East Kootenay Community Credit Union in Cranbrook — one of six credit unions in southeast B.C. that were proposing to merge into one $3 billion institution: The Elevatus Credit Union. The project has been cancelled due to increasing costs. (Barry Coulter photo)

East Kootenay Community Credit Union in Cranbrook — one of six credit unions in southeast B.C. that were proposing to merge into one $3 billion institution: The Elevatus Credit Union. The project has been cancelled due to increasing costs. (Barry Coulter photo)

Kootenay credit unions call off proposed merger

Boards of directors cite prohibitive increasing costs involved with the Elevatus project

A proposed merger of several credit unions in the Kootenays — the Elevatus project — is no longer going ahead.

The announcement was made in late June in “Exploring Strength and Unity,” the online newsletter from the six boards of directors of the regional credit unions, citing prohibitive increasing costs involved with the project.

In the fall of 2017, it was announced that credit unions across the Kootenay, Columbia Valley and Boundary regions were exploring an amalgamation.

Columbia Valley, Creston & District, East Kootenay Community (Cranbrook), Grand Forks, Heritage (Castlegar), Kootenay Savings (Kimberley) and Nelson & District Credit Unions began discussion around the design and potential of a new, united credit union. The merged, $3 billion institution, was to take the name Elevatus Credit Union, taking the place of the other names of the individual credit unions.

The costs towards the merger, until they became too prohibitive, were shared by each of the six credit unions .

“Very recently, we reached a point in the merger work where it became clear that the process itself was about to increase in cost to the extent that the merger did not make financial sense,” said Michael Strukoff, Chair of the Elevatus Steering Committee, in a message to Credit Union members. “While very disappointing, we chose to withdraw our merger application because it was no longer in the interests of our members.”

The merging of six credit unions at once had never been attempted in British Columbia before, according to Exploring Strength and Unity. “There are a lot of moving parts and thousands of members and employees to consider.

“The six individual credit unions will take a pause, focus on the immediate needs of members and employees, and leverage what they have gained from the Elevatus process. Where that leads each of them strategically will be up to the member-elected Boards and leadership of each credit union.”

“We all regret this unexpected development,” Strukoff said in his message to the Credit Union members. “Yet in making the decision, we have also reaffirmed our partnership and our shared purpose: to champion local, community-based financial services in the places we call home.

“We will continue to work together, to collaborate. We will share ideas about improving member-services and employee development. We will make progress together.”