Responsible Banking
Community

A financial leader that truly gives back to community. Expand/Collapse

‘Giving back to the community’ is a common mantra among financial institutions (FI). They are powerful words to use in a feel-good marketing initiative. But how many actually put their money where their mouths are when it comes to proving how they live this mantra? Big banks may write a cheque to the local chapter of a national organization, but they often lack meaningful connection with the community and take minimal interest in the well-being of the local economy. Like big box retailers, they are usually driven by quarterly profit projections and stock prices.

When it comes to authentically giving back to the community, the truest measurement of an FI’s commitment is reflected in how deeply and personally embedded they are in the form of tailoring products and services to the financial needs of the people they serve. It’s also reflected in a commitment to creating jobs, volunteering, championing young leaders, serving on boards and providing meaningful access to face-to-face financial services.

Innovation Credit Union is one FI that lives this kind of dedication every day and in every interaction with its communities. Headquartered in Saskatchewan, Innovation believes and is committed to sustainable development of communities. Innovation has taken this co-operative commitment even further by making community responsibility and sustainability a core value in its strategic plan. From its leadership to its front-line team, Innovation believes that creating exceptional value includes doing its part to promote growth in communities and regions they serve. Innovation CEO Daniel Johnson says, “We take seriously the intrinsically valuable role that we can play in our communities. Our commitment as a financial leader is to feed into prosperity, not off it. This belief has been fundamental to our growth, success and vision.”

The credit union is also helping to foster the next generation of professionals with a Summer Student Program designed to empower young people living in their communities to explore a career in the financial services industry. This initiative is backed by a commitment to hire exemplary students from the program. Innovation invests in an average of 12 students each year, allowing them to gain experience in all areas of the organization, from front-line to support roles, as well as opportunities to contribute to meaningful projects. These students become part of the Innovation family, studying and adopting the credit union’s values and culture, all while observing some of the challenges that come with striving to be a financial provider of choice. Innovation truly cares for the leaders of tomorrow, offering them a place to learn and grow in a professional setting.

Innovation’s willingness to go above and beyond in its commitment to community resulted in a recent designation as a Caring Company through Imagine Canada. The Caring Company program is Canada’s premier public expression of recognition in leadership and excellence in community investment. Caring Companies like Innovation contribute a minimum of 1% of their pre-tax profits to the communities where their employees live and work. They lead by example and set the standard for corporate giving in Canada.

Actually, Innovation consistently exceeds Imagine Canada’s 1% benchmark, donating at least 2% of its pre-tax profits back into its communities each year. In 2019, the credit union gave back 2.43% (or $539,907) in the form of sponsorships, community development, financial services and scholarships. Over the last decade donations have amounted to $6,107,385. In addition to these financial commitments, Innovation staff are active volunteers, lending their time and talents to charities and organizations that they hold close to their hearts. In 2019 alone, Innovation staff donated over 12,899 hours to local charities.

Innovation believes in helping at home first and that starts with giving back to the cities and towns that they serve. They create jobs and opportunities by staffing their branches with local experts or by training them to become the experts. Senior leadership is active in the community and employees are involved in many local organizations. You’ll see them at hockey arenas, curling rinks, softball fields, community events and local soup kitchens, pitching in with enthusiasm. Add to this the credit union’s generous offerings such as its Member Rewards program and No-Fee Bank Account and it’s clear that Innovation is truly giving back to its members and its communities every day.

Innovation Credit Union invests in technology to leverage staff and expand branch hours and banking services in communities Expand/Collapse

While Canada’s national banks are downsizing rural locations in the internet age, there is one financial institution in Saskatchewan taking a decidedly more community-focused approach. Innovation Credit Union, which serves over 57,000 people throughout Southwest and North Central Saskatchewan, looked beyond national marketing data and into the hearts and minds of its customers, who the credit union refers to as members. Innovation, which is owned by its members and overseen by an elected board of directors, has begun extending branch hours in a few communities and increasing its telephone, chat, and video banking services. Today, as retail banks sit empty in many small towns, Innovation’s call centre is now open seven days a week and branches that used to be open three days a week are now open every business day in the towns of Hodgeville, Buffalo Narrows, Lancer, Medstead, Meota and Shell Lake.

The credit union took things to the next level with its staff as well, offering continuous training to empower employees to meet members’ banking needs in-branch or over the phone from the call centre. Diane Engel, Supervisor Member Services at Innovation’s Gravelbourg branch says this strengthens Innovation’s team and makes staff feel valued and secure in their roles. “As other banks have closed their doors in our towns, Innovation’s doors have opened wider. That’s 100% because Innovation Credit Union is committed to doing what’s best for the communities it serves.”

