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Island Savings talking merger with First West Credit Union
The Island Savings’ promised ‘banking experience’ could sure grow if the Duncan-based credit union joins First West Credit Union.
Boards of Island Savings and First West said Wednesday they’re having “exploratory discussions” about the merger that would see First West own Island Savings.
“Through First West Credit Union’s one-of-a-kind partnership model, Island Savings would retain its local brand, local leadership and island community focus,” a press release from IS board chairman James McKenzie said.
No branch closures or staff layoffs would occur, the credit unions’ brass explain, touting boosted lending capacity to small- and mid-size businesses.
But before finalizing a deal, the two credit unions must do “due diligence” and seek provincial regulator consent through the Financial Institutions Commission.
The merger also requires a vote from Island Savings’ 60,000 or so members in around February, said IS CEO Rod Dewar.
His head office would stay in Duncan where community contracts, such as Island Savings Centre funding, will remain status quo.
Dewar echoed McKenzie’s notion joining First West will allow IS to grow faster than it may have on its own.
“Together, our credit unions will have greater resiliency to market fluctuations and be more agile in meeting our members’ needs today and into the future,” McKenzie says.
Added Dewar: “This merger would take us from being a mid-tier player to something much larger. Our lending cap would also more than double.”
Dewar dismissed notions his larger credit union would become another a fat-cat bank.
“Not true. We’ll remain a local business making local decisions.”
First West’s partnership model has proven a boon to other B.C. credit unions, including Envision Financial, Valley First and most recently, Enderby & District Financial, McKenzie says.
“We’ve been really impressed with Island Savings’ member focus, financial strength and commitment to local island communities,” says Shawn Neumann, First West’s chairman.
“They’re definitely a like-minded credit union that shares our perspective that co-operative banking should be about creating real value for our members and being the best option for British Columbians who know the value of banking locally.”
The merger would mean one of B.C.’s most extensive credit union networks spanning the central and south island and Gulf Islands, through the Fraser Valley, north to Kitimat and throughout the Okanagan, Thompson and Similkimeen valleys.
Led by Launi Skinner, First West is B.C.’s third-largest credit union with $7.1 billion in assets under administration, more than 171,000 members, close to 1,300 employees, and 40 branches throughout the province.
Island Savings is a Top-50 Best Employer and Top-30 Greenest Companies in Canada, offering financial, insurance and investment advice and products to some 100,000 islanders while managing a total portfolio of $2.8 billion.