DES MOINES, Iowa—One expert recommends that if a credit union is serious about expanding its reach into the Hispanic market, it needs to focus on its hiring practices.
Alba Perez, client relations director with Coopera, emphasized the importance of a diverse staff that includes Hispanics and a number of staff who are bilingual.
“The more inclusive a credit union is of Hispanics—both as members and employees—the broader their reach into the community,” said Perez. “Bilingualism, in particular, is becoming especially important for those cooperatives that want to show rather than just tell of their commitment to this influential consumer segment.”
Perez emphasized that the Hispanic community is largely bilingual, even among Hispanic Millennials, the largest Millennial, multicultural group in the U.S.
“So for credit unions that want to reflect the culture of the city, town or region around them, it’s important their employees can communicate, as well as relate culturally, to the prospective members coming through the door.”
Perez acknowledged that credit unions seeking to add bilingual employees typically have the same questions. She said they want to know the best ways to find these kinds of workers, how to best test their language proficiency, and what salary to pay.
“Hiring employees with this skill set is far from simple,” said Perez. “A recent industry-agnostic survey showed nearly six-in-10 hiring managers have caught candidates misrepresenting themselves on their resumes. ‘Fluent in Spanish’ can be a pretty easy lie to get away with, particularly if the interviewer does not know the language well.”
Perez said that as more employers, rightly, begin to pay increased wages and salaries for employees who can speak multiple languages, the resume “exaggerations” are likely to increase.
“Already employees who are bilingual in English and Spanish earn between 5% to 20% more per hour,” she said.
Bilingual staff supporting a credit union’s Hispanic growth strategy have to be much more than just proficient in English and Spanish, said Perez.
“They must also be mindful of what can be a deeply rooted mistrust of the traditional U.S. financial system among some Hispanic consumers,” she explained. “Knowing before the conversation starts when the headwinds are likely to hit will be hugely beneficial not only at the beginning, but throughout a relationship. Credit unions that find in their bilingual candidates this depth of understanding, or at least the willingness to learn, should do what they can to onboard them.”