Banking with a credit union: here's what it actually means for Canadians

Nov 15 2021, 4:45 pm

Banking. It’s a part of modern life, but who you choose to bank with can have a bigger impact on your future than you might imagine.

First things first, while credit unions provide traditional banking services, they are more than traditional banks; they’re local, community-based, member-owned, full-service financial cooperatives that put their members’ dreams and needs first.

Yes, they offer online banking services with chequing and savings accounts and access to ding-free ATMs on a massive network, in addition to business loans and investment advice. But did you know they provide mortgages, too?

Credit unions in Canada are regulated on either a provincial or federal level, all members have a say in how their particular credit union operates, and they can vote for who they want to see on its board of directors. This is just where it starts.

There may be more credit unions in Canada than you think. The figures reported in the Canadian Credit Union Association’s 2020-2021 Community and Economic Impact Report show that from coast to coast, there are over 200 credit unions in Canada, serving over 5.9 million Canadians and governed by 2,521 volunteer directors.

To benefit the members and communities they serve, most credit unions invest their profits back into these areas. Throughout the pandemic, credit unions worked hard to support their communities, offering eligible members CEBA loans and other government financial assistance programs.

For small business owners, credit unions administered more than $2 billion in loans. Additionally, they also provided over 80,000 mortgage deferrals which in turn protected the housing market and provided support for groups that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

In Saskatchewan, Conexus Credit Union launched the $200,000 Conexus Kindness Capital Fund (CKC Fund), inviting people across the province to nominate individuals and businesses in their communities who responded to the pandemic in extraordinary ways. The fund recipients were each granted $5,000 across five areas of need: mental health, shelter, food security, elder care, and healthcare and supplies.

Stacey Liang, a Regina-based dream broker at Albert Community School, was among the recipients. Her work involves fostering relationships between families and sport, culture, and recreation organizations by supporting those facing financial barriers to participation. She recently worked with different organizations to create an activity kit for families with kids who are attending either Albert or Kitchener School. Many are experiencing poverty, and the kits include everything from hygiene products to healthy snacks or meals and mental health activities. To date, Liang has supported her community by delivering over 516 of these kits.

Regina-based designer Dean Renwick is another recipient who made an outstanding contribution to his community, including seniors and those who live with compromised immunity. He shifted from sewing garments to masks and personal protective equipment that he could donate, and together with his family, reconfigured his studio into a production space. As the project evolved, the family delivered over 7,000 masks, 100 surgical gowns, and 60 aprons.

In addition to supporting members and investing in their communities, Canada’s Credit Unions continue to excel when it comes to customer experience. This year, credit unions received the overall Ipsos Customer Service Excellence Award for 2021.

But this isn’t the first time Canada’s Credit Unions has won — it marks the 17th consecutive year, demonstrating the high standard of service provided to members time and time again. “This recognition is truly a reflection of the member-focused service credit unions provide,” said President and CEO of the Canadian Credit Union Association, Martha Durdin.

“Credit unions have especially demonstrated this through their response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Even in times of uncertainty and stress, placing their members and communities first has always been a constant priority.”

To learn more about becoming a member of a credit union in Canada and the impact that changing where you bank can have, visit canadascreditunions.ca.

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