International Credit Union (ICU) Day falls on the third Thursday in October each year. Beginning in 1948, ICU Day focuses on celebrating the history and achievements of the global credit union movement.
But why should this day mean anything to you and your family? Let us show you how credit unions are some of the most innovative, hardworking and community-minded financial institutions around the globe, in honour of ICU Day.
History of Credit Unions
The first credit union in Canada opened in 1900 in Quebec, founded by Aphonse Desjardins. Desjardins championed the idea of cooperative banking as an alternative to the common practice of lending money at unreasonably high interest rates, to improve conditions for the working class and to contribute to economic development.
The movement made its way to Alberta in 1927, with the first credit union opening in the small east-central community of Killam. Since there was no provincial credit union act at the time, its official title was consumer co-operative rather than credit union.
After the government passed the Credit Union Act in 1938, Mangan Credit Union in Edmonton became the first incorporated credit union in Alberta. In Calgary, the first incorporated credit union was Inglewood Savings and Credit Union which is now Servus Credit Union.
In line with other credit unions around the world, these financial institutions were formed with purpose: to ensure that neighbours and families in distress were able to access lending, not just major borrowers.
Credit Unions and Innovation
There are some misconceptions out there that credit unions are old and unsophisticated, and that just isn’t true. Credit unions have been leaders in financial innovation for decades, delivering new products and services even before banks.
Here are a few examples:
1961 – First financial institutions to lend to women in their own names
1977 – First full-service ATMs
1982 – First debit card service
1995 – First fully functional online banking
2013 – First mobile cheque deposit app
2016 – First social responsible GICs in Canada
Credit Unions and Members
As member-owned financial co-operatives, credit unions are dedicated to their members and the communities they serve. That means being part of a credit union is about more than just transactions, it’s about putting people before profits. In fact, credit unions share their profits. In 2021, Alberta credit unions shared $84 million with their members through patronage and dividends.
Credit unions also give back to their communities in other meaningful ways. In early 2020, all Albertans felt the impacts of COVID-19 and credit unions played a critical role in helping Albertans and their small businesses meet their financial needs throughout the pandemic.
Here are some examples:
- Prioritizing health and safety by offering online and remote banking options
- Providing mortgage and loan deferrals to help with financial challenges
- Helping Albertans access federal and provincial financial aid programs
- Donating funds, such as:
- Lakeland Credit Union’s $100,000 donation to food banks
- Servus Credit Union’s $1 million feel good campaign to help with health and finances as we emerge from the pandemic
- Credit Unions of Alberta’s $6,000 Grad 2020 contest to support graduating high school students
- ABCU Credit Union’s $12,500 donation to local food banks; and more
When you join a credit union, you aren’t just another number. You’re a member and an owner with an equal vote for your credit union board of directors. That means you get the products, services and advice you need with your best interests in mind. You also get award-winning service (credit unions have ranked #1 for customer service in the IPSOS Financial Service Excellence Awards for 18 years), a national network of surcharge-free ATMs and a 100% deposit guarantee through the Credit Union Deposit Guarantee Corporation of Alberta.