Home Banking Option Speaks Language Of Members

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Credit Union: PanAm Horizons FCU, Homestead, Fla.

Nominated by: AFTECH, Malvern, Penn.

Nominated for: Spanish language home banking

PanAm Horizons Federal Credit Union has added home banking to its already long list of products and services available in Spanish.

Using AFTECH's home banking package and translation software as a starting point, the $125-million credit union designed a program appropriate to its market south of Miami, which has a large proportion of people who claim Cuban ancestry, according to U.S. Census reports.

AFTECH, Malvern, Penn., offers credit unions core processing, member service and lending technology.

"Being bilingual is pretty prevalent here," said Allan Prindle, President/CEO of PanAm. "So, it's a necessity and a requirement that we have information available in both English and Spanish."

That said, not all Spanish is alike.

"There are a lot of idiosyncrasies within the different dialects," Prindle said. For example, a translation for California's Mexican market might be offensive or confusing to Florida's Cuban population.

"One comical word we found was for the PIN needed to start a transaction," Prindle said, explaining that the software's generalized translation meant safety pin.

With the help of PanAm staff, Prindle said, the program was "tweaked" so the CU's Spanish-speaking members could have access to the same online benefits as their English-speaking peers without wondering why they would need a "safety pin" to access their accounts instead of a "pin number."

"It's really full service," Prindle said. "We have just about everything anybody could want including check images, transfers and bill pay."

While at least one of the major banks in the Miami area offers similar Spanish home banking services, Prindle said PanAm was the first CU to take the necessary step.

"We've always had Spanish-speaking staff and offered information in Spanish," he said. In addition to financial forms, he said the phone lines offer Spanish-speaking representatives.

"Through the phone lines, we were able to track how many members were Spanish-speaking," Prindle said, noting that 40% of callers requested their information in Spanish.

"And since we've gone to a community charter, we've done more to put it in our marketing pieces."

Prindle said the CU announced its Spanish-language home banking services via both English and Spanish language billboards and radio commercials.

"We even did our jingle in Spanish," he said.

He said he thinks having this added service gives PanAm a competitive edge over other financial institutions.

"We are saying to our Spanish-speaking members that we can deal with them on their terms," Prindle said. "It's a competitive advantage that differentiates us a bit." http://www.thomsonmedia.com http://www.cujournal.com

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