First Credit Union puts members first throughout 78-year history

Personalized approach remains key

A lot has changed since First Credit Union (FCU) first opened its doors 78 years ago.

In 1939, the first air-conditioned car went on display, Hewlett-Packard was founded in a California garage and RCA introduced television at the World's Fair. That same year, the first chartered credit union in BC opened in Powell River. Inside a basement room of the Rodmay Hotel, the first member deposits were recorded with handwritten notes.

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Over the years, advancements in technology have changed how people live. Back-up cameras in cars, smart TVs and virtual reality are now part of everyday life. In the world of finance, handwritten notes have been replaced with electronic deposits and mobile banking.

“Although access to accounts and technology have changed the way we serve members, what hasn’t changed is the personalized, hands-on manner in which we help our members and our community,” says FCU marketing and community impact manager Tara Chernoff. “Online banking, e-transfers and mobile apps are fantastic because of the convenience they offer, but they haven’t changed our approach of getting to know each of our members and their needs so we can help them strengthen their financial well-being.”

Members not only come first, they are all owners of the organization and have an equal say in how their credit union operates.

“We’re governed by a board of directors made up of democratically elected members,” explains Chernoff. “These are a dedicated group of individuals who live in our community and come together to represent the membership in setting the strategic direction of the organization.”

Members are encouraged to attend annual general meetings to find out what is going on in the organization, review financial reports and ask questions.

“Our members really do have a say and we are accountable to them because we are member-owned,” says Chernoff.

FCU and its subsidiaries, First Insurance and Westview Agencies, give back thousands of dollars to the community each year through scholarships, donations, sponsorships, volunteer hours and community programs.

To coincide with its 78th anniversary on Friday, June 9, FCU paid patronage in excess of $357,000 back to its members.

“We appreciate our members for their business, and with our annual profit-share payments we are able to reward them for their continuing support,” says Chernoff

On Thursday, June 22, FCU’s annual Community Impact Day takes place. All staff members will spend an afternoon volunteering and supporting local non-profit organizations as a way to lend a helping hand to local non-profit organizations.

“We close our branches from 2-5 pm to volunteer in the community,” says Chernoff. “That afternoon we’ll be volunteering for the United Way, Family Place, Willingdon Creek Village, Therapeutic Riding Association and at many other locations; just look for our bright green shirts.”

First Credit Union also continues to develop young leaders through its various youth programs and scholarships. This year, a new $1,000 scholarship honours Ruth Allen, also known as “The Credit Union Lady,” who passed away in January at the age of 102.

The scholarship is awarded to a graduating FCU member who demonstrates the capacity to save for and contribute to the cost of their education and commits to making a difference in the lives of others.

“With the co-operative model as our foundation, and with our members’ support, we have been able to grow the donations, sponsorships and scholarships we provide to our community each year,” says Chernoff. “We believe the personalized, hands-on manner in which we help our members and our community is key to this success.”

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