Beyond the financial services Innovation offers its members, the credit union is committed to growth in Saskatchewan. This is reflected in a community investment of $5.7 million over the past 12 years and staff volunteerism efforts of approximately 14,000 hours in 2018 alone. Deeply rooted in Innovation’s commitment to Responsible Banking™, this is a story that will continue to unfold to the benefit of the growing number of people the credit union serves.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer personalized, local service that meets members’ demands,” explains Innovation CEO Daniel Johnson. “We’ve always tried to be a champion for good causes in our communities. Our people value local banking that’s convenient, so it’s our responsibility to provide it. Where banks see closures as the only option for growth, we see an opportunity to make our communities a better place for people to live and work.”

Meeting a changing banking landscape with an omnichannel workforce Expand/Collapse

With almost half of Canadians using only digital channels for their banking transactions, online services have become the focus of banks who want to meet changing consumer expectations. But what about the other 50% who either prefer face-to-face interactions or simply don’t have access to online services? With the enormous cost savings that increased digital channels can offer their bottom line, many banks gloss over good old-fashioned high-touch customer service, leaving in their wake a rising number of people who are either unsatisfied or under-served.

Innovation Credit Union, headquartered in Saskatchewan, believes it’s their responsibility to meet the needs of 100% of its customers. Dean Gagne, Chief Disruption Officer says, “Some of our members prefer digital channels for their banking transactions, so we offer a wide range of excellent online services. However, there are still many other members who want in-person services in their communities, so we’ve found ways to continue offering this in spite of the changing landscape of financial services in Canada. It’s our responsibility to offer both because every member matters to us.”

In an age of bank layoffs, restructuring and dialing back customer service, Innovation has chosen a different path. This path, which Gagne refers to as “simply doing the right thing for all of our members”, also has tremendous benefits for Innovation staff members. Where big bank closures throughout Saskatchewan have left many people looking for jobs, Innovation has actually ramped up employee retention with a retraining initiative that empowers staff to learn new, innovative ways to meet members’ needs across the province.

Innovation’s CEO Daniel Johnson refers to this initiative as an “omnichannel workforce,” explaining that, “omnichannel encompasses all of the various ways that members can interact or do business with us, including in-person, telephone, through our Mobile Advice Centre, online channels and even social media.”

Innovation’s omnichannel workforce is backed by a vigorous staff training program designed to ensure that staff is ideally positioned to meet and exceed members’ changing needs. The result is a very engaged, highly trained team poised to help members at every possible touchpoint.

Are Innovation staff members excited about this? You bet they are. Jodie Carleton, Senior Member Service Representative at Innovation’s Frontier branch says, “I really feel like I am using my skills and training to help our members. I enjoy speaking with them in the branch and in the many other ways they choose to connect with us, whether it’s via phone, text or even Twitter. Members tell me that having so many choices makes them feel like Innovation cares about their needs. Being a part of something so positive makes me excited to come into work every day.”

Gagne says, “At a time when banks are limiting how and when they can serve clients, we are ensuring that we are able to help our members whenever and wherever they are. If that means an online chat after branch hours or responding to a direct message on Facebook, our front-line staff will be able to help all our members no matter how they approach us with their inquiry. We are training our staff to be versatile and proactive instead of waiting for members to walk through the door.”

For longtime employees, investing in retraining staff helps them to feel continuously valued and engaged. As banks often push longer serving staff out with early retirement or restructuring programs, Innovation continues to invest in their existing staff who have the most to offer in terms of experience and understanding of its membership.

Furthering their commitment to Responsible Banking, the omnichannel workforce is another example of how Innovation is leading the way in making banking an accessible, affordable and enjoyable experience, in all of its channels and communities.

About Innovation Expand/Collapse

Headquartered in Saskatchewan, Innovation Credit Union provides a full range of financial services to over 57,000 members including individuals, businesses, and organizations across the province. In 2018, its membership voted in favor of becoming a federal credit union that will enable Innovation to do business anywhere in Saskatchewan and all of Canada. Through the lens of Responsible Banking and innovation, Innovation Credit Union reinvests its profits into delivering economically viable solutions for all Canadians to access mutually beneficial and affordable world class financial products and services – wherever and whenever members need them.

Our Purpose Expand/Collapse

At Innovation Credit Union, we strive to redefine banking by helping Canadians simplify their lives and reach their financial goals by reinvesting profits into our members, our communities, and our people. Now that’s Responsible Banking!

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