Corlinda Wooden is Senior Vice President/Chief Retail Officer at Unitus Community Credit Union. Wooden has served the members of Unitus Community Credit Union for a collective nine years through a series of different roles, taking on new responsibilities in each position. Over the past three years, Wooden has been instrumental in leading several corporate initiatives that have improved service, access and community engagement. She led Unitus Member Services’ operational response to the COVID-19 pandemic, developed and launched Unitus’ Virtual Branch and managed Unitus’ designation as a Juntos Avanzamos (Together We Advance) financial institution. Wooden has served as Unitus’ organization champion for its Hispanic Community Initiative to strengthen service to the community through the development of new products such as an immigration loan, ITIN mortgages, a remittance partnership and the formation of an external Hispanic Advisory Committee. Wooden also serves several community and global organizations through volunteerism. She is affiliated with the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Governmental Affairs Committee, Sunshine Division’s Board of Directors, Women’s Center for Leadership and the Global Women’s Leadership Network.
Leaders in Lending | Ep. 127
Cultivating Diversity: Innovative Strategies for Credit Unions
Corlinda Wooden, SVP/Chief Retail Officer at Unitus Community Credit Union, shares how credit unions can prioritize community, culture and informed decision-making while serving diverse markets.
Unitus Community Credit Union
Unitus Community Credit Union is dedicated to improving lives in the communities it serves. As a member-owned local credit union, Unitus invests in people by doing the right thing. Through partnerships with nonprofit organizations, Unitus provides support for community groups through volunteerism and financial donations. Their 105,000 members count on them to serve them and their communities; their 300+ employees share that passion for service.
Key Topics Covered
- How Unitus Credit Union developed a three-year strategy targeting the Hispanic community, founded on trust-building and authenticity
- Understanding how data analytics guides growth opportunities and can shape a credit union's product offerings
- How a combination of strategic partnerships, employee involvement, and the integration of AI brought success to the credit union's lending program
EPISODE RECAP & SUMMARY
With the right mix of innovation and growth, credit unions can prioritize community, culture, and informed decision-making in serving diverse markets.
Corlinda Wooden, SVP/Chief Retail Officer at Unitus Community Credit Union, witnesses this daily through the development and execution of a comprehensive strategic plan aimed at serving diverse markets.
Driven by passionate leadership, Unitus Community Credit Union’s approach emphasizes authentic community engagement. Leveraging data insights, translation services, and strategic partnerships, the credit union tailored their offerings to meet the specific needs of their members.
How Unitas laid the groundwork for cultivating diversity
Fresh off a five-year stint as a consultant, Wooden rejoined the credit union world. Both Wooden and her CEO had spent time in California credit unions and cultivated a passion for strengthening support for the Hispanic community, laying the groundwork for DEI initiatives at Unitas.
The Metro Portland area — a Unitas location — had a sizable opportunity for increased support for the Hispanic community. After attending a World Credit Union Council Conference, they knew what their next steps needed to be.
“One, it was a benefit of supporting a market that hasn't predominantly been supported by large financial institutions today, so it was a good business opportunity for our credit union,” Wooden said. “And two, it's doing the right thing and supporting marginalized communities that have not had the same opportunities as others.”
Wooden and her team knew this was a marathon, not a sprint. To build genuine trust and authentic interactions, it would take time — three years, to be exact.
“We partnered with another amazing support group called Compara,” Wooden continued. “Compara supports credit unions in this space, not only with the Hispanic community but multi-community or multicultural communities in general.”
Compara looked at the demographic within a five-mile radius of each branch location in the present and what it’s likely to be in the next five years. They found significant growth in the Hispanic community and got the green light on their initiative.
How Unitas developed a three-year strategy founded on trust-building and authenticity
Once they knew they were on the right track, they needed to hone in on their game plan in a way that honored their true intentions — trust-building, authenticity, and support.
Step 1: Getting their ducks in a row
Step one meant determining how they were already serving the market, what products and services they offered, and how those experiences could improve.
They broke their areas of focus into four quadrants:
- Partnerships/Promotional Opportunities
Each category needed attention in the right order, at the right time. They conducted conversations with the community to determine what that order should be.
Step 2: Implementing solutions to real pain points
Those community conversations led to Unitas providing a remittance product, which allowed members to send money to friends and family overseas conveniently, efficiently, and cost-effectively. They also added ITIN mortgages and immigration loans to their offerings.
“ITIN mortgages are rare in the marketplace today, and then with the immigration loan — we knew we weren't going to get a lot of those flooding in through the door,” Wooden said. “But what we did know is that it would help build that trust in the community.”
Step 3: Diversifying personnel
Once their product lineup met more needs, it was time to address personnel enhancements. “We started with maybe a handful of Spanish/English speaking employees. Now we have over 50 in just about four years,” she continued.
Alongside changing their recruiting methods and adjusting their training and onboarding, they also provided elective Spanish classes for their English-speaking employees.
Step 4: Strategic partnerships
The right partnerships can make all the difference, and Unitas formed a strong one with their Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber and signed a memorandum of understanding with their Mexican Consulate.
Not only do these affiliations foster trust, but they also provide a platform to share the resources available at Unitas.
How AI integration and employee involvement brought continued success
For Unitas, translating products and services into Spanish was a key part of transforming processes and operations. What good are increased offerings if the intended benefiter can’t read about them in their own language, in their own time?
“Now, we have our website fully translated. And I'm proud to say we are the first credit union in the Pacific Northwest to launch a virtual assistant — or a chatbot — in Spanish,” Wooden said. “It just shows that we're continuing to evolve and grow.”
Alongside that translation, they also work with a firm to ensure the intention behind the message is intact, no matter the language.
“We've actually seen — hot off the presses as of July this year — a 37% growth in our Hispanic community, just as members of Unitas alone,” she continues. “To see that double-digit growth is pretty phenomenal.”
Investing in their personnel has also boosted their results, with employees responding favorably to these initiatives and embracing new procedures and offerings.
“We invest in them. We have, through the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber, the Latino leadership program, a multiple-month program with folks from across the local community,” she said.
They also partner with Inclusive, where they received their Juntos avanzamos designation — which stands for “Together we advance,” and is given to vetted credit unions serving the Hispanic community.
With continued relationship building and intentional DEI investments, their goals continue to advance with trust and authenticity at the center.
Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast.