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Financial cooperatives: An economic powerhouse for communities

Posted on Wednesday March 03, 2021

Financial cooperatives: An economic powerhouse for communities

Can you contribute collectively to the prosperity of communities? For cooperatives, the answer is an easy yes. Cooperatives play a key role in stimulating local economies and are central to them.  

Serving the community: The primary mission of cooperatives 

The wisest among us still remember the not-so-distant past when their community was not served by the big banks because it was considered too small or too far away. Financial cooperatives, like UNI in New Brunswick, aim to bring quality financial services to all regions of the province, a legacy they continue today and one that appeals to young and old alike. Today, more than a quarter of New Brunswickers are members of a financial cooperative, and that number keeps rising. 

Cooperating, a fundamental principle 

Cooperatives were created to serve the community, not themselves. 

What are the advantages of cooperatives today? 

  • Collective dividends thathelp communities grow 
  • Expertise that matches or exceeds that of other banking institutions
  • Employers of choice
  • Social involvement and employee commitment
  • Decision-making hubs that are here to stay in New Brunswick
  • Substantial regional autonomy

Sharing the values of citizens 

At the core, our purpose—UNIted for a prosperous UNI and its members—defines us and makes what we do meaningful. UNI shares the wealth created by the community with the community. UNI is everywhere, all the time, because it's our primary identity. We don't seek profit at all costs. Unlike banks or publicly traded companies, UNI doesn't aspire to gain at the expense of its members, but rather for their benefit. 

Adjusting to the changing needs of local communities 

An aging population, growing mobility between cities and rural areas, a digital shift and more. Such are the changes affecting the population of New Brunswick and the world—and UNI is watching. Financial cooperatives can make a valuable contribution in today's environment. In response, UNI is adjusting, adapting and remaining relevant to the community. 

UNI is staying focused on the needs of our members. For example, credit and mortgages were a priority for the majority of our members a few years ago, so more advisors specializing in this area of expertise joined the team. Today, many of our members are more focused on retirement planning. With that in mind we've acquired the expertise and know-how of two major regional financial planning firms to further the excellence of our wealth management team and better meet this need. 

The health of communities: UNI is there 

Online transactions are gaining ground and an aging population is demanding more health services. How can cooperatives support these changes? By changing how certain buildings are used. 

As an example, the conversion of the Inkerman service location on the Acadian Peninsula: Most members today prefer to do their day-to-day transactions without going to a service location. More than 80% of these types of transactions (bill payments, transfers, government remittances, etc.) are carried out online. At the same time, with an aging population, the need for medical clinics is increasing. After the Inkerman service location was closed, the building was donated and it was transformed into a medical clinic. This project was made possible by the local leadership of citizens and UNI members. 

The values of young people: UNI is there 

Adapting to an aging population does not mean neglecting younger members. 

Young people are aware of the issues surrounding cooperation and community involvement, care about the environment and are committed to social justice. Like UNI, they support sustainable prosperity, responsibility and solidarity. Young people are embracing the cooperative model and want to be participants, not just spectators. We are therefore well positioned to offer them an institution and services that meet their expectations. UNI's core values of solidarity, responsibility and courage guide our development and decisions. 

Economic development: UNI is there 

Cooperatives are regional development accelerators, noting UNI's unwavering support for business. When you support businesses with resources and expertise, you improve the community as a whole. When they succeed, they give back to the community. This support is even more essential in smaller regions, where you can build personal bonds of trust with members. 

This virtuous circle, in which positive spin-offs snowball, is also found at UNI. The taxes we pay stay here. The profits we make are redistributed here, and we support projects and initiatives that benefit our communities. 

Regional communities: UNI is there 

In 2022, we donated $2.5 million in donations, sponsorships and scholarships. By collaborating with community players, we forge lasting partnerships in the arts and culture, education and youth, sports and recreation, economic development, mutual aid and solidarity, and health sectors.   

This level of involvement sets cooperatives like UNI apart from other players in the financial sector. It is a testament to our uniqueness and pride! 

Tomorrow's economic challenges: UNI is already there 

Cooperatives grow out of the needs of communities, so they’re best placed to meet those needs. Fostering their emergence in all areas—agriculture, fishing, housing and more—would be an incredible driving force. Cooperatives contribute in such a positive and sustainable way. With more cooperatives, New Brunswick's economic future would be even brighter.  

UNI is part of a long history, and will be leaving its legacy to those who follow us for the next 85 years.  

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