The Revelstoke Credit Union (RCU) celebrated its 70-year anniversary, marking an impressive milestone for a financial institution that has shrunk over the past several years in communities across the province.
With live music, free food, and activities for the whole family, the Revelstoke Credit Union marked its anniversary with a bang. The credit union has endured a changing landscape in Revelstoke by remaining committed to the principles that helped to form it — focusing specifically on the seventh of seven internationally recognized principles to ensure it met the needs of the community it has helped to build.
When the 18 founders of the Revelstoke Credit Union created the institution, they agreed to the cooperative principles that all credit unions must follow.
“The credit union system is all based on these cooperative systems,” said Jamie Hobgood, community engagement and marketing manager at the Revelstoke Credit Union.
The seven guiding principles are simple, but they’re an effective statement of purpose.
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Member economic participation
- Autonomy and independence (from the control of external organizations)
- Education, training, and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community
Since its inception, the RCU has exemplified all the principles outlined for cooperatives, but in recent years the RCU has paid special attention to the seventh.
“In February 2023, we dispersed $150,000 to 26 different groups in town and different projects,” said Hobgood.
Whether it’s camps at the skate park or igniting Grizzly Plaza with holiday lights, the RCU often helps to fund the community in a variety of ways, demonstrating its concern for the community.
The value that the institution places on community is intrinsic to how credit unions differ from commercial banks. The intent of a credit union, and certainly the local motivation to start a credit union, stemmed from a goal of prioritizing the local use of local money.
Money that is invested in the credit union ends up being loaned to local people and businesses. The dividends collected from interest on loans land in the accounts of locals, rather than a random investor who simply bought shares in the bank.
The entire institution is meant to reflect the community that it serves, but that means that the RCU has also had to endure the change long-term residents of Revelstoke have also faced.
As the population of Revelstoke grew, the people who moved into the community had their own financial service providers.
“[The] first time I moved away to go to school back in the ’90s, it was like ‘oh, I gotta go find a bank’. [People] don’t have to do that anymore. People are bringing their banking with them,” said Hobgood.
In a similar way to how the influx of residents caused pressure on the housing market, the credit union has felt its own pressure.
Hobgood explained that this has led the credit union to prioritize “making people aware of the importance of a small financial institution for a small town.”
This, Hobgood said, can mean making lending a little easier than a commercial bank to ensure that more members of the community can access and benefit from local finances.
As the number of people who don’t use the credit union expands, Hobgood explained that it has the effect of gradually shrinking the local financial circle that allows them to help fund local businesses, families, and more.
When Hobgood started with the RCU, he said there were about 38 different credit unions spread out across the province. In the seven and a half years since he started, Hobgood said that number has shrunk to 32, with other credit unions having to close or merge.
Resilience shines through in adversity and the ever-shrinking presence of credit unions in communities across B.C. has certainly made it tough on the local credit union, making the RCU’s 70th anniversary even more impressive.
While the RCU held its party on Saturday (Sept. 16), the financial institution hit its anniversary on Monday, Sept. 18, when the Certificate of Incorporation was signed exactly 70 years prior in 1953.