Why Multicultural Business Strategy is Essential to All Credit Unions

By: Opal Tomashevska, Director, Multicultural Business Strategy, CUNA Mutual Group

As I talk with credit unions around the country, I’ve been able to engage with many in the movement around multicultural business strategy, and there is one message I repeat over and over.

To be competitive and to live up to our founding principle of people helping people, multicultural business strategy isn’t optional. It’s essential.

While multicultural business strategy is gaining traction in our industry, there are still some who believe that for their community or their credit union, it doesn’t apply. But that thinking doesn’t match our reality.

Take a look at the evidence:

  • Over the last five years, multicultural consumers accounted for 100% of U.S. population growth and 61% of credit union growth.
  • By the year 2044, the U.S. population is projected to be more than half multicultural.
  • Multicultural consumers have buying power. For example:
    • Black and Hispanic consumers are almost two times more likely to purchase payment protection when compared to white consumers.
    • Fewer Hispanic and Asian consumers have owned life insurance, but are buying it at a higher rate now, and overall Black Americans have the most life insurance than any other demographic group.
    • Purchasing power of Asian consumers is growing at a rate more than three times that of white consumers and purchasing power of Hispanic consumers is growing at a rate more than double white consumers.

Focusing on multicultural consumers is not a nice to have or an add on. If you are going to stay competitive and not fall behind, it’s an essential part of your core business strategy.

The same multicultural business strategies that enhance empowering relationships with members when focusing on race, age, ethnicity, and culture, extend to your ability to better serve members along all aspects of diversity including gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and socioeconomic status.

Where do you start?

Taking the first step can be intimidating. We often tell credit unions to start by looking within.  Everything starts with people.

For example, when you think about people, you can ask yourself, does your front-line staff reflect and empathize with the people they serve?  The people in surrounding communities?  What about your leadership and board?

When thinking about your products and services, you could ask, are your products uniquely relevant to your members’ needs? Do you offer services that complement those products?  How accessible are those products?

Or, how inclusive is your marketing, can members see themselves represented? How well do you leverage your digital ecosystem to reach younger members?

Through this process of inquiry and reflection, you can learn about your current state and identify key business opportunities.

Wherever you start, recognize that developing a multicultural business strategy is a journey – one that requires more than just a stand-alone diversity training. If you’re only checking the boxes, your strategy won’t come to fruition. You need to engage in the human element as well.

At CUNA Mutual Group, we believe this work happens holistically within our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) work. We focus on three key pillars:

  • Workforce: Create an inclusive and equitable experience for staff to thrive and view business operations through a DEI lens.
  • Marketplace:  Understanding the financial needs of your existing membership and identifying opportunities to better serve members and potential members through an informed multicultural business strategy.
  • Community: Building on the shared credit union mission to improve financial well-being for all through community engagement and investment.

Take Action

Later this summer, we’ll release updated data on multicultural consumers to help guide credit unions in these efforts. This research will be a deep dive into what matters most to consumers when it comes to financial services. Everything from product preferences and ownership to financial habits to their worries, hopes and dreams. – all from a multicultural and multigenerational perspective.  The original What Matters Now Research launched in 2018, and now we are able to give an update with the pandemic experience and Native American, Alaskan Native and Indigenous data included.

Representation is important and we want to make sure that people feel seen and heard through this research and provide meaningful data to guide credit unions’ multicultural strategy. In addition to our quantitative research, we also have qualitative research that allows for real stories to shape the impact and humanize the numbers. It’s not enough to just know the what, we also must know the why if we want to make real change.

We also offer our new DEI Services to help guide you and walk alongside you in your journey, and I encourage you to take the first step today.

Written by
Lizeth George
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The League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates represents nearly 300 credit unions throughout Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. It has a combined total of almost $200 billion in assets and 12.4 million members. LSCU provides advocacy, compliance services, education and training, cooperative initiatives, and communications.

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