Sunday, February 13, 2011

Credit Unions, Do You Question Why You Choose Them?

This week, fresh from just returning from Ghana, Africa where i was volunteering with the Canadian Co-operative Association I received a call from a member. Oddly enough the member was distraught and questioning why he should be dealing with Leading Edge Credit Union. He felt that Leading Edge Credit Union (formerly Codroy Valley Credit Union) has lost its roots. The name was changed, corporate office moved from the Codroy Valley, the credit union merged with Brookstreet Credit Union in Corner Brook,  director meetings were not being held in the Codroy Valley any longer, fees were more than the local banks, and the technology that was being offered never matched the banks.
The reason I am typing this in my Blog is to outline that I was troubled by the call. Although I have been around for 12 years and most of the decisions he mentioned I was directly involved in, I had to think long and hard about his accusations. Yes the name changed to remove the physical connection as a result of the merger. Both Brookstreet and Codroy Valley credit union had to sacrafice thier name for the betterment of the credit union. After an extensive business case, the best decision was to move the corporate office, there were numerous reasons for the move, from renting to building, to future expansion possibilities. Fees, well its simple, we always monitor our fees and try and maintain a 20% discount from our competition, and I am confident we are doing that. What is really interesting is although the member did not agree with the merger to position us to be more competitive, allow us to have dedicated staff, and allow us to invest in cutting edge products, he complained about the lack of a money transfer system. We have a new money transfer system being launched in the next few months. This new service accompanies the expansion of taxation services, a wealth managment specialist, a commercial lender, and a dedicated risk manager to the list of new things Leading Edge Credit Union commenced since the merger.
I do take these calls seriously however, so I asked myself what can we do better to maintain our roots and give back to the community. Over the next few months I will be meeting with the members of the Board, my management team and staff to identify some options. The Business Plan for 2011 already calls for several initiatives;
  1. Display cases in the Doyles and Corner Brook branch to celebrate the history of the credit unions. We will be going to our membership to ask for any memorbila that we can display.
  2. More member education sessions that will deal with investing, and other interesting topics.
  3. Scholarships in each of our locations.
  4. Continuious support in the international development movement.
  5. School savings programs in the schools in where we operate.
  6. Staff are encouraged to become vounteers in thier community.
So the question to the general membership, what further social responsibilites do you feel your credit union should be involved with?

Being a member of a credit union you are part of a larger family. You can take comfort in knowing that credit unions are international and members are very similar. Most credit unions were developed as a result out of necessity, and members continue to appreciate the fact that credit unions help people. People before profit! This is certainly in the case here locally where we opened up in three locations left vacant by the banks, and one location where a bank wouldnt even consider opening. Members have the luxury of having a financial institution in thier community providing services that are competitive and convienently located. Internationally, you can walk into any credit union and feel welcome. They are doing great things to help millions of people. Have a look at this link to see some of the work they are doing.

Back to my delima, the member has the right to question the roots. It's one of the great things about credit unions. Members have a vested interest in the operation and they should certainly influence its direction. Being a part of a credit union however goes beyound the local roots. Its a movement that spans accross the globe. By supporting a local credit union, members are investing in others around the world. My work in Ghana, was supported by the members of Leading Edge Credit Union. The Board allowed my extended absence for three weeks so that I could volunteer for this worthwhile cause. I am sure that the recieving credit unions in Ghana would send thier thank yous to each and every member if they could :)

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