Monday, December 12, 2011

Quick Holiday Tips to protect yourself from Fraud!

  • Don’t lose sight of your debit or credit card, swipe it yourself. It takes only a few seconds for the bad guys to make a copy.
  • Don’t worry about offending people, shield your PIN (personal identification number) and don’t give it to anyone.
  • Don’t keep written records of your PIN or social insurance numbers in your wallet or purse.
  • Use your home computer not one at a library or Internet cafe.
  • Don’t click on links even if you know who sent it. Instead, manually type in a retailer’s website.
  • Use a credit care with a low limit, a single use payment card or a reliable third-party payment system.
  • Verify secure connections and look for an https:// address or the padlock symbol on websites.
  • When buying from auction sites or unauthorized retailers, remember that legitimate goods are rarely heavily discounted.
  • Monitor your financial statements online and alert institutions immediately to any suspicious transactions.
At home:
  • Don’t leave mail in you mailbox.
  • Shred pre-approved credit card applications, bills and receipts.
  • Don’t provide personal information over the phone and don’t fall victim to telephone solicitations.
And if you believe you’ve been caught in a scam, report it to police or your financial institution immediately.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Merry Christmas

It's that time again when we all start scurrying around preparing for Christmas celebrations. The activities include shopping, decorating, planning, and preparation of sweets and meals. The atmosphere around public places slowly turn to reflect cheerful hello's and smiling faces. As Newfoundlanders we also celebrate Christmas as a time when many of our friends and family make the trek back to this Island to be with us. Simply put, Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It is a time for reflection and gratitude and certainly we are all in control of how we individually mange the next few weeks.

Personally, I look at this time of year as an opportunity to show gratitude and be thankful for all that has been provided to me. The commercialization of Christmas can easily create unnecessary stress as we seek out to find that perfect gift or get concerned about if we have enough for our family members. In the end, really what is important? The fact that we have friends and family around us this time of year trumps the one day that we embellish on gifts. There is a quote from Sarah Ban Breathnach that I would like to share, it goes as follows,
"When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives, but are grateful for the abundance that is present...we experience heaven on earth."

During the holidays, make one kind act of gratitude and truly feel the power that this Holiday brings. Visit an old friend, mentor, or family member and have an old fashion talk. In a world so caught up in instant messaging, and technology, take the time out for socialization. Do not forget the less fortunate and do something special and out of your ordinary character. The power of gratitude can take many forms and make a huge impact on someones life. I opened my mailbox this week and I had the below letter from a Child, Henry who I sponsor in Africa. The message is short, simple, but powerful. The main point here is he took the time to draft this letter and personally showed how I have impacted his life.

On behalf of the Staff of Leading Edge Credit Union I want to wish each of you a Merry Christmas. We look forward to our relationship in 2012. We certainly appreciate all of our memberships support of the last year.


I forgot to mention that I will be traveling to Uganda in January and will meet Henry

Friday, November 4, 2011

Movember week 1

Ok so the moustache is taking shape and I am trying to adjust to the little peach fuzz on my lip. I found this as another great opportunity to involve my kids and bring them awareness on how its important to support social causes. The first reaction of the girls is that Dad you are going to look silly! Once they learned however that I was making a small sacrifice of "looking silly" to support prostate cancer research, their focus changed. I truly feel that we need to involve our kids more in these types of activities if we are to create the next generation of society.
This spring I had the opportunity to listen to a child choir from Africa that did tours to raise awareness on the struggles of children in Africa. The Watoto organization invited participants who listened to the group to consider sponsoring a child each month to assist them with education and housing. My girls were immediately interested in having Dad sponsor a child and support this important cause. I asked them if they were interested in donating $5 a month each to the cause, and if they were I would pay the difference. They were very receptive to the idea and each month now they bring me their financial contribution. I would hope its through these lessons that they develop into responsible adults that care for the world and others. I have already seen evidence of their good will this summer when they assisted a store owner whose store was broken into.
We all have a part to play, and whether it is done locally or internationally it makes no difference. The important part is that we somehow leave our mark on a social cause that we can be proud of as an individual.

My Moustache for Movember, look out Tom Selleck

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Well I did not expect one of my co-workers to challenge me to get involved in Movember, but hey, who can turn down a challenge! Movember is a very interesting campaign to raise funds for prostate cancer. The challenge is to not shave your moustache for the full month of November hence Movember. The campaign has become very popular and is creating a significant awareness about the impacts of prostate cancer. I have printed the Movember Style Guide and asked the staff here at the corporate office to do a vote and select my moustache style. It should be interesting to see what they select! The site if you're interested in supporting this cause and my fundraising efforts is
Follow my moustache growing progress at the above link:)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Hello blog readers! I wanted to quickly comment on this photo that I took in Ireland while visiting there this summer.
There are two ladies standing in a busy downtown corridor and they obviously are selling strawberries. What is unique is the baby carriage they are using to transport the strawberries. It caught my attention right away, and although I had no intention on purchasing strawberries, one could not help notice the vivid color of the berries in the carriage.
The point here is that to draw attention you must do something different. I once had attended a seminar and the speaker of the day advised if you try the same old thing expect the same old results. If you are looking for different results try something different. Obviously these ladies found a unique way to market something so simple as strawberries. From a personal perspective if you are considering a new venture, a change at work, or simply planning an event, forget the predictable. Try something unique and different. We all have seen the Dyson vacuum cleaner commercials. An inventor looks at the common vacuum that we have been using for the last 50 years and says hey lets try something different. The whole marketing flaunt of what he offers is that this product is different, and solves all those pesky problems we had with our old vacuum. Oh, by the way, he is pointing out the problems for us, as many of us never even realized that a pivot on a vacuum head would solve all our problems :).

