Members of a local credit union will soon have their say on whether to join forces with another institution.
Account holders at Heritage Credit Union, which has branches in Castlegar, Slocan Park, and Greenwood, will vote Dec. 8 to 14 online an in person on whether to merge with East Kootenay Community Credit Union, which has branches in Cranbrook, Elkford, Fernie, and Sparwood.
The arrangement, announced in June, has already been approved by the BC Financial Services Authority and East Kootenay members, who voted about 90 per cent in favour early this month. If approved by Heritage members as well, the new institution would be known as StellerVista and come into existence on Jan. 1.
In a website jointly established by the two credit unions, they explained the name pays tribute to the “unique, far-seeing perspective” of the Stellar’s Jay.
Townhall meetings are planned this week on the move ahead of voting: Castlegar on Tuesday at the Sandman Hotel; Greenwood on Wednesday at the McArthur Centre/community hall; and Slocan Park on Thursday at the community hall.
All three meetings start at 6:30 p.m.
The two institutions say the merger will allow them to improve their operations at a reduced cost. In addition to continuing to be able to do their banking at the seven branches, the combined credit union would have a call centre open six days a week, and there would be other technological investments.
No jobs will be lost as a result of the merger, although some managerial roles are expected to change.
The first board of the merged credit union will consist of five directors from Heritage and six from East Kootenay. Future boards will also be subject to regional representation.
The credit unions say if the merger does not go ahead, they will expect to need to merge with a larger institution, potentially from outside the region, in the next five to 10 years.
They say the merger is expected to cost $1.8 million over three years, but the institutions say a lot of that has to do with converting banking technology and systems that will need to happen regardless of whether the amalgamation goes ahead. The second largest cost is the branding and launch campaign.
Heritage and East Kootenay were previously part of larger amalgamation talks a few years ago involving Kootenay Savings, Nelson and District, Columbia Valley, and Grand Forks that was called off last year due to rising costs and the complexity of forming a single regional credit union.