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New credit union coming to town

Local financial institutions are welcoming news of Squamish's second credit union opening next spring, saying competition is a sign of growth.

Local financial institutions are welcoming news of Squamish's second credit union opening next spring, saying competition is a sign of growth.

The North Shore Credit Union plans to open a branch by the end of March in Garibaldi Village if everything goes well.

It is the fifth financial institution to open a branch in Squamish, joining Squamish Credit Union, the Royal Bank, Scotiabank and the Bank of Montreal.

"Squamish is a strong market for us," said Mike Watson, the president of retail banking for the company, which already has branches in Whistler and Pemberton as well as the North Shore.

"Moving to Squamish was important for us to secure the Sea to Sky corridor."

Watson said the credit union already has a customer base in Squamish, because some of the residents who work in Whistler or North Vancouver have accounts.

"We suspect may residents are doing business outside of the community," he said.

And it's just good business sense.

The Garibaldi Village location was chosen to prepare for future expansions of the area.

"We see it as an expanding area of Squamish. We like the high traffic location," Watson said.

"You're growing like gangbusters up there."

Watson said the credit union expects to hire between eight to 10 people and several Squamish people working in other locations may relocate.

Mike Jenson, the acting general manger of the Squamish Credit Union, said it isn't unusual for new credit unions to move into communities.

"It's not uncommon. There's a community credit union, and a bigger one moves in. North Shore is a regional credit union."

He said as Squamish grows it makes sense for more financial institutions to open.

"You just have to look at the housing market. There will be a need for a lot of mortgage money," he said, citing the building of the university, a well as the golf course, houses, and a new hotel.

The Squamish Credit Union is the oldest financial institution in Squamish. It opened in 1944 on Cleveland Avenue, when members of the Elks and Farmers Institute decided they needed a way to bank and borrow money. In 1997, SCU opened its second branch in the Highlands Mall.

The manager of the Squamish branch of the Royal Bank of Canada also says the new credit union would be positive for the community.

"We're a well-established bank," said Denise Rittberg, RBC's manager of personal financial services.

"The impact is there is going to be competition. It's healthy. As the community grows, its is obvious we'll have more people coming into the community to do business."

Competition will improve the delivery of financial services she said.

"It makes us have to be better. I think that's a good thing."

Calls to the BMO Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank in Squamish were not returned by press time.

NSCU received approval from District of Squamish council to locate in Garibaldi Village last month. Previously the mall was not zoned for banking services.

A previous proposal to build a TD Bank on land in the Squamish Business Park was rejected by council this summer.

-with files from John French

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