Today in a world of competition that expands well beyond the local level to the global level, we need to be different. What is your unique perspective?
Take care and just some food for thought for today!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jeffries Branch Member Apreciation Day August 2nd, 2011

Come out and enjoy a day with the staff at Jeffries location on August 2nd to help them celebrate their 18th anniversary. There will be prizes and food!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Doyles Branch hosting MEMBER APPRECIATION DAY July 12th 11am-2pm

The Doyles Branch is hosting our annual Member Appreciation Day on July 12th from 11:00am to 2:00pm. We will be having a BBQ, cake and live entertainment which starts at 12:00noon.

Message from Staff of Doyles Branch

Interest Article on Budgeting
From time to time I like to add links to articles that I compliment previous blogs.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Consumer Debt Reaches New Heights

Its no secret that Canadians are waking up scratching their heads trying to determine why they have little disposable income and they just got paid. With the average Canadian carrying over $25,000 in debt excluding their mortgage, the situation is grim. What transpired to set the stage for environment that lumped so many people together despite their income differences?
Remember the time when your parents saved for everything? Can you imagine saving for a car, or vacation? Access to credit has never been so easy as it is today. Credit Card companies are promoting their credit offering using numerous avenues. Each month the mail box is full, airports have kiosks, and even most recently in my travels i noticed credit card lounges at certain airports. These lounges allow you to come and relax in their dedicated airport setting. The concept is simple put more credit in the hands of the consumer not manage the credit. Society has fell into the trap of painless purchase. Saving requires work but for some reason repayment of credit seems like less work. I guess it could be labeled as deferred pain, because there are penalties of credit versus savings. The main penalty is called interest! Interest paid is a lot more painful and expensive than interest earned. So the bottom line is that we have grown accustomed to adhoc purchases using lines of credit and credit cards. The payments are small and as a result the debt lingers well beyond traditional loan repayment terms. Savings have been demoralized to a point where people are not even concerned about the rainy day. What are we teaching our kids? I am just as guilty as the next parent, new bikes, Ipods, etc are available to our kids and almost now to a point where they expect it. My daughter lost her DS game console and when I questioned her where it was, she replied "no worries if we can't find it, you can buy me a new one". In essence, we are not only making the situation bad for ourselves, we are pulling our kids into the trap as well. We are leading by example the concept that if you want something today, you can get it, no need to save and wait!

Want versus need. At our credit union we are seeing members finding themselves in debt stacked situations based on the want versus need theory. Young adults mainly just starting out are securing recreational vehicles, expensive homes, and carring large credit card balances. When you look at their total financial picture it's intersting that despite they recognize that they have no disposable income, they have no issue having loans for stuff they simply do not need.

Here is the kicker, it is our obligation as financial consultants to highlight to these people that despite their good intentions they are making poor financial decisions. Most times these reality checks are not taken well and they immediately want to move to the next financial institution who will grant them credit. The road to further debt has not come to an end until they have exhausted all means of getting credit, and then a light bulb comes on. In short, consumers today pay little attention about the financial pain or sacrifice of a purchase and focus on the good feeling of owning that asset. If you consider a question...would you rather have a nice new sports car, or ensure your child's education is paid for, most people put in that situation would choose their children's education. Why is it then that we cannot make this realization today when we need time to save.

Interest rates have been so attractive, the perception is that the cost to credit is not hitting our pocket book hard. When considering a new vehicle and the advertised interest rate is 0.09% our reaction is wow, that is a great deal, I should take advantage of that offer before it goes away. Dealerships have also got smart when it comes to advertising affordability for new cars. Traditionally a car would be advertised at its purchase price. The purchase price kept growing and consumers slowly started to think that a new vehicle is out of reach. So then they advertised a monthly payment that killed the pain somewhat until vehicle prices became so high that the monthly payment became high as well. Then they extended the time in which you can take a vehicle loan out for. Loans that started out as 4 years now were exceeding 7 years to repay. Vehicle prices continued to climb and so did the monthly payment so advertising was changed to bi-weekly and weekly installments to perceive that the purchase is now in reach. These ploys worked and more and more consumers found themselves buying expensive cars that also carried expensive maintenance. These large payments again restricted a person's disposable income.

