Credit unions' cooperative principles and values-based services are what set them apart from other financial institutions, the leader of the Canadian Credit Union Association (CCUA) told attendees recently at a global gathering of 3,000 credit union representatives and partners, emphasizing that a continued commitment to putting members and their needs first is what will support Canadians, especially small business owners, as they navigate turbulent economic times.
"Canada's credit unions have a long history since their inception of adapting to meet the changing needs of their members and the diverse markets they serve," CCUA President and CEO Jeff Guthrie stated during his speech at the kickoff of the 2023 World Credit Union Conference in Vancouver.
"Let us join forces to take on the challenges ahead, not just as problems to overcome, but with a growth mindset of the promising opportunities for the future for us as a sector."
The conference taking place in Vancouver marked a significant milestone as it is the first time in a decade that Canada has hosted this global event.
In his address, Guthrie highlighted the unwavering commitment of Canadian credit unions to building a better future for individuals and communities, as well as their roles as economic drivers in the country.
Fostering financial growth by supporting small businesses
A recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business report showed that credit unions are the biggest lenders to small business owners, representing a total market share of 21% of small business loans. And an earlier study found that small businesses find they receive better customer service at credit unions than any other financial institution.
Over six million Canadians outside of Quebec are served by credit unions, with thisnumber swelling to over 10 million, or one in four Canadians when you include Quebec. And over 60,000 Canadians work for a credit union or caisse populaire.
By providing tailor-made financial services and personalized support, credit unions enable small businesses to thrive byprioritizing members’ needs and aspirations, fostering a collaborative and supportive environment for business owners.
"From the start, the success of credit unions has been, and always will be, people helping people. It's in our DNA and spelled out in our guiding principles," Guthrie continued in his speech.
One key advantage of credit unions for small businesses is their willingness to extend loans and lines of credit. With a deep understanding of local markets and a focus on building relationships, credit unions offer flexible lending solutions and competitive interest rates, empowering small businesses to access the capital they need to expand operations, invest in new ventures, and create jobs.
Within Canada's financial sector, credit unions have been leaders in advancing gender parity, with 34% of board directors and 30% of CEO positions currently held by women - with a much higher percentage of women occupying senior leadership positions.
Amidst the challenges of income inequality, financial uncertainty, and evolving regulations, Guthrie called for unity and collective action within the credit union sector, emphasizing the power of the cooperative spirit that unites credit unions globally while recognizing its potential to effect positive change.
As WCUC 2023 progresses, participants are poised to collaborate, innovate, and celebrate the credit union movement. The future of Canadian credit unions and their global impact appears promising, driven by its members' collective efforts and dedication.
To learn more about credit unions in Canada, visit canadascreditunions.ca.