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Durham, United States

Financing Immigrant Futures: The Latino Community Credit Union

The Latino Community Credit Union

June 1, 2009

Help new immigrants access formal banking infrastructure

Banking and financial literacy are essential to successful integration – both for the newcomer and for society at large.

North Carolina has more than 500,000 immigrants of Latino origin and is the fastest growing Latin immigrant population in the United States. More than half of this community speaks English poorly and over three-quarters of them do not have bank accounts. In part this is the result of a lack of documentation, an inherent distrust of banks and language issues. The result is that as a community, they are regularly overcharged for services such as loans, cashing a check or obtaining a money order. A lack of banking infrastructure also makes long term financial planning essentially impossible.

The Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU) was founded to address the financial needs and knowledge shortfalls of this growing immigrant community. The first branch of the LCCU was opened in 2000 when it became the first fully bilingual financial institution in the state.

For the Community, From the Community

Unlike conventional banks, credit unions are non-profit institutions where members pool their money, are able to vote for the leadership of the institution and share in its ownership.

The focus of the LCCU was to provide services to immigrants who had not previously held bank accounts or had been otherwise excluded from the US financial system. As a result, the LCCU does not inquire about member immigration status and accepts all official government issued photo id when someone is seeking to open an account. It also accepts temporary U.S. visas and Matricula Consular identification cards issued by the governments of their home countries.

All of the LCCU’s employees are bicultural and bilingual in English and Spanish. Most are immigrants themselves and are trained to help first time banking customers navigate the system and its requirements. All forms and policies are available in English and Spanish. The LCCU also works in partnership with trusted community organizations such as churches and community centres to market their offer.

To improve the financial literacy of its members, the LCCU has established a financial education program that offers free financial education classes in Spanish and covers essential topics such as how to manage accounts, taxes, how to save money, develop a budget, and how to build credit. As part of their educational materials, they also developed a financial film, “A Guide to Buying a Home – Angélica’s Dreams: An Immigrant Family’s Path to Homeownership“. Approximately 2000 people per year now attend these classes that are offered twice a month at each of the five branches as well as at target work sites, churches and local community organizations.

On a more fundamental level, all LCCU employees are trained to educate members on banking basics such as ATM use, filling out withdrawal and deposit slips, and balancing checkbooks. Loan officers similarly instruct members on how to build credit, read a credit report, and correct any errors they identify in the report.

Success

Since its 2000 launch, the LCCU has opened another four branches in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Fayetteville. Currently, the LCCU has over 45,000 members and assets of oer $35 million. Over ninety-five percent of its members are low income earners and over 75 percent are first time banking users.

The LCCU is now recognized as a national model and consults extensively with other credit unions and activists. The program has won numerous community and best practice awards and most recently, in November 2008, the LCCU was recognized by Business North Carolina for its Returns on Assets.

Most recently the Latino Community Credit Union was listed as a 2009 Finalist for the prestigious E Pluribus Unum Award coordinated by the Migration Policy Institute to recognise the efforts of those who are creating more unified communities by strengthening the relationship between native and foreign born Americans.

Story Update:
After being short listed in 2009 as a Finalist for the E Pluribus Unum Awards, this year, the Latino Community Credit Union was just recognized as one of the four 2010 winners!

Congratulations!

Making it Work for You:

  • Helping new immigrants access banking services and the formal financial structures of a country is essential for successful long-term integration.
  • Service organizations need to recognize the linguistic and cultural preferences of their stakeholders to provide quality service.
  • Investing newcomers with confidence and trust in fundamental institutions like banks fosters a sense of belonging and promotes successful integration.

Themes: Live, Housing, Settlement



For this Good Idea contact:

Luis Pastor, Latino Community Credit Union
100 W. Morgan Street
Durham, NC,
27701
Tel: (919) 688-9270
http://www.latinoccu.org/en


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