So the big question is "what now"? If you fall into any one of these situations, you need to make a change today!
First, savings need to be revisited. You might not think you can save at this point but there are always ways to have a force savings. Leading Edge Credit Union has a monthly savings product similar to a bond that can be taken out of your pay check. With no limits you can choose a small deduction to get you started and on the right path. Pay yourself first! You pay every other company out there each month, and as a result neglect yourself. You will thank me Christmas time when you have money in this account to do some shopping!
Second, keep one credit card and get rid of the rest! You do not need a retail store card! The rates are high and the rewards are simply not worth the price of the card. Get down to one credit card that has a good rate and benefits that suit you. is a link to Leading Edge Credit Cards so you can compare what you have now. I would also suggest that you speak to your branch to get more information.

Third, if you carry a balance on cards that you want to close, call the company and tell them to reduce your limit to zero. This will prevent you from further using the cards and to focus on simply making payments.

Forth, apply for a consolidation loan to pay off your outstanding debt into one manageable payment. The interest rate may also be lower than the debt you're consolidating, which can save you interest and repayment time.

Fifth, dump the ski-doo that you only put 200 KMs on last winter. Recreational vehicle loans can be hefty and eat at your disposable income despite their limited use. This course of action is not for everyone, but if you are having financial difficulty you really do not need a shed full of toys. Recently I reviewed an application for a loan and noticed credit card debt at a value of $12,000 at 19%. The member had a brand new side by side, snow machine and motorcycle. Struggling to find ends meet was applying for a consolidation loan. If the member sold all three machines, the savings would have been over $800 a month. Consolidation is not the right answer in this case, reduction of assets which are chipping away at disposable income is the answer.

Sixth, set a budget. When you start writing down your financial commitments and matching your income, it becomes a scary exercise. Take the debt and really analyze what your paying, how much interest you're paying and when it will be paid off. credit card debt using minimum suggested repayments extend well beyond 15 years of repayment. New legislation has forced credit card companies to disclose on a consumer's statement the length of time it will take to repay credit card debt. This allows for a quick reality check of what this debt looks like. The purpose of a budget is to allocate your income to expenditures so that you can ensure an appropriate financial path. If you cannot commit to a budget, at least prepare one to bring things to light on your financial health. Here is a link to a budget worksheet on LECU website

Recognizing that debt restructuring has to occur is vital. Nothing can change with your personal financial situation unless you make it happen. The staff at Leading Edge Credit Union want to ensure that you are not alone. We are here to assist you with your financial future and provide real financial support.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bailey Bridge to Re-open

Gordon Cormier stands by the now-closed Searston Gut Bridge that connects Searston to Millville in the Codroy Valley. Mr. Cormier owns a restaurant near the bridge and says his business has been negatively affected by the closure. (Curtosy of Gulf News)

Congratulations to the Committee formed in the Codroy Valley area to lobby the respective government departments to re-open the Bailey Bridge. The bridge provides a vital link for people living in that area to commerce and leisure activities. The closure of the bridge meant long commutes for residents to access other communities and services. The impact on many of the merchants is certainly immeasurable as residents sought out alternative locations to do their respective commerce activities. We are very pleased with the news for the sake of our member's health and lifestyle. On behalf of the staff of the Doyles branch of Leading Edge Credit Union, once again congratulations to the committee and residents on making this initiative a reality.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Financial Literacy Series 101, Preparing for a Loan Appointment Vol 2

The day has come when you need to make an appointment to see your friendly credit union Financial Services Officer. Maybe it’s a car purchase, home renovation, or some other purpose to borrow; nonetheless some people view the whole ordeal as a stressful experience. Some people would say it is the fear of being turned down for the request. I strongly believe that the stress stems from being unprepared, and not knowing the lending process. If you are prepared for the experience you should increase your chances of knowing your borrowing position prior to making the appointment. So let’s take a look at what you should know about the applying for a loan with the goal in mind that your next experience will be a positive one.
First and foremost you need to understand your affordability position. Most lending institutions use a quick formula to determine if you can afford to make your payments. Simply write down all your monthly financial obligations from creditors on a piece of paper. This would include credit cards, mortgage, personal loans, and lines of credit. If you are unsure what your payment is on a credit card or line of credit, just multiply your balance by 3% to get a monthly payment. This calculation is used by most financial institutions. Once you have all your monthly debt payments added together, add in an additional $100 a month for living expenses. If you rent, also include this in your total. Ensure you are thorough with your debts and do not leave any out, as your financial institution will order a credit report and it will list all your debts. They will use the information in the credit bureau for their calculations, so if you have co-signed for a loan, ensure you also include that. Now that you have your total monthly financial obligations calculated, you need to focus on your monthly income. If you have a full time job that provides you a steady income, then a T4 or letter of employment from your employer will provide you with your monthly income. If you have fluctuating income from seasonal work, commissions, or various employers for example, dig out your notice of assessments from Revenue Canada for the past two years. Take your average total income for the year and determine your monthly income. So we now have the total monthly income and the total monthly financial commitments.  Our next step is to calculate a new payment of the debt you are applying for. Visit the Leading Edge Credit Union calculator tools on the website at: and input the appropriate data to come up with a new loan payment.

