CU Makes 'Noble' Business Case For Latino-Oriented Branch

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The seventh and newest branch of Mountain High Federal Credit Union is quite different from the previous six: it is targeted to appeal to and meet the needs of this city's fast-growing Latino population.

Dennis Dunn, CEO and founder of Mountain High FCU, said the Spanish Fork, Utah-based credit union wanted to do something good; and tap a long-ignored market at the same time.

"With the Latino population growing as fast as it is, and being tremendously underserved, we thought it the noble thing to do to open a Latino-oriented branch," he said.

According to Dunn, the new branch is the first of its kind in Utah County-the second-largest county in the Beehive State. There are some Spanish-speaking or Latino-oriented CU branches in the Salt Lake City area, he said.

So what makes a branch "Latino-Oriented?" Dunn said only Spanish is spoken there: "Although we will speak English if an English speaker walks in, just like we would speak Spanish if a Spanish speaker walks in to one of our other branches. We hired as many Spanish speakers as possible for the new branch. Our new manager is from Guatemala."

But language is not the only thing that distinguishes the new branch-which opened Feb. 1. Dunn said its "d?cor, color scheme...the whole credit union, is geared around the Latino population."

The sign on the building says "Mountain High Federal Credit Union" in English; with words equating to "Latino branch" in Spanish underneath the name, he explained.

No financial institution can simply decorate a branch with Spanish words and expect Latinos to flood in. Dunn said hundreds of years of financial "abuse" must be overcome. "In Mexico, people can't go to banks, because loans are only for the wealthy," he declared.

To that end, Mountain High FCU will offer numerous financial education opportunities to its members. Subjects will include English lessons, along with classes on using a checking account, debit cards and how to buy a home.

"These are things we take for granted in America. We will offer monthly seminars, plus we have an attorney on staff who will offer assistance on immigration issues. We will serve the members of our new branch just as we help any other members."

Mountain High FCU will partner with Universidad de Hispania to offer its member education program. Arturo de Hoyos, a member of the credit union and head of the Provo-based school, said he is prepared to help meet a need.

According to de Hoyos, there are many Latinos who have been in the United States for several years, but either do not speak English or have a limited vocabulary.

"These people are timid. They don't know how to express themselves, so they are afraid when they come up to a teller window," he said. "The first thing we do is teach them English. Our professors are bilingual, so we can teach in Spanish if necessary, but then we get them over to English as soon as possible. We will teach them about mortgages, loans, checking accounts, everything to familiarize people with handling money."

Said Dunn: "Member education will be stressed very heavily. We want to make it possible for the Latino population to be able to integrate as smoothly as possible. We want to help people buy houses, so we will help with home loans. We want them to get computers in their homes, so we will help with computer loans. We want them to get better educated, so we will help with student loans."

Building the Latino-oriented branch is a "wonderful thing our board did," Dunn added. "It is the nicest branch we have. It is beautiful; and it is first class all the way."

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