Growth and Learning: 2023 Merger Integration

As we look back on our first year as StellerVista Credit Union, the merger-related work and our technical systems integration really do underscore most everything that we did in 2023. The year was filled with learning and growth, challenges and achievements, and ultimately, is one to be celebrated, as our team accomplished nearly everything that they set out to do—on time, on budget, and within project expectations — despite pushing up on their capacity to do so.


From day one, our Board and Senior Leaders, supported by an active Integration Committee, oversaw the merger process meticulously, ensuring that both budget adherence and the smooth progression of integration were on track. Despite technical hurdles, our proactive stance enabled quick resolutions. While we knew to expect certain challenges in our technical conversion, we also knew to expect the unexpected. One such instance was the fact that our ATMs in Castlegar, Greenwood, and Slocan Park did not work as expected after the conversion. We knew this to be a notable inconvenience to our members in these locations and managed to fix the issue, which included installing two brand new ATMs within about 6 weeks – a process that generally takes 6 to 8 months. A memorable challenge faced, but an excellent example of our team’s agility and dedication to reducing member impact.


Another significant challenge we encountered was due to a pre-authorization error caused by an external coding mistake from our vendor, beyond StellerVista’s control, affecting our ATM and debit card networks. This issue impacted approximately 1,700 members, leading to instances where members could inadvertently spend beyond their account balances. As the matter was not identifiable within StellerVista’s own systems, we had to rely on information coming in from some very diligent staff and members who helped identify that there was some kind of issue. From there, our integration teams worked in a swift and detailed fashion to both correct the issue and mitigate the impact to members – which had already occurred. We automatically reimbursed and reversed all related fees, and for those significantly affected, we offered interest-free loans tailored to individual needs. Our team worked case-by-case, and tried to directly contact as many impacted members as they possibly could. While this issue was unexpected and beyond our control – we worked hard to take immediate ownership and are extremely proud of the time and determination our team put into working with members. The effort was considerable, and occurred at a time that was already very busy.


On the other hand, we also celebrated early successes in 2023, directly tied to the merger of our legacy credit unions. A notable achievement was the creation of several high-quality job roles, including an IT Director, a Business Systems Analyst, a Manager of Sales and Service, and a Risk Analyst, all designed to enhance member service. Surveys of member satisfaction, coming out of 2023, revealed that we surpassed industry averages at five of our seven credit union branches. While we know there is still much work to do on this front, the results underscore the critical role of a strong and capable team. Recognizing that our staff are pivotal in elevating member service from good to great, aligning rewarding jobs with high employee engagement remains a priority. In 2023, we made significant progress on this front, which is an important area of the balanced scorecard we utilize to gauge our organizational success. Despite the regional staffing challenges, affecting various industries, our steadfast commitment to attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent is a priority – one that helps us ever improve the member experience.  

"This year's accomplishments were not just in our projects but in our people; together, we turned challenges into milestones, showcasing the dedication and agility of our team to exceed even our own expectations - laying the foundation of a strong credit union, one that can provide our rural communities the local service they deserve.”
Jody Burk

Furthermore, the introduction our new Risk department – and the jobs associated with it, the installation of high-end ATM machines at all branches, and the rollout of our updated online banking and mobile app platform are direct outcomes of the merger, and our enhanced ability to both negotiate with vendors, and manage the projects required to implement.  


Another standout win from 2023, was our community investment, which exceeded $200,000 – a figure that eclipses what our legacy credit unions contributed independently. This milestone was achieved under the guidance of a united Board of Directors, which worked diligently to forge a shared vision and strategic path forward. Central to this vision is our new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, a testament to our commitment to setting new industry standards in community support. This policy not only outlines our investment levels but also positions StellerVista Credit Union as a community leader among financial institutions, ensuring our contributions make a significant and lasting impact.


As we wrap up an eventful first year at StellerVista Credit Union, our reflections are filled with both pride and learning. The journey, marked by over 35 significant projects and a full-scale rebranding, taught us invaluable lessons. Undertaking this merger as two local credit unions, we navigated our challenges independently, reinforcing our dedication to providing unmatched service to rural communities in BC. This commitment remains central to our vision and decision-making processes, ensuring that we continue to be the premier choice for local service today and into the future.


We would like to, once again, thank all of our members and staff for their assistance, input, and endurance in the year that helped to form StellerVista.