From Here to There: Building a Road Map for Implementing Spanish Financial Services

Oregon’s Latino population has grown 72% since 2000, making up 12% of the state’s population at around 480,000. The growth for the United States was 50%. Credit Unions in Oregon need to consider offering services in Spanish. 

While Latino Oregonians are around 12% of the state’s population, they make up 17% of the Oregonians in poverty. This is greatly important to credit unions. Financial literacy education is a big part of what we do. We need to make it accessible to all community members, including our rapidly growing Latino population. Additionally, the number of Latino owned businesses is quickly on the rise and they will need their financial institutions to grow with them. A translation service in the call center is not going to be enough to meet their growing needs. 

Wait, so, what are you doing? 

We know we need to offer services in Spanish, but knowing how to get there is daunting. I’m building a step-by-step process to use in order to begin providing services in Spanish. I’m documenting every step on this journey and at the end I’ll have a road map others can use. I will identify common challenges and offer solutions for overcoming them. The goal is to create greater access to financial services for Spanish speakers. By alleviating the burden of planning out a project for language implementation, credit unions will be more readily able to do the same. This process is not only about a new market to enter. We already have Spanish speaking members. We can increase their access to financial well-being by speaking the language.

To begin, it’s important to get a lay of land before we set out on this journey.

So, exactly how many Spanish-speaking members do you have? 

In The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch quoted the words of his father, “When there is an elephant in the room, introduce him.” I say this because we honestly can’t get an accurate measure on the number of Spanish speaking members we have. We can get a lot of data on our local communities based on census data, as I’ve done in this post, but there can be a lot of reasons why these numbers may be under-representative of the true population. Keeping that in mind, here is what we know about Oregon:

  • Less than half of all Oregon Latinos are English-Spanish bilingual, of those that are bilingual, around 80,000 are Spanish dominant households. 
  • The median age for Latinos is 24 years old while the median age for the white population is 41. Latino Millennials represent 50.1% of the eligible Latino voter population. 
  • Latino business ownership growth has outpaced Latino population growth. As stated, the population growth was 72% since 2000; the number of Latino owned businesses in the same timeframe has increased by 250%. 

How close can you get to real numbers?

We can measure the number of calls to our translator service and the types of requests being serviced on those calls, and then we can compare them to the volume of our calls in English. However, some callers will hang up before getting helped if they do not hear in the automated greeting a Spanish option. For example, our phone tree currently does not indicate that we have access to translators. There is no, “press 2 for Spanish,” option. So, I’ve also partnered with some local organizations that offer services to Latino entrepreneurs and organizations that offer financial literacy classes, to get a better idea of what the most immediate needs are so we can focus our energy and resources appropriately. 

What impact will this project have? 

Educating our members is an important part of maintaining a healthy financial cooperative. The better we are able to reach members where they are, the better we are able to help guide fiscally responsible choices and help members achieve financial well-being. Being able to provide services in Spanish will make members feel invited to the credit union and it will make the credit union a more prominent member of the community they serve. 

Please stay tuned for more updates and details as this project progresses! 

Symantha Sermono