Monthly Income
Employment income
from all sources
Monthly Debt payments
Credit cards, loan payments, mortgage
Monthly living allowance
Costs considered for
daily living costs
New loan payment
Car $10000, 5 years at 8%
Total Financial payments

Total Debt Service Calculation
Total financial payments divided into income

As indicated above in the chart, the formula used by most financial institutions is called the Debt Service Ratio (DSR) calculation. It is calculated by dividing the total financial commitments by the total income. A benchmark of approvals is normally set at 40%. In other words, you should not have more than 40% of your gross income dedicated to debt payments. When you complete your calculations and if your DSR is over the 40% mark, your Financial Services Officer still may have solutions for you. In the case above this member has a DSR of 37% which is in line with the approval process.
So now you have some idea on your ability to qualify from an affordability perspective. Again the affordability is based on a formula and not your personal thoughts on money management. Certainly there are those individuals that can operate on a DSR of 50%, as well as there are those that cannot function on a DSR of 20%. The 40% is a benchmark that the financial institution will use. The next thing you want to prepare is a list of your assets. Assets are defined as positions that yield some financial value and in most cases can be used as security on a debt. Homes, investments, automobiles, recreational vehicles, and life insurance policies are just a few examples. If your intent is to use one or more of the assets as security, in preparation for the appointment ensure you bring along proof of ownership. Registration documents are the easiest form of proof of ownership and it will also speed up the approval process.
In speaking to Lisa Purchase and Donna Bailey who are certified Financial Services Officers (FSO) in the Port aux Basques location, they identified a couple of other important points. They suggest that you also prepare some questions prior to coming to an appointment that you would like answered. This becomes very important when you want to discuss a mortgage because it is more complicated. Having questions prior to the meeting will ensure you have a good understanding of what is being offered by your FSO. They also suggest that you bring identification as today’s legislation requires photo ID be presented before a loan can be processed.
At our credit union, rest assured that the staff is working for you. They are trained to provide you wise financial advice and guidance. We want each and every loan appointment to be comfortable and respectable. Hopefully the information contained in this blog will enhance your next experience. If you are a first time borrower, hopefully this information will take any edge off your feelings towards loan appointments.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Financial Literacy Series 101, Understanding Your Credit Bureau

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Credit Bureau? Credit Bureau or report is a document that is mostly used by financial institutions for the purpose of determining whether to grant credit to a consumer. The report is also used by individuals themselves to review and identify their credit rating. The credit reports purpose is to outline a financial history trend and also take into considerations such as home ownership and employment history with the intent of creating a score to be used for credit granting purpose. Financial institutions are heavily influenced on the content within the credit report especially the credit score. The credit score is tabulated after it takes in a series of information such as;
  • Types of credit in use
  • Payment History
  • Amounts Owed
  • New Credit
  • Length of Credit History

Although each of the above categories is assigned a different weighting ratio they all are important. For example the biggest influence on your credit score is the payment history of your credit. The types of credit in use would not skew your score in comparison to payment patterns. So why is the score important? Most financial or credit granting institutions use the score as a quick way in determining if you are credit worthy. The higher the credit score, the more likelihood of obtaining the requested credit. Equifax is the most popular credit report provider in Canada. Leading Edge Credit Union uses their services to produce credit reports when required on our members. Equifax uses a scoring matrix that uses a numeric scheme of 350-850 with 850 being the highest possible credit score. Each financial institution chooses their own level of approvals in which they would grant credit. Some institutions use only the credit score in determining approval while others use additional details. At Leading Edge Credit Union the credit score is combined with a series of information and is not the only source of determining if credit will be granted. In reference to a good score, 650 and above would look very favorable from our organization perspective. We also look at a person's character when determining to grant credit. Many institutions have moved away from looking at how a consumer has paid in the past or their relationship with the individual and focused solely on the credit score. If you apply for a prepaid cell phone for example the score will most likely be the only benchmark for determining if you are granted the phone.
What can you do to increase your score? Raising your score is bit like getting in shape; it takes time and there is no quick fix. The best advice is to manage credit responsibility over time and follow these simple tips;
  1. Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments have a major negative impact on your score.
  2. If you have missed payments, get current and stay current. The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score.
  3. Keep balances low on credit cards and other "revolving credit". High outstanding debt can lower your score.
  4. Pay off debt rather than moving it around. The most effective way to improve your score is by bring your debt balance down, not transferring from one credit source to another.
  5. Don't close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to increasing your score. Owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may actually lower your score.
  6. Don't open a number of new credit cards that you don't need, just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and actually lower your score.
  7. If your new to credit, don't open a lot of new credit in a short time. Manage your credit over time to build your score.
  8. Don't open new accounts that you don't need. Simply applying for credit for a purchase that you are not intending to purchase will lower your score. Shopping for a car, wait until you selected your car first before applying for the credit to purchase it. We suggest apply for a loan with us at LECU to get your approved amount, and then go shopping. Be careful however as some dealers will put your information through to their lenders creating inquiries which could lower your score. Bottom line, limit your inquiries!
Here are so more tips I found from our supplier if you want to check it out
In conclusion, your credit score is a very important part of applying for credit. It is also very important to understand how you can manage your score. If you would like to obtain a copy of your credit report visit

