People Before Profits (A Message from the Chair)
The Salter Street bridge provides a unique vantage point for people driving into the North End of Winnipeg.
Until recently, a highly visible sign “People Before Profits,” was painted in big white letters onto the roof of one of the businesses there. That slogan expresses the hope of the people who live in the community.
Many Winnipeggers have given up on the North End. They see high rates of poverty, hear stories of crime and violence, learn about declining property values and assume that’s all there is to this historic community of more than 30,000 people. The banks in particular abandoned this area years ago.
Ten bank branches have closed in the past two decades, and there is hardly any bank presence left. Their services have been replaced with pawn shops, payday lenders, and rent-to-own establishments—many of which are highly exploitative and very expensive for North-End residents to use.
If you check into the histories of Manitoba’s credit unions, you will notice that most of them were created to serve populations that were being excluded by mainstream financial institutions. Some, like ACU, were formed by groups of workers who needed credit to get them through medical and other emergencies. Others were started to fill voids created by cultural divisions, lack of collateral or rural isolation. The genesis of the credit union movement was to ‘serve the underserved’, and that is what we believe we are doing by opening a branch in the North End.
Providing inclusive service is an important part of what we do at Assiniboine. Sometimes that means providing loans that small business owners could not get anywhere else. Sometimes it means working in partnership with inner-city organizations to make it possible for thousands of people with low incomes to open their first bank accounts.
As Chair of the ACU Board of Directors, I can sincerely say that we are proud of our past involvement in Winnipeg’s North End, and we look forward to building relationships with the people of this local community.
While we don’t expect the McGregor Branch to be our most profitable, we do expect it to hold its own. And that’s good enough for us, because as the sign at the entrance to the community proclaimed, sometimes we need to think about ‘people before profits’ when we make our business decisions.
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