Celebrating International Credit Union Day - Notes from the Field: Financial Inclusion Transcends Borders
Part 2 - Mexico
This past September, at the Mexican Consulate of Oxnard, California, Premier America Foundation signed a partnership agreement with the consulate to inaugurate the new Financial Advisory Window (Ventanilla Asesorias Financiera -VAF).
Started in New York City 10 years ago, the Ventanilla model was rapidly adopted by the Mexican Consulates across the country, providing a platform for credit unions and non-profits to deliver financial education to the hundreds of thousands of people who go through their offices every year.
Inclusiv’s Juntos Avanzamos has collaborated with the Mexican Consulate Network for a very long time, first promoting Directo a Mexico, an ACH based money transfer service offered by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in partnership with Banxico (Mexico’s Central Bank), later facilitating partnerships between local consulates and Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions, promoting credit union participation in their financial education week and supporting many other initiatives.
Like in the US, Mexico is going through its own diversity, equity, and inclusion journey. The Oxnard Ventanilla initiative aims to expand the community empowerment strategy in financial education, asset building and wealth protection, emphasizing an inclusion approach for indigenous populations, specifically Mixteco.
“Addressing the racial equity gap for indigenous populations is a top priority of this administration”, says Euclides del Moral, General Consul of Mexico in Oxnard. “This partnership with credit unions committed to meeting the needs of our community is a key element of that strategy.”
Additionally, the new VAF will have the purpose of promoting the empowerment and financial inclusion of farm workers, and immigrant-owned micro businesses in the Tri County (Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo). Resources and free training will be offered in Spanish and Mixtecan on topics such as: taxes, credits, savings, investment, debt counseling, credit history management and housing.
This initiative brings together three Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions and Inclusiv members: CBC FCU, Premier America CU, and Ventura County CU.
The collaboration seeks to connect these institutions with the significant Mixteco population in the area. This project is based on the strong foundation created from years and years of collaboration between Oxanrd’s Mexican Consulate and local credit unions.
“I am proud to be an immigrant, born in Chile and raised in the US, as Premier America’s CEO, my goal is to always make it easier to meet today’s needs and reach tomorrow’s dreams for our members, and the communities we serve, says Rudy Pereira. Along with our sister credit unions and Inclusiv/Juntos Avanzamos we aim to bring our asset building tools to the Mixteco community in our area but with deep and strong ties to the regions they’ve come from: Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan and Puebla.”
“We’re incredibly pleased to be part of this groundbreaking initiative,” says Linda Rossi, President, and CEO of Ventura County CU. “We’ve worked for many years with local migrant workers, bringing services right where they are, in the fields. Many of them are part of the Mixteco community with whom we’ve developed strong connections that now provide the very foundation for the work we’ll be doing moving forward.”
“Migrant workers are twice as vulnerable, first because they are immigrants and second, because they don’t speak the language, and many are even more vulnerable because they are women”, says Eva Gomez, Director of California State University at California Channel Islands, member of the Premier America CU board and board member of the Premier America Foundation. “The only way to empower our community is through education and by providing the tools people need to achieve financial security.”
“CBC FCU is thrilled to join this effort. People helping people is a core value of the credit union movement and we now will be able to reach deeper in the community and provide the tools they need to improve their lives here in Oxnard and their families across the border,” says Rick Weber, President, and CEO.
Diana Cervantes VP, Business and Community Development at Premier America CU and Executive Director for Premier America Foundation has been the initiative’s driving force. Her commitment to financial inclusion and community development has guided her professional career within the movement. “For me this is personal,” she says. “I’m a person with purpose and opening the doors of opportunity for everyone, but especially for those who are most vulnerable immigrant and indigenous communities, is both a moral imperative and a business opportunity. Providing equitable, safe, responsible, and affordable products and services is ingrained in the DNA of credit unions on both sides of the border.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population reached 62.1 million in 2020, accounting for 19% of all Americans and making it the nation’s second largest racial or ethnic group, behind White Americans. It is also one of the fastest growing groups in the U.S. Between 2010 and 2020, the country’s Hispanic population grew 23%, up from 50.5 million in 2010 (the Asian population grew faster over the same decade). Since 1970, when Hispanics made up 5% of the U.S. population and numbered 9.6 million, the Hispanic population has grown more than sixfold.
In 2019, 61.5% of all Hispanics indicated they were of Mexican origin – either they were born in Mexico or traced their ancestor’s roots to Mexico, according to Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. At 37.2 million people in 2019, this makes the Mexican origin population the largest among U.S. Hispanics.
For credit unions, our very future and relevance will be determined by how well we’re able to mirror the nation’s growing diversity to build trust and meet the needs of the new majority. To do that we’ll need to also build stronger bridges with our sister organizations on the other side of the border.
We hope this collaborative model between Juntos Avanzamos designated credit unions to partner with the VAFs will become a blueprint for replication as more and more credit unions recognize the importance of serving this segment of the market.
Pablo DeFilippi, EVP Inclusiv Network