Friday, March 25, 2011

Financial Literacy 101 Series

In a recent report released by an Ontario Trustee firm which analyzed 8000 clients that filed for bankruptcy, the statistics did not surprise me. We typically link a person who would file for bankruptcy as being unemployed and experiencing a financial hardship due to loss of employment. However in this particular report 80% of the applicants were employed at the time of filing. The most startling statistic is that 55 percent of the applicants admitted to overextending their credit and poor financial management. To put things in perspective, consider that this particular firm 4400 of the 8000 applicants mismanaged their finances which lead to the bankruptcy findings. The Federal Government held public consultations between April 6th and May 27th, 2010 with an appointed Task Force to determine how best to curve some startling statistics on financially literacy. The task force defines "financial literacy" as having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make reasonable financial decisions. It is interesting, I attended a conference about three years ago when a speaker described that people if given the opportunity have difficulty making financial decisions even when the obvious pitfalls present themselves. He was speaking of the environment in the United States that allowed people to take out mortgages even when people could see the risk associated with taking out the mortgage. In Canada we have legislation and policies that are more stringent to prevent people from taking out products that could impair their financial position. However, the arena is still very open for numerous financial products to allow people to fall into a financial trap unless they have the appropriate level of financial literacy. In comparison, the United States allowed mortgages to people that had no down payment, extended mortgage terms up to 40 years, low introductory rate offers, and not necessarily the income to support the debt. Although a person with high financial literacy could look at this particular mortgage product and make the assumption that they shouldn't buy a home under these conditions, many Americans proceeded to take advantage of the lax rules and jump in without understanding the consequences. The speaker mentioned above, highlighted that despite the pitfalls, the fulfillment of the goals overshadowed rational thinking. Consumers were more concerned about owning a home, then paying for it. In Canada, credit card debt is soaring at an alarming rate. Despite the fact that the average interest rate is 19% of most credit cards, people overspend because the goal of obtaining something, overshadow the cost of obtaining it.

The Federal Government task force released some statistics that indicated 57% of Canadians cannot answer a question about the contents of a credit report. They also indicated that 33% of Canadians don't understand the impact of inflation on their savings and only 35% know that investments in the stock market are not insured. It is obvious that the majority of Canadians are suffering from poor financial literacy. As a Credit Union it is our duty to protect the interest of our membership. We have trained staff that analyzes all the details provided by our members to ensure we provide the most accurate advice. I encourage all the staff to remember that we are the experts and it is our duty to educate the membership on making wise financials decisions. In some cases this contravenes what a member wants to accomplish. As a lender there is numerous times that credit has to be declined and the feeling is certainly not satisfying, but it is the best decision at the time, despite if the member agrees with the decision. As a practice our credit union reviews those loans that have filed for bankruptcy to look for patterns. The majority of the loans indicate large loans with high payments and members with unsecured debt such as credit cards and lines of credit. Poor financial literacy is evident with the inability to understand the impact of making poor financial decisions. Over the next few weeks I will update this blog with very simple easy to understand financial literacy topics for the benefit of our membership. I would also encourage members to send me questions and emails on particular financial decisions they are contemplating or simply asking for guidance. Email all inquires to and I will ensure that all identities are kept confidential however share the responses on this blog. Stay tuned as the first topic will be on understanding your credit bureau. I also encourage you to become a follower of this blog by clicking the right side of this page. As a follower you get notified of updates automatically.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spreading the News

