LCU stays close to credit union roots

The Ladysmith Credit Union has tried to stay close to its roots in the last 67 years.Despite, at times, drastic growth, CEO John de Leeuw said the financial institution remains committed to the community and the members that ensure its success.And that commitment, de Leeuw points out, is ingrained right in the company’s strategic plan.“It is something our board has clung to tenaciously,” de Leeuw said of the credit union’s roots.“Involvement in the community is something that is the hallmark of what credit unions do.”de Leeuw noted many credit unions are merging, losing their local identity and becoming larger conglomerates.That is not a concern for the LCU, he said.“We are committed to being here another 67 years.”“When I came to B.C., there were over 100 credit unions. Now there are 42.”With $125 million in assets in 2010, the LCU gave back around $100,000 to Ladysmith last year through donations to the trolley, Festival of Lights fireworks, kids’ activities at Ladysmith Days and $13,000 worth in scholarships, to name a few.LCU has now set up a donations committee with local employees  to take the responsibility of the credit union’s donations away from the board.When the call came for volunteers, there were so many applicants, de Leeuw was forced to interview everyone to find the right four people.de Leeuw said the credit union has always given back because they felt it was the right thing to do, but also wanted to make sure they were receiving some value for their donations.“We also want to receive some inherent value,” de Leeuw said.“It has not been something that’s been any type of focus for us before.”de Leeuw noted with the credit union, it’s a give-and-take scenario.“If people don’t support us, that minimizes the support we can give in the community.”Creating and fostering good memories and experiences for kids has also always been important for the credit union.de Leeuw has raised his kids in Ladysmith and is pleased his company gives so much to groups benefitting Ladysmith’s next generation.“Pretty much anything to do with kids, we’re going to step up. It’s their future and their memories.”de Leeuw credits his staff and management with much of the credit union’s drive to give back to Ladysmith as they are the ones donating their time around town towards such activities as the fun zone.The LCU also works alongside the food bank as staff make contributions each month to the organization.“The credit union will match that number. The food bank is thrilled.”Every year, the staff also pick two or three families from the hamper program and they donate and staff go on their own time to purchase the items. However much they donate, the credit union matches that, too.“That’s proof of why it’s done here because it’s the right thing to do.”Even Friday casual day comes at a price.“Everyone puts a toonie in and each month we have a specific charity and we sent them a cheque.”“It’s a testament to the spirit of our organization that is fronted by our directors, but carried out by our staff.”de Leeuw noted the credit union follows the same ups and downs as the rest of Ladysmith.There are no national revenue streams.“As Ladysmith lives and breathes, so do we.”de Leeuw said stable or slightly shifting rates are manageable, but drastic swings present challenges.After rough years in 2008 and 2009, 2010 was a bounce back year and de Leeuw is optimistic for 2011.