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Van City's first remote coastal branch!
General News · 1st September 2015
Ever since Coastal Community Credit Union left our island, I've been saying that I should really find a new credit union, some way to bring my banking into better alignment with my principles.

When VanCity (Vancouver-based community credit union) extended significant business financing to our Natural Food Co-op, the decision was made: somehow I was going to switch my banking over to VanCity. They support us; I want to support them.

Their nearest office, however, is in Victoria... and I
never go to Victoria... It seemed like a long and expensive journey just to open a new bank account, so I hemmed and hawed and never got around to it. This summer, however, on the way home from cruising the Central Coast, I stopped in Alert Bay. And guess what? Alert Bay, also abandoned by CCCU, now has a VanCity branch! That's it in the photo above.

Being a small rural branch, they keep limited hours, but fortunately my visit happened to include a day when they were open. I immediately opened an account and got all set up for online banking. The staff were wonderfully helpful and friendly and it was all done in less than an hour.

Like so many of us these days, I have automatic payments, a credit card tied to various online identities, and all that mess to sort out... so it may take a while to make the switch complete... but I'm working on it, and hope to be CCCU-free in a couple of months.

I also talked earnestly with VC's Account Manager about Cortes, our current bankless state, etc. I encouraged her to bring back to her management the following points:

* Cortes is not that much smaller than Alert Bay (1000 full-time residents as opposed to 1300 or so).

* Cortes has also been abandoned, as a remote coastal community, by the "Coastal Community" credit union. We are feeling the lack of teller and lending services; both businesses and inviduals on Cortes have found their financial lives more difficult. There's a need here, and no competition :-)

* Many Cortes residents are strong supporters of the credit union ethic and of social enterprise in general. Many feel that CCCU has disappointed us by not living up to that ethic.

* Not all, but a fair number of Cortes residents, have modest-to-substantial financial assets; quite a few might be willing to change banks if VC made it a little easier.

* A visiting "bankmobile" once a week, or other limited service, would be a significant improvement on our present situation.

* VC might be particularly helpful in offering real estate financing; I seem to recall that CCCU was not enthusiastic about mortgage lending, even when they still had bricks and mortar here.

* VanCity has a pre-existing connection with Cortes Island, not only through its ongoing business relationship with CNFC, but because its higher-level managers attend workshops (on social enterprise management, iirc) at Hollyhock.

Personally, I am switching my banking to VC even if it's a bit less convenient because their practice seems to match their mission statement better than what I've seen from CCCU recently; because I am very grateful to them for the financing that I hope will boost our Co-op into solid prosperity and enhance our local economy; and because I
applaud them for providing counter service in Alert Bay, perhaps my favourite northern coastal community. I want to see our coastal communities not only survive but thrive, and VanCity seems willing and able to help us do that.

I am not sure what we can do to make Cortes Island look like as good a bet as Alert Bay for some kind of VanCity in-person presence; but I'm happy, nay eager, to discuss the matter with anyone else who feels strongly that they would like to see this happen.
Announcement of improved service
Announcement of improved service
Residents celebrate branch opening
Residents celebrate branch opening
Move to VAN CITY!
Comment by Steve Ringwood on 3rd September 2015
Good article De!
We moved our savings accounts to Van City
about 6 months ago. We are thinking of closing our account with CCCU soon.
Steve Ringwood
250 935 6960
Van City for Quadra Too!
Comment by Paul Ryan on 1st September 2015
I too, am less than impressed with cccu. They are a credit union in name only. I would be willing to put some effort into giving cccu thr boot and bringing Van City to Quadra!
Thanks, De
Comment by Peter Jackel on 1st September 2015
Thanks for writing, De. Thoughtful, informative and a clear, conversational style - easy to read. I agree with most of your observations. But I am an example of why the CCCU didn't thrive on Cortes. Basically, I just used it as a friendly, personable bank machine. I did most of my banking with the bank I have been a customer of for over thirty years. I have a line of credit with them I could never establish elsewhere in my financial circumstances and I have never had a problem with them. And the banks are very close by in Campbell River. Hard for a credit union in these days of online banking to make a case for a branch here. A mobile branch - maybe - but security is a problem and it would be expensive to operate. I hope you get lots of feedback.