One of the commitments that was required as a part of the CCA coaching program was to share the experience. Although I love to speak in public, I was wondering on what angle would people be interested in hearing about this experience. First I was caught up in the topic, Africa. The topic alone would obviously limit the captive audience that I could appeal to, or would it? I questioned if a group like the Chamber of Commerce would be interested in this story when it involves travel and not related to any core business fundamentals. This is where I was wrong!! The topic yes is Africa, but the experience relates to many more topics. Topics like leadership, career development, economics, social studies, empowerment, respect for others, religion, and many more.
My very first captive audience was some of my staff who I could show how this experience was work related. How it developed me personally to become a better leader and learn the basics of coaching and mentoring. How these options are available as a personal development tool, and how we can assist others in the credit union system. Next I presented to a small group of friends with the intent of displaying how the people in this area live, and the challenges they face daily. There was also a history component thrown in and a general overview of the "travel experience".
My first true public experience was the fun grade 5 class where I turned the trip into a social studies story. I wanted to impress on the kids that despite the hardship this society encountered in their history, there is hope and prosperity. The importance of education, family and respect for each other. Bulling now is such a troubling issue that we can all learn from the people of Ghana and respect each other. It is important that kids learn there is a big world out there and opportunities will present to them  as their life advances. Following that presentation I was invited to the high school to present to three career education classes. The theme again was changed to focus on my career and how it provided me an opportunity to work abroad. I highlighted the importance of an education and key personal fundamental principles that I use for my own employment.
  1. Diversity- The ability to go beyond your job description.
  2. Attitude- A positive attitude that screams with passion.
  3. Knowledge- They don't say knowledge is power for no reason, it is critical to success!
  4. Commitment- All to often employees do not display commitment as it should be displayed, those that do, survive!
The kids at the high school had the opportunity to witness during my presentation that anything is possible with a little hard work. I was an average student to say the least, without any career aspirations. It was simply by fluke that I even made the attempt to get a university degree. However, once I realized what was at stake, I used the above principles to assist me in reaching my goals.
The most recent presentation was today to a class of grade nine social studies students. The message was very similar to the ones I outlined to the grade 5 class with a stronger focus on the social components of Ghana, and how they can make a difference. I remember my former teacher Miss Noreen Saunders coming into our class room, way back, and I mean way back, and telling us about her traveling experiences around the world. I was fascinated with the fact that you could visit Egypt, Australia, and other foreign lands. She inherently taught us that anything is possible, you simply have to make it happen. I hope in these presentation that some of the kids remember to think about ways they can achieve their own dreams. I hope they not only think about their own welfare, but the welfare of others.
Until next time..
Teaching the Ghanian Handshake

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Employee News

Tonight I had the opportunity to visit our retiring Manager of Lending Services, Greg Comeau in Corner Brook. Greg retired from Leading Edge Credit Union on January 31st, 2011, after spending over 4 years with the former Brookstreet Credit Union (BSCU) and Leading Edge Credit Union. Greg has been in the financial field for over 30 years in numerous capacities. Prior to retiring as the Manager of Lending Services, he held the position of General Manager of BSCU. Greg was instrumental in recommending a merger between BSCU and CVCU. His years of experience and humorous personality will certainly be missed, however we wish Greg and his wife Margaret all the best.

We would also like to congratulate Trudy Keeping, Branch Manager of Port aux Basques for accepting the Manager of Lending Services position. Trudy joined the credit union three years ago and comes with an extensive leadership background. We are delighted to have her take on this new role effective April 1st. Congratulations Trudy.

Welcome back Sarah Nash, FSO, St. Georges Branch. Sarah has recently came back to work after a year maternity leave with her son. Welcome Back Sarah!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grade 5 Presentation

I would like to extend a big thank you to Mr. Whitehorne and Mrs. Ingram for the invite to speak to the grade 5 class in Port Aux Basques on Ghana, Africa. I really enjoyed interacting with the class as they learned about many topics of this great Country. The questions were fantastic and all the students were so engaged. They all indicated that they learned a great deal about the people and wildlife of the area. Some of the kids came up after the session and advised they are making a goal to go visit someday.

The Grade 5 Class

The purpose of the visit to the classroom was to let kids know how other people live in the world. Also it was my responsibility to inform them on my mission and the good work that is being done by credit unions in that region. I provided them a video that showed even the poorest kids made a habit of saving their money for a rainy day. In most cases the money went towards paying the school fees to attend school. It is important that our kids learn the value of saving. All too often kids are leaving high school to attend post secondary school, or go out on their own, and simply do not know how to budget or maintain credit. There are not many financial management courses in school that teach such life lessons so its up to us as parents. The school savings program was developed for this very purpose. The credit union visits the school once a week to collect deposits from students and track their progress. Kids learn that depositing very little amounts can be quite rewarding. Parents are encouraged to support this practice with assigning a goal to the savings. The goal will allow the kids to physically be rewarded with savings and hopefully continue the practice in adulthood.
It was a pleasure today tying the importance of savings in the country of Ghana to the classroom in Port Aux Basques. Thanks again to the teachers and students for their support!

Toni with the Smock on

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 :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pictures and Memories

 Here is a picture of the very first credit union we visited. Wa Community Credit Union serves over 9000 members in the town of Wa. They are very proactive in micro-lending with a portfolio of over $700,000 dedicated to assisting small groups to access money for various purposes. Some groups have joined efforts to borrow for a tractor to assist them with farming. What is unique and very inspirational is the fact that they also have field agents that work with the borrowers. Simply lending them money is not where it stops, they provide them education on numerous topics. Financial literacy is the biggest topic. Members who receive micro-lending products are taught a series of lessons on good financial management. They are also taught skills in bookkeeping and banking so that they can understand how credit is granted and the importance of good credit.

We had the opportunity to meet a lady who is living proof of the success of this program. She received a small loan to assist her in buying a few items in which she could sell. This process continued with several loans as she expanded her business to now having a very successful boutique. It was a pleasure meeting her and as she describes it, she wouldn't be in the financial position she is in now if it were not for her credit union. As a woman in Ghana, it is very difficult to ascertain financing, however the credit union is there without this stigma, and these success stories are very common :).

