Frequently Asked Questions

Like many things in life, easier isn’t always better. First West’s partnership approach isn’t about making things easier for the credit union—it’s about creating real, tangible value for our members. Unfortunately, most traditional mergers distract credit unions: they’re focussed on banking system changes, rebranding, appointing new leaders and so on. We take a different approach. No new names or new banking systems or new hierarchies. Instead we focus on the needs of British Columbians—new products, better in-branch experiences, and improved online and mobile access.

There have been many and you can read about them in our annual report. Here are a few highlights worth noting:

  • Grown assets by $3.6 billion or 72% since 2010
  • Consistently grown our membership beyond target each year since 2010, bringing our total net new members to nearly 35,000
  • Launched First West Capital and expanded into Alberta and Ontario, with offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto
  • Expanded our leasing  business across Canada (with the exception of Quebec) and added large equipment leasing to our portfolio
  • Bought Valley First insurance operations from CUMIS
  • Welcomed Enderby & District Financial (2013) and Island Savings (2015) into the First West network

Members doing business through Envision Financial, Valley First, Enderby & District Financial and Island Savings enjoy some of the best financial products in the industry with our new Simply Free Account™ and Unlimited Chequing for Business® Account. Our investment in training and skills enhancement means that senior lenders in all our locations can now offer wealth management advice through our partnership with Qtrade Financial. Many locations across our branch network have extended operating hours and are open more days than ever before. And for the thousands of members who access our services outside of the branch, we are now at the forefront of the credit union industry in mobile and online delivery services.

We approach banking system changes in terms of what they really should be—business decisions, not merger decisions. We have enterprise-wide technology that can pull the appropriate information from our various banking systems for accounting, financial and aggregate reporting purposes.

Yes. Enderby & District Credit Union joined in the spring of 2013 and Island Savings Credit Union merged with First West on Jan. 1, 2015.

We have an extensive amount of information available on our governance approach and practices. You can learn more here.
 

With our model, we avoid many of the expenses associated with traditional mergers. Depending on the size of a traditional merger, millions and millions can be spent on signage and rebranding, marketing awareness, plus new banking and loans systems. These changes are full of risk, inconvenience to members and staff, and generate little to no real value for members. At First West, however, we’ve chosen a less conventional approach in order to invest in innovation, new products, leadership training and member rewards programs.

We’ve introduced two principal approaches to achieving operational efficiency at First West and in our local brands. First, we are a Lean organization. You’ll find a lot more about Lean throughout our website, but in a nutshell, Lean is a philosophy and practice that empowers team members across our organization to eliminate cost-inducing waste, improve processes and create better experiences for our members. Second, we have a strong procurement process—we ensure there are regular contract reviews and negotiations.

Our friendly, common sense approach to mergers and partnerships has caught the attention of credit unions across Canada. Currently, we’re pursuing partnership opportunities where legislation permits and where we believe we can create real benefits for our members.

We’re always open to sharing more about First West’s partnership model. We’ve spoken with dozens of credit unions from coast to coast. If you’d like us to come and speak with your executive or board, please email us at governance@firstwestcu.ca.