Island Savings has served the banking needs of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands for 70 years, opening its first branch in Duncan in 1951. 

Q+A with Island Savings

Its neighbour-helping-neighbour approach, combined with a membership-driven model, has helped propel Island Savings’ growth as a leading credit union. Meanwhile, its  community investment, supporting thousands of nonprofits and fundraisers over the years, has earned Island Savings the reputation as a good community member that cares about local.

In 2015, Island Savings became part of First West Credit Union, joining B.C.’s third largest credit union and their portfolio of $14 billion in total assets 1,250 employees and more than 250,000 members. They’ve been a member of SIPP for three years. Ryan Gerwing, Director of Commercial Banking, shares their vision for a prosperous future, and how partnering with SIPP fits into their business goals.

Ryan Gerwing, Director, Commercial Banking, Island Savings.

Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?

At Island Savings, our vision — our reason for existing — is to simplify lives and help members and communities thrive. With this in mind, there’s a natural synergy between our two organizations. We both care to see communities in the South Island grow, diversify and prosper. 

What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region? 

As a business community, we should be continuing to focus our efforts on recruiting young talent to our organizations — which will involve considering new ways of working to respond to changing workplace expectations. South Island businesses have so much to offer young employees when it comes to maintaining a positive work/life balance. We provide meaningful career opportunities in a world-class community, which is what the next generation of workers is looking for. 

What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?

Again, this comes down to the quality of life we enjoy here on Vancouver Island and tremendous opportunities to pursue purposeful work. 

To speak more directly about Island Savings, as a division of First West Credit Union we strive to be an employer of choice, not just for what we do but how we do it. We believe the individual skills, knowledge and experience that each of our employees brings to the table can elevate our organization and help our members and communities thrive. In return, we support our employees’ career development and offer competitive programs that attract, motivate and engage. 

What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?

This fall will be an exciting season at Island Savings and First West. We’re on a journey to build a stronger and more sustainable future for our members, employees and local communities by applying to become a federally regulated credit union. Creating options for long-term viability and sustainability for any organization is critical, which is why we’re taking action to set ourselves up for future growth opportunities and choice.  

What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?  

On occasion people forget that as a credit union, Island Savings is a member-owned organization meaning our members have a say in how our organization operates. It also means that giving back to our communities is a key part of who we are—we’re proud partners with many local community organizations and causes.

As a financial co-operative, we’ve been providing banking and investment services for individuals, families and businesses throughout Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands for more than 70 years. We offer members the financial strength, comprehensive product selection and extended branch network of a large financial institution while maintaining local brand identities and a unique grassroots approach to service. 

What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?

In 2016 we started on a journey to raise food, funds and awareness about the critical issue of hunger in our communities through our signature cause, The Full Cupboard. Since that time, with the help of our employees, members and community partners, $303,715 has been donated to local food banks serving communities where Island Savings operates.

What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?

Like many organizations, at Island Savings we recognized the necessity of embracing reliable technology solutions. When the pandemic hit, we were ready. The investments we had made in recent years to enhance our banking delivery channels meant that we could provide flexible options for banking services when our society needed to bank differently to stay safe. For employees, we were able to leverage partnerships with industry-leading technology providers to deploy many branch and back office employees to serve members safely and securely from home. 

When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?

Our vision of the future is for sustained growth for the right reasons. We hope to see a vibrant and diverse economy that welcomes more and more families, a continued focus on improving transportation, technology enhancements that enable more flexible work arrangements—all without losing the community focus that’s at our heart.