Penticton pair elected to credit union board

Two Penticton residents were elected to the board of directors of First West Credit Union at the recent annual general meeting.

Two Penticton residents were elected to the board of directors of First West Credit Union at the recent annual general meeting.

Colleen Lister will serve as vice-chair and Stewart Ladyman was chosen board secretary for the business which began in 2010 with the merger of Valley First and Envision Financial.

The new board chairman is Abbotsford businessman Shawn Neumann, who succeeds outgoing chair Terry Enns.

Lister, who was re-elected vice-chair, joined the Valley First board of directors in 1998. She also served as the Valley First board chair before the formation of First West.

Originally a director on the Valley First board from 1993 to 1996, Ladyman was re-elected to the Valley First board in April 2009.

A year after its merger with Envision Financial, the future for Valley First is brighter than ever, according to president Paulette Rennie.

“Actually in 2010 First West had the biggest year ever for a new entity and the combined credit unions,” said the president. “At the beginning of the year we saw a little bit of slow times and some challenges with the economy but as it progressed we saw a tremendous improvement on the retail lending side, people started buying cars again, people started buying homes again.”

Although the two businesses are now united under the First West umbrella, each retains its individual status at the branch locations.

“Recently now it’s felt like the market has come alive again,” said Rennie. “There’s new level of consumer confidence starting to surge, developers are taking on more projects and we feel that is going to increase during the year.

“We are also looking at expanding by another branch in 2011 and obviously you don’t do that in bad times.”

She admitted because the Okanagan region is and will likely remain a high-demand area for people wanting to relocate there is also a cushion for businesses like real estate and residential development compared to some other areas of the province.

She added, however, it is still necessary for her company to be extremely competitive in order to maintain its share of business which in turn benefits Valley First members.

Added to that is the impact of having become part of the third largest credit union in B.C. which administers over $5 billion in assets, employs 1,250 workers and has just under 170,000 members.

With over 200 staff in Penticton, it’s among the four largest employers in the city.

“The profits speak for themselves but I think the merger has enabled us to take on bigger opportunities,” said Rennie. “We are able to finance some larger projects that we would not normally have been able to take on in the past such as municipal and institutional accounts.

But there is another important aspect of the amalgamation that benefits everyone, not just members.

“It has allotted us an opportunity to invest even bigger dollars back into the community through sponsorships,” said the president.

That includes the Valley First Endowment Fund through the First West Foundation and the Feed the Valley campaign which in 2010 raised $150,000 and tons of goods for local food banks.

“It’s a huge success story but we’re still local, we’re continuing to act local and we’re going to continue to be local,” said Rennie. “That means members making local decisions, local hiring and local community investment, those are the real keys.

“We’re still Valley First.”