As a bilingual Latina in banking services, Maria helps to increase access to financial services for Latinos who are underbanked, thanks to the training she received as part of the UnidosUS Latinos in Finance Initiative.
By Hiram Cortez, Workforce Development Program Coordinator, UnidosUS
“I really love my job,” shares Maria, who arrives to work every day ready to make a difference in the lives of her clients. In her role as a Bilingual Member Services Representative II at Dane County Credit Union, Maria builds relationships with members and ensures they have full access to the financial products the credit union has to offer.
Maria started her journey at Dane County Credit Union in 2016 upon her graduation from the Caminos Finance program at Centro Hispano of Dane County. Centro Hispano is an UnidosUS Affiliate based in Madison, Wisconsin, and a grantee of the UnidosUS Latinos in Finance Initiative.
Through the 10-week Caminos Finance program she learned about opportunities in the financial services sector and found support that helped her obtain a job at the Dane County Credit Union. Since then she has become an example of how students can use the program as a launching pad: she’s is moving up at her job, making an impact in her community, and serving as a mentor for current students.
As a bilingual Latina in banking services, Maria’s work helps to increase access to financial services for the 28.9% of Latinos in the United States who are underbanked.
“Being bilingual helps me relate to the members, find their needs, and build closer relationships with them” she shares. The opportunities to help her community makes Maria’s job especially rewarding. “When there are members that are not aware of our products or don’t know how finances work, it’s really nice to help educate them,” she adds.
Maria also appreciates the credit union’s supportive and collegial atmosphere that pushes her to be her best. “You can grow as fast as you want here,” she shares, noting the abundant professional development opportunities available. She was promoted to a level II Member Services Representative after just one year of work, and now has her eye on the level III position. Given the Latino leadership vacuum that exists in the banking sector—with only 9.4% of financial management roles held by Latinos—Maria’s swift upward trajectory and her employer’s inclusive work environment are helping to close this gap.
More Than Just Professional Growth
Since graduating from the program, Maria has also used what she’s learned about personal finance to help her family get on the path to financial prosperity. Even after 20 years of living in the United States, “my parents didn’t quite understand how credit works,” Maria notes, “but through the program and working at the credit union, I was able to help educate them.” Recently, the family car broke down, and Maria secured a low-interest car loan for them. In the past, this situation would have been far more complicated without knowing how to access to quality financial products. By helping her family and clients learn about credit and financial services, Maria is making a dent in the 31.5% of Hispanic households in the United States that have no mainstream credit, (compared with 14.4% of White households).
Maria is thankful that Caminos Finance steered her towards a fulfilling career path and wants other community members to share in that experience. She gives back to the program by mentoring current students, participating in mock interview sessions, speaking at new student orientations, and giving students feedback on their final capstone projects. “It is very rewarding to be able to be there as a guide for other participants and see them grow,” Maria emphasized.
Her advice for those looking to advance their careers? “Life happens, things can make it hard to continue, but if you stick with it you will succeed!”
Looking forward, Maria says she would “definitely like to continue growing within the Credit Union.” She also wants to go back to school for an accounting degree, so that she can reach her long-term goal of working in the back-end of a financial institution in the lending, underwriting, or accounting department.
Why it matters
UnidosUS launched the Latinos in Finance Initiative in 2015 to train Latinos for employment in the financial services sector and to help employers hire culturally and linguistically competent talent like Maria. Due to the strong demand from the community and employers, the Initiative is now in 12 cities across the country and has enrolled over 900 participants.
Success stories like Maria’s show how the Initiative is helping Latinos start on a career-path within the financial services sector, create long-term financial stability, and concurrently help meet a critical need for quality financial products in Latino communities across the county.