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Becoming an American: The Challenges of Serving Immigrants and the Unique Advantages of Credit Unions

This report provides critical information about the complex aspects of immigration today and highlights how credit union leaders can leverage a competitive advantage with immigrant markets while aligning with their member-focused mission.

  • Andrew Turner Professor at University of Wisconsin Law School

Executive Summary

The immigrant experience in the United States is complex. One of the challenges immigrants face is when trying to get their financial needs met. Underserved by the banking industry, many turn to predatory financial service provides. This puts credit unions in a unique position to service these groups as it aligns with the credit union mission and helps capture a growing market.

For credit unions, bringing immigrants into the movement is a critical part of future success and longevity. Credit unions interested in capturing and serving the immigrant markets need to understand the immigration trends in the areas they serve in order to effectively leverage a competitive advantage and service these groups. With their member-focused missions, credit unions are equipped to accommodate the growing immigrant communities and respond to the challenges immigrants face on their journey to "becoming an American."

Why It Matters—A Credit Union Perspective

This report outlines many of the strategies that our industry is using to serve immigrants. For example, Unitus Community Credit Union has been deeply engaged in this work for the past several years, earning the Juntos Avanzamos designation from Inclusiv in 2021. The intentional approach to this work is having a significant impact on our Hispanic and Latino/a communities. Through Quarter 3, Unitus funded nearly $10 million in ITIN mortgage loans, taught 17 financial education workshops in Spanish, and donated nearly $75,000 to local organizations that support these communities.

If we are to 'meet them where they are,' we’d better have a firm understanding of where that is.
Stephen Stapp
President + CEO
Unitus Community Credit Union

This report pushes us to go further. Collaboration is the key to better reaching our immigrant populations. As this research found, establishing partnerships with trusted organizations is a solid foundation for us to better understand the community’s needs, cultural sensitivities, and perceptions. If we are to “meet them where they are,” we’d better have a firm understanding of where that is.

Download the report to learn how your credit union can expand their market and work towards greater inclusivity by serving the growing immigrant population.

Filene’s Center for Consumer Financial Lives in Transition is generously funded by:

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