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First-of-kind initiative delivers banking to Cormorant Island

Poll finds agreement could be model for financially underserved remote communities

February 26, 2015, Alert Bay, B.C. – Full-service banking will soon be available on Cormorant Island through an innovative model between the ‘Namgis First Nation, the Village of Alert Bay and Vancity credit union.

The memorandum of understanding, signed yesterday at a ceremony in Alert Bay, is the first in Canada that brings together a financial services provider with a municipality and a First Nation government to provide access to local banking services in a remote market. The initiative will benefit the residents of Cormorant Island who had been travelling by ferry to access face-to-face banking services.

Lack of local banking services has many implications for remote and underserved communities, including the inability to exchange cash, cash cheques or access loans. When individuals travel elsewhere to do their banking, local businesses suffer as consumer and business spending concentrates in larger centres.

Vancity commissioned a Mustel phone survey of people living in B.C. who have to drive an hour or more to access banking services. The survey indicates:

  • 47 per cent of respondents are dissatisfied with the access they have to banking services,
  • 76 per cent of respondents say it is important to at times have face-to-face discussions with their banking service provider and
  • 49 per cent of respondents think that having a financial institution in their community would help their community grow.

Providing banking services to remote communities in Canada has been a challenge to the financial industry, due to low populations and high overhead costs. The MOU intends to overcome these challenges by allowing the local communities to play a role in working towards a successful model that could act as a prototype for the future.

Through this unique initiative, Vancity will offer residents of Cormorant Island an array of banking services including in-person basic banking services, cash handling for business operations and onsite support for more complex transactions such as investments, mortgages, loans and account signatories. The specifics of the service model, including location and hours of operation, are yet to be determined and will be based on member and community needs.

Vancity’s values-based business model is grounded in the local economy and committed to creating new and sustainable solutions for economic development in remote and underserved communities. Working with the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay will allow Vancity to develop its strategy to support underserved populations including people living in other remote communities in B.C. Finding innovative ways to reach underserved communities is an example of how Vancity’s model of values-based banking can continue to grow while remaining provincially regulated.


The lack of banking services in rural and remote communities has a significant negative impact on the local economy and social well-being, as dollars flow out of the community. This financial services arrangement with the ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay is an example of how a co-operative approach can help build healthy and sustainable remote communities. Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO, Vancity
The 'Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay work co-operatively on many fronts to improve the lives of Cormorant Island's residents and support economic activity. We are delighted that Vancity is joining us to help resolve a fundamental challenge to the financial, social and economic well-being of our community. We salute Vancity as a leader, innovator and community partner. Debra Hanuse, Chief Councillor, ‘Namgis First Nation
The citizens of Alert Bay are extremely grateful that the Vancity team has the vision to invest in the Cormorant Island community. The presence of a forward-thinking financial institution is a critical part of the joint Alert Bay/’Namgis Economic Development Strategy (Tides of Change) that is being developed for our island and this announcement comes at a perfect time as we begin the implementation phase of that plan. We look forward to a very positive future for our island that will be greatly enhanced by Vancity’s presence. Michael Berry, Mayor, Village of Alert Bay

Additonal information

About Vancity

Vancity is a values-based financial co-operative serving the needs of its more than 501,000 member-owners and their communities through 58 branches in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria and Squamish. As Canada’s largest community credit union, Vancity uses its $17.5 billion in assets to help improve the financial well-being of its members while at the same time helping to develop healthy communities that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

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For more information:

Lorraine Wilson | Vancity
T: 778-837-0394


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