The Power of People

August 8, 2017

Dear members and friends of CUA: 

Last month, I wrote about our recent efforts to advocate for common sense in amending the Bank Act so that credit unions can use words and phrases that describe our business activity - banking.  The issue has generated a great deal of interest across the Country.  From the many comments received, it is clear that Canadians understand and support our position. 
While there is still work ahead, I am happy to share an update as to where we are on this issue.

Together, our voices were heard

Since the issue became public in early July, the Federal Government and elected officials have been inundated with thousands of letters and email communications, voicing strong opposition to the planned ban of words in the dictionary.  These communications came from credit union employees, members, provincial governments, opposition parties and concerned citizens.  In response, the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Bill Morneau, requested a meeting with our national trade association, Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA), in order to discuss the matter.  Following this meeting on July 21st, we received word from CCUA that progress had been made.

You may have seen an article published by The Globe and Mail on July 24th titled "Morneau to weigh in on OSFI's 'bank' branding crackdown".  In it, the Federal Department of Finance was quoted as saying the July 21st meeting was "a step toward better understanding the potential impact on credit unions".  CCUA has shared with us that news on the issue is expected in the coming weeks.  While the details are not yet known, we are cautiously optimistic that Minister Morneau will do what is right for Canadians and the financial system as a whole.

Our hope is that Minister Morneau will take the action necessary so that credit unions can speak to Canadian consumers in a language they know, use and understand.  To be clear, wanting to talk about banking in no way means that we want to be a federal bank or deliver a "big-bank experience".  Our team will continue to deliver flexible products, personalized service and quick decisions because we know the local marketplace.  The heart of our business is the people we serve each and every day.

Our members know this and they understand that we are a regulated, trustworthy organization that looks out for our customers' interests above all else.  We are trusted, albeit misunderstood.

All of this begs the question of how it is possible for government representatives and everyday consumers to be in the dark when it comes to credit unions and the role we play in strengthening the financial health of our members and communities.  The answer is complex.

The challenge (and opportunity) to be heard

There are close to 300 independent credit unions across Canada in thousands of locations serving 5.6 million Canadians.  One would think that serving approximately 15% of the Canadian population would mean that people know who we are, what we do and how we are different from chartered banks.  The reality, however, is that we are not understood and it can be a challenge to be heard.  Research has consistently shown that, in addition to not knowing what a credit union is, the vast majority of Canadian consumers don't know what credit unions do.  Here in our region, the story is the same.  People don't know that, when it comes to banking, CUA is an option (according to our members, a better option).

Certainly, marketing plays an important role in helping share that message.  Over the past year, our team has developed a three-year strategy to help raise awareness of who we are, what we do and why we're the better way to bank.  In today's world, consumers see thousands of brand messages every single day.  Cutting through the noise to inform and educate consumers is a tall task.  Brand awareness is a lot like gold, incredibly valuable and expensive to mine. In 2017, CUA added marketing resources for advertising and digital media, prudently increasing our investment in this key area.

That said, we are a small, member-owned business, and the most effective method of telling our story starts here - with you, our members.  There is much work ahead, and like the issue we have been addressing with the Federal Government, the power is in the people. 

Harnessing the power of personal

Anyone with experience in sales, business development or marketing will tell you that the most successful way to welcome someone new is by working with someone you have.  Now, more than ever, CUA is focused on working with you - our employees, our Board of Directors, our members and our supports across the region. 

Every time I ask a member, "What is your CUA story?" I am amazed at the value we have brought to their family, their business and their finances.  CUA is playing a vital role in the Nova Scotia economy.  We're a best-kept secret, and we want to change that.

Open the door and introduce someone new to CUA.  Along with my colleagues, I am always happy to answer questions and talk about how CUA can be a part of someone's financial journey.  We may not be the right option for everyone, but we believe everyone should know their options.

With appreciation for your ongoing support,

Marie T. Mullally, FCPA, FCA
President & CEO