Vancity, British Columbia’s socially conscious credit union, has ruled out expansion beyond the province where it was launched 68 years ago.
“What you’re unlikely to see is a Vancity branch opening up in Mississagua,” Tamara Vrooman, the company’s president and CEO, said in an interview. “You won’t see us expand that way, but we definitely intend to keep growing. We definitely still see opportunity to grow in British Columbia and in this region and that will continue as it has in the past number of years.”
The decision was announced Tuesday at the annual general meeting of the credit union, a familiar fixture of the B.C. financial services landscape launched in 1946 by 14 Vancouverites seeking accessible financial services.
“There is much more we can do in British Columbia,” said a joint statement from Ms. Vrooman and Virginia Weller, chair of the Vancity board of directors.
Ms. Vrooman, a former deputy minister of finance in B.C., said Vancity “took a good hard look” at the option of expanding branches beyond B.C. “In the end, it was an easy decision for us from what has led to our success and what we think we expect our future to be based on our experience to date.”
Over the past three years, 70,000 people have signed up as new Vancity members. Most of those are aged 20 to 35, which Ms. Vrooman said confirms the appeal and growth potential of Vancity’s focus on social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
Vancity has a nationally chartered affiliated bank, Citizens Bank of Canada, which allows for such business outside B.C. as credit cards, foreign-exchange services and commercial real estate and lending support, Ms. Vrooman said.
She said Vancity will continue to partner with philanthropic organizations across Canada, finance businesses, and maintain relationships with First Nations across the country as well as other credit unions and co-operatives.
Ms. Vrooman said she expects, in coming years, that Vancity will gain hundreds of thousands more members beyond the 500,000 now with the credit union. “We’ll do that [expansion] through our model, not through establishing a new branch in Calgary,” she said.
In 2012, finance minister Jim Flaherty announced, through new regulations, that credit unions and caisses populaires would be able to expand beyond their provincial borders to compete with banks.
Until then, credit unions had been provincially regulated as part of a status quo that limited their operations to a province, although they could expand through sister operations in other provinces.
The new regulations were praised by some in the industry for allowing growth opportunities for credit unions.
After the change, Quebec’s Desjardins expanded west in 2010, buying High River, Alta.-based Western Financial Group for $443-million.