Monday, February 7, 2011

On my way!

Well here I am in Halifax airport after my long journey from ghana, Africa. Arriving to an airport surrounded by snow was a welcoming site. I find at this time I am flooded with a huge mixed bag of emotions. First I find it hard to accept that such a trip would create such questions and observations that I am experiencing. Although we spent the full day in London, getting training on how to adapt to the shift in coming back, it still is hard to describe.
I am happy that I am almost home, and although I am in Halifax, I can feel the atmosphere that maritime people express. The warm smiles, the casual conversations with their friends and their relaxing type of attitude. It is a welcoming feeling!
Reality also now presents itself in numerous ways. Although I was working for the credit unions of Ghana in the last few weeks, my own work with the credit union was left behind. I am blessed with great staff that certainly held down the fort, however the feeling of knowing my return to work is near brings about anxiety. Of course then there is my personal life in my hometown that was paused in my absence. The anxiety is building on returning to driveways that need plowing, and to seeing my family again. 
I cannot discount however the void I feel by leaving behind my co- workers in Africa. The bonds I have formed with these people in the last little while h been such a rewarding experience. I know that the advise myself and my colleague from Ireland provided to the credit unions were very useful and will impact them in many ways. Its the personal connections that I will miss, as we certainly formed great relationships. My good friend Abraham, a new manager of Wa Community Credit Union, reminds me of myself when I first started with the credit union. He is facing the same challenges as I faced back in 1999. The system in Ghana is about 20 years back from where the credit union system is in Canada, so as a coach we have to remember this when making recommendations. When he advised me that he liked the recommendation I made that the board consider having Internet in the office so he can communicate with other managers, partners and continue assistance from me, it reminded me that our recommendations seem trivial but have huge impacts. This is a guy that has to bring in his cell phone to charge at the office because there is no electricity where he stays. They have very unique challenges such as delinquency levels of 20 percent. In an environment where it should be less than 5 percent, they lack the training, policies and procedures to manage this portfolio. I am confident that the material we left behind, the training we suggested will help him tremendously. 
My good friend Calistus, who was our driver for two weeks. The traffic in Ghana is unbelievable and you need to be highly skilled to drive there if you want to be safe and protect your passengers. Imagine being on a four lane highway bumpers to bumper, the cars next to you are not road worthy, people are standing in the medians tying to sell everything from booster cables to water, and mopeds and bikes are flying up the medians, and the sides of the roads. Throw in a few goats, chickens, and pigs and huge speed bumps that nearly take out the bottom of your car and you got complete madness. In the month of January there were over 250 people killed in traffic accidents, so now you can see why having a good driver is so important. He took us to the northern part of Ghana which is about a 14 hour ride from the airport. We did this in two days as it is not recommended to drive at night as again most of the vehicles on the road are not road worthy. Calistus, who makes a meager living as a driver, still offered what he could to us. He purchased bananas for us, provided us one of his prized guinea fowls in which he raises. It was admirable that he would do without to make his guests feel comfortable. He has an aspiration to take pictures as he can make some extra money taking pictures of funerals, weddings, and other events. When I told him that I would like to help him pursue that dream he was delighted. I told him I would find him a camera, thinking digital of course. However he asked where the film would go. This is another example of how I perceived things would be here in Canada, not realizing that a digital camera is no good to him, as printing pictures is too expensive. So now I'm on the hunt for a 35 mm camera, lol. He said he will learn on how to develop his own pictures. He expects to collect about $1.20 a picture which is great money over there where an unskilled worker earns about $50 Canadian a month. It was a pleasure meeting his family and I look forward to continuing a relationship with him. 
On our visit to the oldest credit union in Africa, we meet the manager Humphrey. He is a great guy that was so happy to meet us and quiz on business improvements. Over the course of two days we prepared a detailed report to assist him and his board strengthen their credit union. It was very rewarding to learn that the board before we were leaving started to put the report in motion. 
It was very interesting having a board meeting outside in the shade. In one case we even had a goat walk through our meeting, ha. The boards of all the credit unions however were engaging and were very serious about our recommendations. They truly have the people who bank with the credit union in their mind as they try new innovative things to strengthen their operations. They do a wonderful job in providing the poorest of people an opportunity to save and borrow for micro financing loans. Loans as small as $50 for seeds, were granted providing people with a small start to lift them from poverty. They spent huge amounts of time educating their members on money management, business, and other training. It was quite amazing to be a part of this. 

So many stories will be told over the next week, as now I have my Internet back. Once I get into work I will upload some pictures. Right now, I am pleased to be on my last leg home, and look forward to seeing everyone and doing numerous presentations on this experience and how it ties to leadership, development, and social responsibility.


