Six important reasons to become a federal credit union

A YES vote is a vote to keep the good thing we have today growing for future generations. It is a vote to strengthen and preserve our local ties and community investment and power this presence with greater scale and investment in technology. It’s a vote to give your local credit union more options for responsible, thoughtful growth and it’s a vote to level the playing field so that we can compete fairly with fintechs and banks that do not face the same restrictions that we do.

Here’s the key: As a federal credit union, we’ll be stronger because we’ll have opportunities to grow and remain relevant today and for future generations.  We’ll be in a better position to thrive no matter what the future holds. We’ll be able to keep a good thing growing.

Learn more about the 6 important reasons below.

Reason #1- Improve efficiency and create capacity by welcoming other credit unions into our model

For more than a decade, First West has demonstrated that our multi-brand business model can be successful at working local while also leveraging the strength of our collective size. Together Island Savings, Envision Financial, Valley First and Enderby & District Financial have been able to provide more value for members than they could have on their own. Since coming together as First West, we have been able to:

  • Eliminate or reduce every-day banking fees through best-in-class products. For example, members who hold our no-fee Simply Free Account® (launched in 2012) save approximately $190 in banking fees every year.¹
  • Introduce leading online and mobile banking technologies. First West was the first credit union in Canada to release a new mobile app, online banking portal and public website using the Forge Digital Banking Platform. This superior digital experience made it simpler, more intuitive and efficient for members to interact with us.
  • Safely serve members through our Member Advice Centre. Launched in 2015, our Member Advice Centre has responded to more than 1 million member calls. When COVID-19 required our members to bank differently to stay safe—and keep others safe—our Member Advice Centre was able to pivot, increasing its size and offerings in order to meet the demand.
  • Lead in our communities when they needed us most. Together as First West, the credit union has invested more than $28.1 million into our communities since 2010. In addition, throughout the COVID-19 crisis First West has been “in it together” with our communities, contributing more than $1.6 million in 2020 to local organizations to help with their pandemic recovery efforts.

We do not intend at this time to grow across Canada by building new branches in communities outside of B.C. However, new branches in other provinces may be added to First West’s branch network through any successful merger with other like-minded credit unions.

1 Average monthly fees are based on products with comparable features at major Canadian banks as at February 19, 2021


WATCH: Let's keep a good thing growing for members | Back on Track Program

Over the last couple of years, our members and communities have faced tremendous financial and personal hardships, like never before. Between the pandemic and wildfires, combined with other challenges like job loss, marital breakdowns and the passing of relatives, our members have needed their financial institution to be there for them.

One of the teams at the forefront of supporting members through difficult times is our Special Accounts team. They’ve consistently found creative solutions to ensure members come out of challenging periods ready to thrive. Originally this program was created by our Envision Financial region and when Island Savings, Valley First and Enderby & District Financial joined First West the program was rolled out to them as well— enabling us to help even more members across B.C. In 2020 alone, our Special Accounts team had over 4,800 conversations with members.

Learn about the incredible impact this team is having in our members’ lives.


Reason #2- Meet and anticipate the digital needs of our members.

Members use and expect more digital solutions to manage their finances. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand and preference for more non-physical service options. These technologies and digital solutions, however, require significant financial and resource investments by the credit union. To achieve a reasonable return on investment for digital innovation, we would benefit from access to the larger Canadian market.

Reason #3- Further protect members’ interests through stringent regulatory oversight.

Federal credit unions receive some of the highest levels of prudential oversight afforded to financial institutions in Canada through bodies such as OSFI, FCAC and CDIC. Stringent regulatory requirements protect our members’ interests and help us continually strengthen and improve our practices.

Reason #4- Extend banking services to existing members beyond B.C.

For many members, business and personal lives extend beyond B.C., whether through out-of-province job transfers, new business opportunities, children attending university or aging parents in other regions of the country. We can continue to serve our members and meet their needs outside of the province more fully by becoming federally regulated.

Watch the story of our Island Savings’ member Level Ground and how federal continuance will enable us to continue to grow alongside them.

WATCH: Let's keep a good thing growing for member | Ecopave Systems

Ecopave Systems is a leader in hot-in-place asphalt recycling based out of Kamloops. Their success in B.C. has opened doors in other provinces that are looking to leverage their environmentally-friendly solution for work which would have typically been completed with traditional asphalt solutions. Ecopave has a long, positive history as a member of Valley First, but unfortunately being provincially regulated limits how we can support them outside of B.C.

Becoming federally regulated will put us in a position to help our commercial members like Ecopave systems to ensure they continue to grow and thrive.

Reason #5- Diversify markets and reduce the impact of regional economic downturns.

Since First West must operate in a single-province market, there is a risk to the credit union and its members if the province faces a significant economic downturn. By serving members and growing First West thoughtfully across Canada, we have greater opportunity to withstand regional economic dips or recessions.

Reason #6- Attract and develop skilled employees to lead and safeguard our members’ assets.

With growth comes the need to attract and retain employees who have the experience and specialized skill to steward members’ business with the credit union. As a federally regulated credit union, First West believes it can attract a broader range of skilled applicants from across Canada in critical areas such as cybersecurity, risk management, digital services and technology, and provide compelling career paths for current employees.