The Path to Progress

Heritage Credit Union (Heritage) and East Kootenay Community Credit Union (EKC) are inviting both members and the public to learn more about the proposed  merger, and how we plan to entrench the important local banking system we have been collectively building for more than 70 years.

Why Merge?

Founded on an understanding that it takes local systems to meet the needs of local people, both of our credit unions have navigated much change through 7+ decades of member service. Despite all the change, and throughout all the growth, the vision at both EKC and Heritage still centers on the fact that local banking and local decision making are crucial in building strong communities.

 

While the traditional system of small location-based credit unions has served our communities well, the advancement of banking technology, matched with evolving member expectations, has brought us to a very different place – a place where some change is needed in maintaining the strength of the local credit unions that we have worked so hard to build.

 

As such, throughout the country, credit unions are merging in an effort to both strengthen and modernize their operations. Both of our credit unions see the value in this, but we also see the risk that some mergers can carry in terms of keeping service as local as possible.

 

This is why we see a merger between Heritage and EKC as the best path forward. Both credit unions have a deep understanding of rural banking in BC, and both credit unions actively advocate for each and every community they serve. While things like profit and growth are of high importance – they are not the true purpose at either of our operations. The purpose is to financially support and empower the towns and cities in which we do business.

 

We firmly believe that through this merger we can do exactly that. We encourage all of our members to learn more and to participate in the process by bringing forth any questions or feedback and by voting on any resolutions presented to them.

 

Your participation matters, and we are here to ensure that you get the information you need to make an informed decision.

Together Serving

7 Communities

17,000+ Members

70+ Employees

70+ Years of service

Greenwood

Slocan Park

Castlegar

Cranbrook

Fernie

Sparwood

Elkford

Member Outcomes

Both of our credit unions have conducted a thorough evaluation of the potential merger, and we believe the following outcomes to be true for our members:

 

More access and convenience in banking, including the expansion of EKC’s Member Solutions Center (call center) to cover all 7 branches.

 

An improved and adapted product line-up.

 

Improved technology, including the rollout of a new and more user friendly website and app, as well as new online banking systems.

 

Expansion of Patronage and Reward programs.

 

Increased access to commercial lending.

Community Outcomes

Both of our credit unions have conducted a thorough evaluation of the potential merger, and we believe the following outcomes to be true for our communities:

 

Greater access to grant and donation opportunities.

 

Defined avenues for members and community input – we are planning to create community advisory committees.

 

Growth of jobs and economic impact – wages of merged credit union would be putting considerable resources into the hand of local people.

 

The development of a defined community investment grant, which will aim to permanently support things like scholarships and donations.

 

Employee Outcomes

Both of our credit unions have conducted a thorough evaluation of the potential merger, and we believe the following outcomes to be true for our employees:

 

Improved career paths – the larger organization shows more opportunity to advance.

 

Geographic flexibility – the option to work and live almost anywhere in the region.

 

Remote work potential for certain positions.

 

More regional knowledge sharing resource access in decision making.

 

Improved technology and banking system tools.

Natural beauty, rural determination, local attitude.
How do you build those qualities into a credit union?

Throughout 2022, a committee of members from EKC and Heritage explored the potential of a merger and what a merged entity might be called. Here is where they landed…

StellerVista Credit Union

If the proposed merger goes forward, the committee, built of members from both credit unions, believes the name StellerVista Credit Union captures perfectly the shared vision and values of both organizations. The Steller’s Jay is a well-known, beautiful member of our natural environment across the Kootenay and Boundary region. It offers a unique, far-seeing perspective of our rural communities, and it does so with just enough attitude to reflect the unique needs of the members we serve without the limitations of decision-making in far off places.

 

StellerVista Credit Union is more than a name – It is our Vision for the future. It gives us the scale to explore new ways to bank locally. It allows us to share new skills and ideas, and it helps us promote long-term stability in the region. All that, and the promise to keep us current and just far enough ahead of a changing world.

We encourage you to vote in favour of the resolutions presented to you by your credit union regarding this opportunity to create a unique path for our shared future. Let's take flight together.

Question & Answers

Please submit any new questions through the form below

In light of a rapidly changing financial services marketplace, EKC and Heritage alike want to both adopt the right new ideas for our members and protect the personal, rural banking personality our members appreciate. We want to help you make a life here, keep it here and grow it here.

 

Merging EKC and Heritage is a proactive approach, that the Boards believe, will strengthen the Kootenay / Boundary credit union system.  This merger will allow the credit unions to keep the jobs, profits, and overall community benefits here in the region, while providing the capacity needed to improve and adapt operations in a modern way and for the long term.

We’ve been collaborating for years. Merging helps us enjoy the benefits of collaboration but at a reduced cost in that we’ll actually be able to share the load. That is the benefit of scale. We can be more competitive, reduce overlaps and keep our focus on the communities we call home. We can put more resources to work for our members and we can do with a positive, local attitude.

