Changes coming at Servus

A new banking system at Servus Credit Union could have a big impact on some members.

A new banking system at Servus Credit Union could have a big impact on some members.

The Alberta-based financial institution was created in 2008 by the merger of the three former credit unions: Red Deer-based Community Savings, Edmonton’s Servus Credit Union and Common Wealth Credit Union of Lloydminster. It’s been integrating operations since, with a shared banking system under development for approximately five years.

The new format, which brings with it new services and fees, will take effect in Central Alberta the weekend of May 17.

Darrell White, Servus’s chief operating officer and a Red Deer resident, said the changes have already occurred in and around Edmonton and other communities to the north.

“It’s basically south of Ponoka that we’re converting now.”

White said it was critical for Servus to achieve consistency throughout its banking network — including enabling members to access the same services at different locations.

“So many of our members work outside of Red Deer in places like Lloydminster and Fort McMurray. Allowing them to be able to go into any branch in Alberta and have their full-service banking needs met was very important to us. It was hard for them to do more than cash a cheque before, whereas now they can do anything from getting advice on an RRSP, right through to a loan or any banking-system-related pieces.”

Among the other changes will be the addition of mobile banking and e-transfers.

“E-transfers are huge,” said White of the process of sending money electronically to anyone with an email address or mobile phone number. “It’s absolutely amazing the take-up we’ve had at the branches that have converted to it so far.”

Servus is also switching to consolidated statements that will provide information on all the accounts a member holds, rather than sending separate statements for each. Members will have the option of receiving their monthly statements online.

A number of new daily banking and savings accounts are being introduced, with these offering various terms and features.

“We tailored the programs to fit each member’s needs,” said White, describing how fees vary depending on the services needed and the minimum monthly balance maintained.

For instance, the number of cheques that can be written without a fee being charged differs from one type of account to the next.

Perhaps the biggest change is the elimination of Servus’s Pinnacle account, which provided a broad range of banking services and was available to members with a specified number of Servus common shares.

“It was a very expensive account for us to offer,” said White, adding that the Pinnacle accounts are being converted into alternatives that best fit their owners’ banking patterns.

Many members have been asking questions about the account changes and associated fees, but Servus officials feel the new system is more equitable. White said the new fee structure is very competitive for the banking industry, and much of the resulting revenue will find its way into the credit union’s profit-sharing program.

“At the end of the day, it all comes back to the membership anyway.”

Some members need time to adjust to the new system, including Servus’s new website, acknowledged White. But he thinks the resulting “efficiency and ease of use” makes this worthwhile.

“It’s been a long time in coming,” said White of the integration process. “Converting the Lloydminster, Grande Prairie and surrounding locations last year gave us a good opportunity to get a feel, without affecting our entire membership across the province.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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