Credit unions have always been Beth Bruesch’s first love—so much that, after a stint in commercial banking, she went right back to the industry in which she got her start. Born in Canada but raised in California, Bruesch came home in 2004. In January 2009, with 25 years of financial-services experience, she was appointed CEO of Peterborough Community Credit Union (PCCU) in Peterborough, Ontario.
“Credit unions always put the member above the monetary aspects of the organization,” Bruesch says. “The credit union is a cooperative business model where everyone works together as a team to help each other and help the members.” Bruesch took the reigns at PCCU after former CEO Leon Butterworth (who held the position for 40 years) retired.
PCCU, which opened its doors in 1939, has just one location, in downtown Peterborough. To succeed for 70 years with one branch required a singular focus on the community. “The majority of the staff has all worked here 15-plus years,” Bruesch says. “Everyone knows every single member by name when they walk in that door. Our members have a great deal of loyalty.”
Originally, the credit union catered to the educational community, but was subsequently granted a community charter that encompassed two local counties. Then, in October 2009, new provincial legislation allowed credit unions to determine their own service areas, which permitted PCCU to change its bylaws and begin serving all of Ontario.
PCCU’s longevity is a plus, but the credit union is currently facing a challenge. “We have the largest population of people over the age of 65 in all of Canada,” Bruesch says. “Many of those folks are in retirement mode and are saving, not spending.” While having a healthy pool of funds to lend is good for the bank’s deposits, the challenge becomes finding younger people to loan the money to.
To address the challenge, the credit union has been working to become relevant to the younger generation, starting with offering online banking. PCCU also provides a link from its website to N-Charge, a financial-education website aimed at teens. The website also provides information on insurance companies. People who click through to one and become a customer receive a special member discount. In 2004, PCCU signed on with the Exchange ATM network, which allowed its members to make deposits, withdrawals, and transfers at other Exchange ATMs all across Canada. In November 2009, it added its first ATM night depository.
PCCU’s biggest achievement took place this spring, when Peterborough joined with other credit unions in Canada to pilot e-transfer technology, through which members can transfer money to each other via e-mail or through their mobile devices.
Education continues to play an important role at PCCU, and Bruesch is working with schools and librarians to put together some financial-education training for students. “My goal is to get into elementary and high schools before [students] have decided where they’re going to place their accounts, and to help them understand the credit-union model,” Bruesch says. “The federal government is looking at enacting some legislation that would mandate financial education in schools. That will help us.”
A David among Goliaths, PCCU and its one branch has not deterred it from being a driving force in the local community, wherever its members go. And despite its recent challenges, the credit union is in good hands with Beth Bruesch at the helm.