Members will have more access to local banking throughout the Kootenays with seven locations between Elkford and Greenwood, including two regional hubs in Cranbrook and Castlegar. The members of Heritage will be gaining access to a number of new products and services (such as a call center that is planning to be open 6 days per week). The members of EKC are expected to gain access to more modern technology, as the merger will enable greater resource re-investment. This won’t happen overnight – but it will become apparent over time and we’ll keep everyone posted.

The Boards of Directors at both Heritage and EKC have concluded that a merger between the two credit unions would be favourable, and the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (the “Superintendent”) has given consent to bring the merger to member vote.

 

During the first week of November, 2022, the members of EKC voted on rule changes to enable the merger, with ~90% of the membership voting to move forward. The members of Heritage Credit Union now have the final say in the process, with a member vote taking place December 8 – 14th this year.

The members of Heritage Credit Union are scheduled to vote on the proposed merger, Dec 8 – 14. Should this vote run as planned, and should the membership vote in favour of the merger, January 1, 2023 would be the first day of operation as a merged entity.


The rebranding and systems work would take place throughout 2023, and we expect this to take much of the year.

StellerVista Credit Union is the proposed new name of a merged credit union. We think the new name reflects both our commitment to local rural banking and this natural environment we all share. Further detail on the new name and process behind developing it can be found on this page.

No jobs will be lost as a result of the merger. While some managerial roles will need to change, the roles of staff are expected to remain consistent, as will the pay, benefits, and the hours worked. Over time, the merged credit union is expected to align roles, pay, benefits, and hours worked across the organization. It is the goal of both credit unions to hire and retrain staff into more modernized roles, reflective of the ever-changing environment in which the credit union operates.

While the legal structure of the merger technically involves EKC acquiring the assets and liabilities of Heritage, the credit unions have agreed to keep both voices at the table. The initial Board of the merged credit union will consist of 5 legacy directors from Heritage and 6 continuing directors from EKC. The composition of the Board will also be subject to a regional representation policy, meaning that any new candidates running for election to the Board will need to be located in the region that is eligible for nomination. It is important to both credit unions that the communities being served have a direct voice at the table.

Throughout this process, and through the course of past merger discussions, both credit unions have conducted financial modelling to build projections of multiple scenarios, including remaining standalone credit unions. These projections show a need to grow to remain financially sustainable.

 

In the province of BC, we are seeing larger urban credit unions making moves to acquire smaller rural credit unions. Both Heritage and EKC have been approached for this reason in the past. We expect that if the proposed merger does not happen as presented, the need to merge with a larger, and potentially non-regional, entity will present itself in the next 5-10 years.

 

Keeping up with modernization and regulatory requirements will be challenging for both credit unions independently, with Heritage facing more immediate pressures. Merging the two credit unions will help to alleviate this pressure.

A most notable cost of the merger is associated with converting banking technology and systems – much of which needs to happen regardless of whether the merger goes through or not. The next largest cost is the brand renewal and launch campaign.

 

We estimate the full cost of merger work and integration, taking place over the next three years, to cost approximately $1.8 Million dollars – though a number of these costs will be amortized over a longer period.

 

The revenue uplift we have projected far surpasses this cost, with notable improvements to our ROA, financial margin, efficiency, and operating income.

 

Full financial projections and cost break downs can be found in the member guide, made available to all members at each credit union. If you wish to have a copy of this guide emailed to you, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page.    

The members of Heritage will get to vote December 8-14, online and in-branch.

No, this is a new initiative. The prior initiative involving all six credit unions concluded in the summer of 2021, when each of the credit unions formally withdrew from the process due to the substantial costs and complexity of forming one regional credit union.

 

Instead, after careful deliberation of the most sustainable options to strengthen their services to their respective members, EKC and Heritage decided to engage in a merger process solely between the two credit unions.

History & Anticipated Timeline

March 2022

The Boards of Directors from both Heritage and EKC engage in an initial meeting on the topic.

May 2022

Heritage and EKC sign a Memorandum of Understanding to begin a due diligence process in order to evaluate a potential merger between the two credit unions.

June 2022

Employee and member announcements about the project are made.

July 2022

The due diligence process is completed, and both boards vote to proceed with an application for consent on the merger to the BC Financial Services Authority.

August 2022

The application for consent is submitted to the BC Financial Services Authority.

November 2022

Members of EKC to pass the vote on rule changes to enable merger, with 90% in favour.

The BC Financial Services Authority provided consent in bringing the merger to a member vote at Heritage.

Members of EKC will have a second vote focused on creating a new name for the organization.

December 2022

Members of Heritage to vote on merging operations with EKC.

January 2023

Given a favourable vote at Heritage, operations commence as one single credit union.

Questions and Feedback

If there are questions you have that need answers, or if there is feedback that you’d like us to hear, the form below will be delivered directly to the senior leaders of both credit unions.

** Your information is confidential, but we will need contact details if you would like a direct reply **