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No closures or layoffs expected in Heritage Credit Union merger

If Heritage Credit Union and East Kootenay Community Credit Union merge, it would not result in the loss of any branches or employees, Heritage’s interim CEO says.

“Our intent is not to have any branch closures or any staff disadvantaged by this,” says Doug Eveneshen. “It’s a great opportunity for us to provide better coverage throughout the Kootenays and Boundary. We’re pretty excited about it.”

The two credit unions announced last week that they are thinking about joining forces and have signed a memorandum of understanding. It follows broader talks between seven credit unions in the Kootenay-Boundary that fell apart last year.

Eveneshen says while that amalgamation didn’t happen, there is still a case to be made for consolidation and collaboration. He says Heritage and East Kootenay have similar-sized memberships with no overlap of branches. “It is a partnership of equals,” he says.

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Heritage has 7,015 members, 32 employees and $256 million in assets with branches in Castlegar, Slocan Park, and Greenwood while East Kootenay has 10,936 members, 48 employees and $456 million in assets with branches in Cranbrook, Elkford, Fernie, and Sparwood.

“It’s a great fit from a geographic presence,” Eveneshen says. “We have similar philosophies. Both of our staff belong to the same union and the same union local. It’s a really good marriage.”

Eveneshen says both credit unions are “somewhat resource constrained” in adopting new technology to how members interact with them, such as enhancements to mobile apps.

Joining forces would provide them with the scale to enhance ways their members do business, he says.

“We’re hoping to engage in new and innovative ways with the membership, and have more service available to them. It’s definitely member-focused, this combination.”

He says they have already looked at how their products and services fit together. However, the merger process will take several months at a minimum. If both institutions agree they want to proceed, they will submit an application to their regulator, the BC Financial Services Authority. If that body grants its consent, the idea will be voted on by the memberships.

Eveneshen said assuming those things are successful, their goal is to complete the merger by early next year.

It’s the second local credit union to announce that it is in merger talks. Grand Forks Credit Union recently announced that it is discussing joining forces with Gulf and Fraser Fisherman’s Credit Union of the Lower Mainland.

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