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Enhanced member and employee experience at heart of First Credit Union renovation in Powell River

Renovations bring banking into 21st century
First Credit Union vice-presidents Kirsty Reid [left] and Marty Cattermole are looking forward to showing off the newly renovated First Credit Union building on Joyce Avenue. The project has been going on for nine months, and is anticipated to wrap up in early October 2021.

A transformation has been taking place at First Credit Union since August 2020. Now that the project is in the homestretch, both members and employees can look forward to an enhanced working and banking experience.

“Our Powell River branch opened in 1996, so there has been 25 years of wear and tear on it,” says Marty Cattermole, vice-president credit and renovation project manager. “The building required significant upgrades to heat pumps, lighting, roofing and windows. In addition to this necessary upkeep, the Board of Directors also approved an upgrade to the building exterior, which will improve its energy efficiency, and a branch redesign to better meet member and employee needs.”

Renovating everything inside and out while maintaining services for members means a lot of disruption, but the end result will be worth it, he adds.

“We are grateful to our members and employees for their patience and understanding,” says Kirsty Reid, vice-president member experience and wealth management. “We know that members and employees have been dealing with a lot of noise and inconvenience, and we appreciate everyone’s support.”

An important consideration during renovations was the environmental upgrades. Renovations to the roof, heat pumps, doors and windows mean improved heating and ventilation. Converting the lighting in office spaces to LED on motion switches will save energy, and the addition of a shower and change room will support employees to bike and walk to work. The renovation also includes four electric car-charging stations for member and employee use, and upgraded recycling and compost stations.

“We recycled or donated as much of the old building materials as we could,” says Marty. “We were also able to donate a lot of the old furniture to nonprofit organizations.”

The renovation was also an opportunity to consider the needs of members and employees in the future.

“COVID accelerated the use of online banking and the need for different technology,” says Kirsty. “More people have learned to do banking online and by phone, and now all our lending paperwork is done electronically. We were already moving in that direction, but with COVID we moved much quicker, and will be expanding this ability to other areas as well.”

Other member improvements include a contact centre to better support members, improved office and lobby space, and enhanced ATMs.

First Credit Union awarded the design and renovation contract to NewGround, a Canadian company that specializes in credit union branches and buildings.

“We knew any designer could deal with the building, but we wanted a company that knew what credit unions need in terms of technology and physical space,” says Marty. “NewGround has built and renovated hundreds of credit union buildings across Canada. They were able to come to us with suggestions about what was needed, and that’s been great.”

First Credit Union worked closely with NewGround to ensure local trades were used whenever possible.

“We’re very proud that over 70 per cent of the trades used for the renovation are Powell River-based,” says Kirsty.

With the end of the renovation in sight, First Credit Union is looking forward to having a flagship branch that will carry them into the future.

“When the building opened 25 years ago, we were a two-branch organization with $40 million in assets. With our upcoming merger with Union Bay Credit Union, First Credit Union will have eight branches and over $650 million in assets,” says Marty. “We keep growing, and now our building will be ready to handle what the future brings.”