I can see clearly now

February 16, 2017
in Company
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The other day I read an article from CBC News about fighting back against rising bank fees. I’ll be honest: it made me irritated.

The latest move by one of the big five mammoth banks was to raise the monthly fee on four of their personal banking accounts by $1. It seems like the banks continue finding ways to increase their shareholder profits year after year, at the expense of their customers.

If you know me, you know that I work for Island Savings, a division of First West Credit Union. We’ve done just the opposite of the big banks, introducing a zero fee personal chequing account and a $20 unlimited business account which beats everything else out there in the market. No hidden fees, no surcharges, and no gimmicks of needing a minimum monthly balance.

I find myself continually astonished that so many people in our local communities don’t ditch their bank and switch to a credit union. Some credit unions like mine have eliminated personal account fees and dramatically reduced the fees for small and medium-sized business owners, while simultaneously pouring so much more back into the local community. Island Savings and First West give millions back to support local causes and events that matter to families personally and make a real difference.

Choosing a credit union over a bank is truly a no-brainer. So why don’t more people make the switch?

To answer that question, here’s an allegory from my own life. A few years ago, I experienced a personal epiphany while attempting to watch my son play in hockey. I think it happened while I was secretly squinting to try and see if it was indeed my son who had the puck, or maybe it was when I had to turn to the parent beside me to find out who scored that last goal, or perhaps it was when I jumped up cheering when the other team scored instead of ours. Either way, I finally reached the place where I’d had enough: I admitted to myself that I needed to get glasses. For years I’d been making excuses like “I can see just fine this way!” and “It’s really not that bad!” and “No, no, no, I knew what it read, I was just testing you!” But I finally I reached the point where I said “No more” and refused to miss another one of my son’s goals. That very week, I booked my exam and ordered my first pair of glasses.

Wow! It was like a whole new world had opened up. I could see blades of grass while I drove home from the optometrist’s. I could actually see raindrops. I could see the faces of the people driving their cars past me, my street sign, and my neighbour waving to me as I pulled in. And the best part of all? I could see (I mean really truly see) my son’s jersey number on his sweater, the puck leave his stick, and what was for me his real first goal.

Having never understood the difference and what it was like to be able to see properly with glasses, I didn’t know any better. I simply thought that was how it was. No one could tell me or explain it to me fully. I had to see it with my own eyes (pun intended).

And that’s how I realized why it was that people still bank with big banks. Bank customers have very simply never worn glasses. They don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know how much better things can be if they just take the time to make the switch to a credit union.

What they don’t realize is that you can not only stop paying fees, but actually have a whole new experience, where you’re not a number but a member. Where you’re not part of someone’s corporate coffer, but part of the cooperative movement. Where you get better service and more advice. Where the profits you help generate together with thousands like you don’t go back to a handful of rich shareholders in Toronto but get reinvested locally in providing good local jobs, supporting worthwhile local causes, and in helping making our local communities a better place.

So, if you’re one of the many customers paying higher fees at your bank, don’t wait like I did to put on your glasses. There’s a better world out there waiting to be seen.

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