DUNCAN, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Sept. 11, 2013) - The boards of Island Savings and First West Credit Union announced today they are undertaking exploratory discussions that would see Island Savings join First West Credit Union.

Through First West Credit Union's one of a kind partnership model, Island Savings would retain its local brand, local leadership and Island community focus.

"I'm really pleased with the decision our board made to engage in discussions with First West," says James McKenzie, board chair of Island Savings. "We believe the timing is right to look ahead at opportunities to strengthen our future while building on our strong foundation for the benefit of our members, our employees and the communities we serve on the Islands. Together our credit unions will have greater resiliency to market fluctuations and be more agile in meeting our members' needs today and into the future."

"First West's unique partnership model has proven to be beneficial to other credit unions in British Columbia, including Envision Financial, Valley First and most recently, Enderby & District Financial," shares McKenzie. "First West's focus is on ensuring credit unions like ours have the ability to stay and act local-from keeping our name to maintaining local decision making."

McKenzie adds that beyond its unique model, First West stood out because of its financial strength and its competitive banking products for consumers. "First West offers some very impressive and competitive products and services for its members such as its Simply Free Account™ and Unlimited Chequing for Business® account. Adding these products to our line-up would provide Islanders with some of the most competitive products in the financial services market."

He goes on to note that by being part of the First West family, Island Savings would have access to larger financial resources which would be good news for local Island businesses. "Our vision for the future is to be the first choice for Island businesses. But we can only do that if we can provide these businesses with the lending facilities they need. With First West's financial backing, our ability to lend to Island businesses increases significantly over what we're able to do today. That's good news for our Island communities."

"We've been really impressed with Island Savings' member focus, financial strength and commitment to local Island communities," says Shawn Neumann, board chair at First West Credit Union. "They're definitely a like-minded credit union who shares our perspective that co-operative banking should be about creating real value for our members and being the best option for British Columbians who know the value of banking locally."

Neumann and McKenzie note several other synergies the partnership would bring, including:

  • Greater economic and geographic diversity. A broader footprint across the province allows the local organizations to better weather local economic challenges or pressures.
  • One of the most extensive credit union networks in B.C., extending from the central and south Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands, through to the Fraser Valley, north to Kitimat and throughout the Okanagan, Thompson and Similkimeen Valleys of B.C.'s central interior.
  • No branch closures as a result of the merger. First West and Island Savings have no branch overlaps.
  • No staff layoffs as a direct result of the merger. Both organizations currently operate and will continue to use a distributed, multi-site administration centre model.
  • Increased lending capacity for small- and mid-sized businesses due to combined financial resources.
  • Extension of non-banking services to Island communities such as auto financing and auto leasing. Island businesses would also benefit from First West's subordinated debt and mezzanine financing division.

Before finalizing a merger arrangement, the credit unions will undertake due diligence and seek regulator consent. The transaction will also require a vote from the Island Savings membership, which will take place in early 2014.

About First West Credit Union

First West Credit Union offers members the financial strength, comprehensive product selection and extended branch network of a large financial institution through trusted, local brand names and a fresh, inspired approach to service. Led by Launi Skinner, First West is British Columbia's third-largest credit union with $7.1 billion in assets under administration, more than 171,000 members and close to 1,300 employees. It operates 40 branches throughout the province under the Envision Financial, Valley First and Enderby & District Financial brands. For more information on First West Credit Union, visit www.firstwestcu.ca. Follow First West Credit Union on Twitter: @firstwestcu

About Island Savings

Island Savings is the Islands' most recommended banking experience. As a Top 50 Best Employer and Top 30 Greenest Companies in Canada, its neighbourhood experts offer financial, insurance and investment advice and products to over 100,000 Islanders. Managing a total portfolio of $2.8 billion under administration, Island Savings is investing $15 million from 2012-2015 to expand their branch network and all service delivery platforms. Since 2010, their successful Growing Island Families Together (GIFT) program has proudly given over $7.0 million back to the community. For more information on Island Savings, visit www.iscu.com.

Contact Information:

Island Savings
Marian de Monye

First West Credit Union
Cheryl Shaw