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Double-digit growth propels St. Willibrord toward one billion dollar mark

Fifth largest credit union in Ontario

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LONDON, Ontario - Plans of St. Willibrord Community Credit Union to upgrade its facilities at the second newest of its twelve full-service branch cooperative bank netwerk are well under way. Founded by Dutch immigrants in 1951, St. Willibrord in recent years was joined by the small, community-based Care Credit Union of St. Thomas and North Huron Credit Union of Wingham. The St. Thomas facility will be moved to a new location with an extra 5,000 square feet of space over the current office.

The London-based organization also completed renovations at one of its three London locations and at its western-most branch at Sarnia.

St. Willibrord from its very start in 1951 set up local branch councils which in turn delegate a member to the Board of Directors, ensuring broad grass-roots involvement in the cooperative bank. From its humble origin, the southwestern Ontario organization has grown into the fifth largest of its kind in Ontario and now ranks 18th in Canada. St. Willibrord’s President and CEO Jack Smit serves as Board Chair of the umbrella Credit Union Central of Canada since May 2002.

Although any cooperative organization is owned by its members, few of them emphasize member’s ‘ownership’ the way St. Willibrord does. It prefers to use the term ‘owner’ of which it had 43,750 at the close of 2003. The cooperative bank at that point was nearing one billion in assets ($950 million), $726 million in deposits and $644 million in loans, all representing double digit increases over previous years. Over the years St Willibrord also has attracted industry-wide attention for its innovative concepts.

St. Willibrord is one of two remaining credit unions in Ontario which have their roots in the post-WWII Dutch immigration to Canada. Numerous small local organizations over the decades were taken over by larger, often local community-based credit unions. During the 1960s and 1970s, these credit unions had joined together in the Dutch Canadian Alliance of Ontario Inc. which for years ran an extensive program of charter flights to Amsterdam.

The story of the about 275-employee credit union engagingly has been told in its 50th anniversary book Roots and Branches. The book is listed in the Dutch Heritage Pages and is available from Vanderheide Publishing Co. Ltd.