skills, it became evident these were core competencies that could benefit even more cooperatives throughout the country,” said De Dios. As a result, the company launched a series of Hispanic Market Analysis tools and an online resource library for professionals who wanted to grow their own Hispanic market expertise.
2014 – Research conducted in coordination with CUNA found the credit unions working with Coopera had grown their Hispanic memberships at rates nearly four times as fast as that of non-Hispanic members. The research also found checking and lending penetration rates at these credit unions increased twice as fast as that of non-Hispanic members.
“We would not have the successes we have today without the help of the Coopera team,” said Brent Helin of Des Moines Metro Credit Union, a 10-year client of Coopera’s. “As a result, we have experienced positive net member growth for a number of years now, and our Hispanic membership continues to be our fastest growing member segment.
“We are achieving positive, healthy growth, steadily increasing our membership and growing assets, such as loans and checking accounts,” Helin continued. “We will continue to look to Coopera in the future to help us create new strategies and grow at a steady pace.”
2015 – Coopera’s decade of achievement was recognized alongside its AMC family of companies with one of the highest honors in the credit union industry, the Herb Wegner Memorial award.
Over the past several years, Coopera and its partner the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) have put the Juntos Avanzamos designation on a national stage. A signal to Hispanic consumers that a credit union has their best interests in mind, the designation is another way to communicate a credit union’s passion for serving the Hispanic community.
Over Coopera’s 10 year history, many strategic partners have helped raise awareness of the struggles faced by Hispanic consumers, but also the great opportunity they represent. These organizations have helped hundreds of credit unions realize the influence and the value of what remains America’s largest, fast-growing, young and financially underserved minority group. They include:
- Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP)
“The power and influence of the Hispanic community is a realization expanding far beyond the credit union space,” said De Dios. “Executives and business leaders in insurance, healthcare, higher education and many other industries are answering the call to adapt to the unique needs of a multi-faceted Hispanic consumer segment.”
In just under a decade, the Hispanic community has grown from 45 million to more than 57 million. Today, 25 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are credit union members.
“Many of that 57 million are still seeking the American dream,” said De Dios. “And credit unions are helping them achieve that, one member at a time. As more businesses, organizations and community leaders are inspired by the credit union movement’s success, Coopera will be there, ready to partner for the success of their organizations and the greater Hispanic community.”
Coopera’s team of Hispanic market experts is also beginning to work with businesses and organizations beyond financial services. Its leaders, which include De Dios, Client Relations Director Alba Perez, Client Support Specialist Lizeth Aquino and Project Assistant Kenia Calderon, are applying their knowledge of emerging markets to engagement with other industries, such as insurance.
“With a nationwide reach, our policy owner, agent and funeral home owner base is made up of a diverse population, including the fast-growing Hispanic population,” said Steve Lange, president and CEO of Homesteaders Life Company. “A few years ago, we realized we were not doing enough to meet the needs of this growing and underserved community. We decided to start by learning more about the market. Coopera has demonstrated much success in helping businesses structure their organizations to serve Hispanics and be prepared to reach out to other underserved groups. We’ve learned a great deal from Coopera. Perhaps the most important thing they helped us understand is this is not a short-term initiative. We are only in the beginning stages of this journey. We are looking forward to working with Coopera into the future as we further develop our strategy and begin executing upon it.”