Credit union service

Copperfin Credit Union service representatives, Catherine Weaver, left, and Diana Shewchuk are some of the first people you meet when visiting the Syndicate Avenue credit union location.

The landscape of credit unions is once again shifting with the potential merger of Copperfin Credit Union and Northern Credit Union.

The boards of directors from both credit unions are in the early stages of discussions and are exploring opportunities to bring the two businesses together. Upon approval, the next phase involves regulatory approval by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority after which it will go before the company’s members for a vote.

Dennis Alvestad, chief executive officer of Copperfin Credit Union, explained that the merger is a continuation of a process that credit unions in the North have been undergoing for years to remain relevant, sustainable and to make sure there are credit unions as an option for people in the North.

“Both credit unions already are the byproduct of several mergers,” he said. “Copperfin, for instance, when I did a little bit of homework, I found we have the DNA of 27 legacy credit unions.”

He added other credit unions in different parts of the province have gone through a similar history where they start off small and then realize they need to pool their resources in order to deliver value to the members.

Alvestad says the merger is necessary and the timing ultimately relates to “the world around us with increasing competition.”

“The rapid pace of change, particularly in financial services, has made it essential for all credit unions to explore partnership opportunities to give them the scale and the competitive resources,” he said. “At the end of the day, (we need) to make sure that we’ve got relevant sustainable credit union alternatives to our banks, well into the future and in particular, in the North.”

Alvestad pointed out that the merger will make a difference for people in the North, specifically Northwestern Ontario, by bringing a network of branches from Kenora to the Ottawa Valley.

There are three Copperfin and two Northern Credit Union locations in Thunder Bay. Overall, the combined credit union would create a network of 29 branches, from Kenora to Grey Bruce and Ottawa Valley, employing more than 250 employees in 25 communities. It will serve more than 89,000 members who hold over $2.3 billion in assets under administration.

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