Let’s Keep A Good Thing Growing

After several years of analysis, careful thought and planning, we determined it is important that First West build on its strong foundation by expanding its horizons beyond provincial borders.

This is why we are asking for your permission to apply to become federally regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). Becoming federally regulated will enable our credit union to grow and remain relevant today and for future generations. It will also further protect members’ interests through stringent regulatory oversight while removing the constraints of provincial barriers.

Learn more about the 6 reasons why First West wants to become a federal credit union

What It Means To Be A Federal Credit Union

Currently, First West Credit Union is a provincial credit union. Provincial credit unions are organized and governed by provincial statutes and regulated by the B.C. Financial Services Authority (BCFSA).

Federal credit unions are governed by the Bank Act and applicable regulations and guidelines. As well, they are regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI). The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) will oversee First West’s compliance with federal financial consumer protection legislation. First West will also become a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) for all eligible deposits.

The term “federal continuance” refers to the process by which a provincial credit union transitions to federal credit union status.

Federal continuance will not affect First West’s ownership of property, legal claims, causes of action, proceedings, orders or judgments.


As a provincial credit union, First West can only conduct its core business within B.C. As a federally regulated credit union, First West will be free to conduct business across Canada.


Under federal law, federal credit unions must operate on a cooperative basis. For First West, this includes continued adherence to the cooperative principles of “one member, one vote” and the cooperative ownership of the credit union. Subject to the Bank Act requirements for Board of Director composition, members will continue to nominate candidates—who must also be members—for election to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will appoint the Chief Executive Officer, who, under federal legislation, must also be nominated and elected to the Board by the membership.


First West’s Rules will be known as Bylaws once First West becomes a federal credit union. Until then, First West’s Rules will continue to be in effect, subject to any changes approved by members. In becoming a federal credit union, First West is required to make certain changes to its Rules. The proposed Bylaws, along with a full explanation of how they differ from the current Rules, can be found at our member materials page.


Following federal continuance, the deposit insurance program will change from the provincial Credit Union Deposit Insurance Corporation (CUDIC) to CDIC. CDIC is the federal Crown corporation that also protects eligible deposits at Canada’s banks. Learn more.


Our regulatory environment doesn’t change the things that make us who we are. Things like our culture, values and how we treat our members and employees will always be within our control. Through both First West and our predecessor credit unions, we have a 75-year track record showing an unwavering commitment to building a values-based culture where employees feel respected, included, and heard— this is never going to change. Cooperative principles, democratic member ownership and employee empowerment are in our DNA.

As a federal credit union, there may be small changes in day-to-day tasks or processes for certain employees, but change is nothing new for our organization. Whether the change is because of federal regulation or strategic decisions we make as an organization, employees can be confident knowing that they will be given the tools, resources, and training to ensure their continued success.

Becoming federally regulated expands our horizons, opens us up to future opportunities, and better enables us to ensure long-term viability and financial strength, all of which have a direct impact on future career growth and opportunities. In a fast-changing world where disruption is constant and jobs and skills are continually changing, becoming a federal credit union puts First West in the best possible position to continue growing and thriving, thereby increasing our ability to provide meaningful work for years to come. It also expands our talent pool and enhances our ability to attract and retain employees who have the experience and, in many cases, specialized skills to steward our members’ business with us.

WATCH: Let's keep a good thing growing for members | Otter Co-op

Otter Co-op is a large and profitable member-owned organization that is a part of the Co-operative Retailing System. They operate several different business lines including gas bars, grocery stores, pharmacies, bulk fuel, cattle/poultry feed, liquor stores and a brewery.

Earlier this year, Otter was looking for a financing partner to help them with an upcoming acquisition. Naturally, they first turned to their local credit union who had been a trusted partner to them for many years, but unfortunately due to the size and sophistication of the deal, their existing credit union was too small to help them.

When it was looking like they may have to turn to a bank, they were introduced to Envision Financial and uncovered we had the financial strength, resources and expertise to handle an acquisition of this size— a deal which would end up being the largest in First West Credit Union history. Not only that, but they would be able to continue working with a local financial co-operative that shares the same values and community commitment they do.


Let's Avoid Sad Goodbyes

Miles and Tara were members of the Valley First division of First West for more than 30 years before life moved them to Alberta. Their local Oliver Branch had been with them from the moment they arrived until the moment they left, being by their side for many of life’s ups and downs.

When they arrived in Oliver and experienced roadblocks trying to finance their business, Valley First was there to support them to see their business grow and thrive. When Miles’s mother passed away, his advisor was with him every step of the way, not only to help navigate the financial complexities of wills and estates but also as a listening ear when he needed it most.

Rather than being able to keep a good thing growing by continuing to serve Miles and Tara remotely through digital capabilities, the financial institution they knew and trusted was no longer able to serve them across provincial borders. As if moving wasn’t already enough change for the couple, they also had to add another change and task to their to-do list: find a new financial institution along with a new advisor.

A provincial boundary shouldn’t end a valued relationship.

What won't change

Your local division's name will not change

First West’s members love doing business with the familiar names they have known for years: Island Savings, Envision Financial, Valley First and Enderby & District Financial. These names will remain the same.

We will continue to offer the products and services that our members value

Over the years, we’ve helped simplify our members’ lives through trusted financial advice and innovative products like our Simply Free Account® and Unlimited Chequing for Business®. As a federal credit union, our commitment to providing superior products and advice won’t change.

We will still make decisions at the local level

One thing that sets First West apart from the big banks is that we make decisions as close to our members as possiblewe don’t send requests for approval to a head office back east. This will remain the same. 

We will still provide strong and caring community support

We are deeply committed to supporting and nurturing the communities we operate in, whether by providing sponsorships and donations, supporting the local economy through employment and procurement or through our social vision, Lead Well, enabling employees to give back with hearts, hands and minds. This commitment will not change when we become a federal credit union.

Members can still vote on big decisions like board elections, bylaw changes and amalgamations

Members of First West as a federal credit union will retain the right to vote on big changes to the way the credit union is structured, such as board elections, changes to the bylaws and whether to amalgamate with another credit union in the future. 

Our governance structure will remain the same

Although we will be working under different laws as a federal credit union—under the Bank Act instead of the provincial Credit Union Incorporation Act, for example—we will still have a Board of Directors chosen by our members, a set of member-approved bylaws (currently called “Rules”) that specify how we operate and a management team accountable to the Board of Directors.

"Standing still in a fast-moving environment creates the risk of being left behind. We must continue taking prudent, proactive steps to ensure we remain strong in times of change, uncertainty and disruption."
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Shawn Newmann, Board Chair

What will change

We will be able to operate across Canada

As a provincial credit union, First West can only conduct its core banking business within B.C. This will change as a federal credit union, with First West free to conduct business across Canada and as permitted by the Bank Act and subject to other applicable laws.

Additionally, we will be able to provide expanded and enhanced digital banking services to serve our members anywhere they happen to live or work in Canada.

We will be regulated federally and not provincially

First West is currently regulated provincially by BCFSA. Federal credit unions and banks are governed by and organized under the Bank Act and regulated and governed by OSFI, FCAC and CDIC.

Your deposits will be protected by a different deposit insurance program

Today, members’ deposits are insured by CUDIC. If First West becomes a federal credit union, members’ eligible deposits will be insured by CDIC, the same organization that protects Canadian banking customers’ eligible deposits. While both CUDIC and CDIC provide coverage, there are several differences of which you should be aware. Visit the deposit insurance changes page for more information. Additionally, you can download Schedule 1 for full information, a comparison between CUDIC and CDIC, and a list of eligible deposits.