Co-operative enterprise hopes to attract 3,000 accounts by 2009

Fledgling financial services network soars in Nunavik


Nunavik's fledging financial services network is taking off, with 700 clients recruited in its first six months of operation.

The region's co-operative network, the Fédération des co-operatives du Nouveau-Québec, teamed up last year with Quebec's powerful Desjardins credit union to bring trilingual, web-based banking services to every Nunavik community.

The first Nunavik financial services centres opened last November in Salluit, Akulivik and Kangiqsualujjuaq.

"It's going very well. If it goes as well after we open in the larger communities in June, we will surpass our objectives for the first year," said Yvon Roy from Desjardins credit union.

By 2009, Nunavik's new credit union hopes to attract more than 3,000 accounts.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the only chartered bank with a branch in Nunavik, now claims 98 per cent of the region's banking business and has more than $100 million in assets, with Nunavik's 121 private businesses and 42 organizations served almost exclusively by the CIBC.

But Roy said Nunavik Financial Services' move to woo larger customers is going well.

"We're starting, but it's longer and more complicated to deal with them because people have always been with the CIBC," Roy said. "Desjardins is a co-op, so we don't work the same way. People have to understand how we work, and it takes time. That's normal."

As a co-operative, Desjardins belongs to its members, much like the FCNQ.

In a bank, a part of its profit is paid only to shareholders, as dividends. But at Desjardins, all members receive a part of the profit in the form of member dividends.

Of Nunavik Financial Services' 700 clients, about 10 now represent businesses or organizations. One has invested several million dollars.

But the Nunavik Financial Services network needs more investment to boost the credit union's volume and support its activity in the region, Roy said.

To create a pool of capital for the credit union, the FCNQ has lobbied hard for the creation of a $21 million development fund. The FCNQ wants the Kativik Regional Government, Makivik Corp., Quebec, and the federal government to invest a total of $16 million.

The idea is to create a credit union similar to Peace Hills Trust, run by the Samson Cree in Alberta. The credit union started out with $5 million in 1985. It now has a capital base of $84 million, and more than 20,000 individuals and businesses are members of the trust.

The Nunavik Financial Service Centre branches are located in community co-op stores where bilingual agents have access to computers, a fax and a scanner to open and manage accounts. Agents can issue Desjardins bank cards, explain services and provide hands-on assistance to clients.

Clients may receive direct deposits to their accounts. And they can make cash transfers, pay their bills and open savings or chequing accounts, credit cards, RRSPs, personal lines of credit and home-ownership loans.

Each office also has public computers where clients can learn to make their own transactions.

Details are spelled out in the trilingual Nunavik Financial Services web site at, which recently came on line.

This week and next, future Nunavik financial services agents will train in Puvirnituq, where they'll learn how to manage the new offices slated to open shortly in Kuujjuaraapik, Inukjuak, Puvirnituq, Kangiqsujuaq and Kuujjuaq.

Next year, Nunavik Financial Service centres will open in Ivujivik, Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Quaqtaq, Umiujaq and Tasiujaq. ATMs are also planned for several communities.

Already hired on to manage the growing network are regional coordinator Aatasi Pirlutuut in Kuujjuaq and liaison officer Alacie Iqiquq in Quebec City. Both employees speak Inuttitut, French and English.

To date, Nunavik Financial Services have retained all the agents in their first batch of trainees.

The major bump in getting the credit union off the ground occurred March 2, when the Salluit co-op burned to the ground, taking with it the specialized equipment needed to offer banking services.

This past week, the Nunavik Financial Services centre in Salluit was set to start up again.

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