Monday, January 31, 2011

The Oldest Credit Union in Africa

This past weekend we headed to Mole International Park. The park is the largest wildlife reserve in Ghana. It hosts many animals that use it's popular watering holes to cool from the scorching sun. It was a time we used to unwind from the long amounts of travels we endured over the past two weeks. 
The drive up to Mole allowed us to see additional credit unions in very rural areas. In most cases it is the only financial institution for miles. They provide much needed services for the many kiosks and small businesses in the area. Evidence of micr-lending were plentiful on the drive. Farming is popular with small areas producing mace, and cashew trees. 
The hotel at Mole was populated by different people who seemed to have something in common. Most visitors there were in ghana to volunteer their services. We had lunch one evening with two doctors who had moved to Ghana 5 years ago to train nurses and doctors for the region. Their story was quite moving as they had retired before taking on this humanitarian task. We also met two young girls from Holland that just finished volunteering at a orphanage for 6 months. Their story was equally moving. Time and time again we explained what our mission was in Ghana. I was never so proud to work in the credit union movement in my life. People were so impressed that we were there to assist our friends in Ghana. Everyone deserves access to financial services, regardless of the level of poverty. The credit unions here are so socially cognizant, it is truly inspirational. 
Today we went further North to visit the first credit union in Africa! Yes the very first one, and what a honor it was. The building entrance has large hearts carved into the cement which just adds to it's beautiful appearance. We were greater with open arms and their hospitality was tremendous. We listened for the better part of the day as they described their challenges and then we provided them guidance. We are working this evening on a report to assist them in their future planning. Again, what a wonderful day! I am trying to learn how to upload pictures so stay tuned! 
Reporting from north Ghana, where the temperature today hit 40' yours truly,


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wa community credit union

Week one of the CCA/Ghana partnership is now complete. My first assignment was for a credit union in the upper Ghana region called Wa Community Credit Union. The trek to get to Wa took about 14 hours in a truck which was donated by the CCA. Our driver Calistus, who is from the Wa region got us safely to our destination. I was partnered with a manger from the Cork region of Ireland. Barry was a second year coach who traveled to the Cape Coast region of Ghana in 2010. 
Upon visiting our first credit union I was surprised to learn they had over 9000 members and was a flagship operation for micro-financing. They assisted members in small loans to start businesses, become farmers, or other activities to generate income. The loans ranged in size from 5 cidi (about 3$ cdn) to 10,000 cidi. We had the opportunity to visit a small business in which a woman was given a very small amount in a loan to buy some merchandise for a store. Today she employees some staff and has a very successful business. 
What is very impressive is that all of the micro loans have been paid back with no defaults, assisting many people. It is examples like Wa community credit union that demonstrate the true social development that credit unions should be involved in. They see the value added of assisting a member, which in turn stimulates a community. They truly practice the co-operative principles. 
Cory in Wa, Ghana

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day before departure to Africa

In the past few days I had the opportunity to take part in some training that prepared me for my trip to Ghana, Africa.
In the beginning I thought the training was to advise of logistics, such as hotel accommodations, flight information, etc. The program however focused on two components, understanding the culture of Ghanaians and our role as coaches to the credit unions we will be visiting.  
I didn't question why we were going to spend two days on cultural understanding however at first I didn't see it's true relevance. 
The training was so valuable as it opened my eyes to how are Canadian culture and beliefs are so different from the Ghanaians. When visiting a foreign place we have these stereotype opinions prior to departure. I am sure if I posed the question "what is your vision of Africa"? Most people would answer poverty, safaris, political unrest, gender inequality, and maybe crime. Over the last few days i learned so much about this wonderful country, and the importance to visit it and cast your own opinion. In a wonderful discussion with a ghanian, Issac who was here on exchange he described the area in which we are going to visit and a smile immediately developed on my face. The people were described much the same as Newfoundlanders. Warm, helpful, pleasant, happy, friendly, hard working, innovative, with a strong tolerance for stress was some of the words that were used. I guess the message I would like to leave people and one that certainly will be enforced as my experience grows is to not make pre-judgements of people. Judgements of people are like any unknown experience. We all have opinions on vehicles we haven't driven, places we have not visited, or even characters we have not met. Our opinion is driven by media and social perception. We are consumed about discovering information prior to making a purchase or a decision, however sometimes we rely to much on our research which can be skewed. The true opinion is only available through experience. Unfortunately we make decisions based on research which potentially can present barriers and experience is then lost. If the fear I felt prior to me volunteering to take part in this program transpired, who knows if the credit unions in this country would have benefited from my knowledge transfer. Failure to act is defeat, and the good of actions are never realized. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ghana, Africa trip

The date has finally arrived. In 2010 I applied to the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA)for the opportunity to go to an international credit union to lend some support in numerous capacities. I was selected in the summer of 2010 for a posting in Wa, Ghana. Today I am writing this blog from Halifax airport as I await my flight to Ottawa for three days training prior to flying to Ghana.
I hope to be able to update my travel experience depending of course on connectivity. Many people are not aware that the credit union movement is worldwide. I was even quite surprised to learn that there is even a credit union in Afganistan! So stay tuned hopefully I will some interesting stories to tell.
Take care everyone,