Calgary [credit union] close to major merger

| Business |

First Calgary Savings and Credit Union, along with Envision
Financial and Valley First Credit Union, both of British Columbia, said
Friday they are in talks to closely align themselves and create a $7
billion financial services organization that would be the largest of
its kind in Canada.

The trio said the talks are not aimed at
producing a merger — which a number of rivals have done recently —
but rather a model that will allow each to retain its local identity,
community focus and local decision-making. It would represent the
largest interprovincial credit union network in Canada.

"We are
moving quickly to stay ahead of the curve to make sure we stay
relevant," said Harley Biddlecombe, president and chief executive of
Penticton, B.C.-based Valley First.

"This
partnership holds tremendous potential for our organizations, as well
as for our member-owners," added First Calgary Savings president and
chief executive officer Dave Gregory.

"Our member-owners have
been telling us that they value expanded service locations, but still
want us to act locally and maintain our community focus. This
partnership does just that," Gregory added.

Together, the network
would manage more than $7.4 billion in assets, employ more than 1,625
people and have a membership base of approximately 265,000 people in
two provinces. The partnership would serve its members from more than
52 branches, 28 insurance offices and 39 financial planning centres.

First
Calgary Savings and 19-branch, Langley, B.C.-based Envision Financial
have already achieved a high level of co-operation since starting to
work together in 2004. Since then, the two credit unions have built a
joint executive team, moved to a common banking system provider and now
share several corporate services, including technology, marketing,
communications and human resources functions.

Envision’s chief
executive, Gord Huston, said the new combination, if achieved, would be
a new step for the Canadian financial services industry, which in
recent years has been marked by considerable consolidation within the
credit union realm. On Feb. 8, two major Edmonton-based credit unions,
Servus Credit Union Ltd. and Common Wealth Credit Union Ltd., along
with a Red Deer-based counterpart, Community Savings Credit Union Ltd.,
announced a blockbuster merger in part, they said, to face competition
from B.C.-based rivals.

That deal created a combination with 93
locations in 64 Alberta communities, including Calgary, and which
controls about $8.5 billion in assets.

© The Calgary Herald 2008