Credit Unions−A Personal Touch

I joined Education Credit Union (ECU) during its infancy in 1979. At that time, the Credit Union operated out of a basement classroom in King Edward School in Kitchener. Being fresh out of high school, I did not have a clear understanding of what it actually meant to become a member of a credit union. Today Education Credit Union serves the community through three full service branches, one in each of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. The ECU of today differs greatly from that single basement location of 1979, but a consistent theme remains: Canadians are still not cognizant of the many benefits that Credit Unions offer, nor are they aware of the strong presence that Credit Unions exhibit across the country. I believe in the credit union system and the many benefits that belonging to an organization have to offer. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to bring some clarity as to what a credit union and a co-operative really are and what they have to offer.

Who are we?

Credit Unions are financial institutions that are able to offer all of the services that a bank does, and depending on the size of the credit union, they may also be able to provide extended services such as car and home insurance, mutual funds, brokerage services and estate planning through their co-operative partners. Credit Unions differ greatly from banks both through their ownership structure and business focus. Credit unions focus on the needs of their members and their local communities. A Credit Union's shareholders are the members who use their services on a day-to-day basis because people who belong to a credit union, own shares in the credit union. As owners, members have a voice in the direction and mandate of the organization. What does this mean? Above all, this allows for an enhanced focus on setting investment rates, service charges and other fees, that best suit the interests of the members using the services, as well as a more local focus on community-based concerns. Credit Unions strive to be socially responsible.

How does a Credit Union differ from a bank?

By now, you are likely beginning to acquire a sense of the differences between a Credit Union and a bank, but allow me to explain further. Credit Unions are similar to a democracy. Credit Union members vote to elect the Board of Directors selected to represent them. When was the last time, as an account holder, that you have been asked to vote to elect a Board Member at your bank? Or heaven forbid, to actually be encouraged to run for a position on their Board? Yes that's right. At Education Credit Union, our Board of Directors are members and residents of our local communities. That gives them a special understanding of specific needs and characteristics of the membership. Credit Unions are also fair and supportive of all members, regardless of their personal situation. Every shareholder is treated with the same degree of respect and integrity. We excel at providing that personal touch when interacting with members and, due to our local focus and ownership, members are able to avoid big bank bureaucracy.

Who are we and why join?

Education Credit Union (ECU) is a full service financial alternative serving your community. We presently have over 10,000 members and look forward to the opportunity to welcome you and encourage you to become a member and grow with us. When you choose ECU as your financial institution of choice, you can be assured that we will take the time to listen to you, and we will hear what is important to you. We care about our members, and strive to provide top-quality, personalized service. Our autonomy has enabled us to be better able to tailor our services to the specific needs of each individual, whether through reduced service charges and fees, special investment or borrowing rates and opportunities, or through the evolution and availability of new services.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have worked for, and have been a member of Education Credit Union for over 30 years. I have witnessed the success of the personalized community approach to financial services throughout my tenure and I encourage you to join and experience the difference that ECU is able to offer you.

Becoming a credit union member is easy. Simply call one of our branches or send us an email at to find out how.

Join us. We look forward to meeting you at ECU. Visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.