Express Credit Union Earns Juntos Avanzamos Designation

Diverse communities are vital to economic stability and growth. Across the Northwest, the number of Hispanic consumers is growing rapidly, and credit unions are stepping up to meet the needs of this often-underserved population.

For more than 86 years, Express Credit Union has been fiercely committed to delivering equitable services and ensuring all consumers have what they need to achieve financial success, regardless of ethnic background or immigration status.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are within the fabric of everything that we do here at Express,” said CEO Paul Baudin.

Fueled by an unparalleled passion to serve, the Seattle-based cooperative and CDFI (Community Designated Financial Institution) recently became a Juntos Avanzamos credit union, and is one of only a handful of credit unions in the Northwest to earn the designation.

Next Tuesday, June 15, Express will hold a virtual proclamation ceremony to celebrate, and the entire Northwest credit union family is invited to join in the festivities.

Founded in 2005, Juntos Avanzamos — which directly translates to “Together We Advance” — recognizes credit unions that serve and empower Hispanic and immigrant consumers, providing the safe, affordable, and relevant financial services they need.

Inclusiv, formerly known as the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, leads the national expansion of the program, in partnership with a number of leagues, associations, and consulting firms, including NWCUA.

To receive the designation, credit unions must go through a rigorous application process to show they are truly ready and committed to serving Hispanic consumers. Juntos Avanzamos credit unions employ bilingual, culturally aware staff and leadership, and treat all of their members with respect, no matter where they come from.

“Receiving this designation and recognition for the years of support and education we’ve provided to the Hispanic community feels really good,” said Elizabeth Escobar, Chief Business Officer at Express. “Serving the Hispanic community is second nature at Express and we’re happy to celebrate the work we do.”

Nearly 40% of Express’ 3,000-plus membership is Hispanic. That’s why more than half of the credit union’s staff is Spanish speaking, and all member-facing employees are bilingual. Express offers equally priced, accessible accounts and loans to both ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) and Social Security number holders. In 2020, Express funded 829 loans to low-income members and 239 loans to ITIN holders. Of the 462 members who joined Express last year, 94 shared that they were previously unbanked.

The credit union is also a Certified Acceptance Agent with the IRS, which allows it to help people apply for or renew their ITIN, and it partners with the United Way of King County to offer free tax preparation. Last year, Express helped 150 individuals either apply for an ITIN for the first time or renew their ITIN so they could file their taxes.

Express regularly teams up with various organizations that serve Hispanic populations to offer free financial education and other resources. Throughout 2020, the credit union provided more than 40 hours of financial literacy courses to people in its community.

Escobar said a big focus for the credit union is paying attention to each member’s specific financial situation.

“We are continually in communication with members, determining what their needs are and how to better serve them,” she said.

To attend Express’ virtual Juntos Avanzamos proclamation ceremony on June 15, which will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. PDT, please register online.

Editor’s note: Express’ deep commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is a shining example of the “People Helping People” mission at work. In recent months, the Northwest Credit Unions’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force has examined similar approaches for the Credit Union Movement. Hosted by NWCUA and the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, the Task Force has collaborated to identify DEI-related tools and practices, and will soon share a comprehensive resource guide of actionable strategies credit unions could deploy to advance their work as employers, financial institutions, and community partners.

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Posted in CU Difference.