Police officers face unique challenges, both on the job and with managing their money. For decades, the Winnipeg law-enforcement community has turned to its own dedicated credit union to meet those challenges.
Founded in 1949, the Winnipeg Police Credit Union (WPCU) was created by police officers frustrated at the inability of traditional banks to meet their needs. “Back then, banks were very restrictive about lending, and they didn’t offer deposit services that satisfied the needs of the law-enforcement community,” says Michael Taylor, WPCU’s general manager.
“Our understanding of police officers’ personal circumstances gives us an advantage in tailoring our services to fit them,” Taylor explains. “When it comes to borrowing money, confidentiality is critical because our board of directors is composed of other police officers or retired police officers. So we provide our management team with a lot of latitude to approve loans without having to report to the board.”
Taylor says the WPCU serves about 750 of the 1,100 police officers in the Winnipeg Police Department and their families, as well as retired officers. Though the WPCU is open bonded, it has opted to restrict membership only to the law-enforcement community.
“You can’t walk in off the street and become a member,” Taylor explains. “We are open to police officers, their family members, and anyone they wish to refer.” That makes the WPCU one of the few semiclosed credit unions in Manitoba.
The WPCU has only one branch office, located in downtown Winnipeg, adjoining the City of Winnipeg Police Service headquarters. However, because police officers work varying shifts around the clock, the branch isn’t always accessible to them. For that reason, the WPCU has been a pioneer in implementing new technologies to provide anytime access to accounts.
“We recently implemented mobile banking,” Taylor says. “Because we are a single-branch operation, and because police officers use a lot of sophisticated technology, we tend to be a leader in technology.” The WPCU offers Internet banking and bill payments to all members without charge—a rarity even among credit unions.
In keeping with its track record of promoting leading-edge technology, the WPCU was the first credit union in Canada to deploy a Synergy Document Management System in 2011, providing paperless documentation for financial transactions, including electronic signatures.
The WPCU fosters a business atmosphere that satisfies its members’ expectations, treating police officers as professionals. The WPCU extends this to its own staff. “Whenever we hire staff, we prefer professionals—people with degrees and track records of professionalism in their jobs.”
An agile niche player in Manitoba’s financial-services market, WPCU adapts quickly to a constantly evolving financial environment. “Unlike a big bank that has to seek approval from the head office in Toronto, when we need to make a change, we can proceed from concept to implementation very quickly,” Taylor observes.
Still, the WPCU has remained highly competitive with mainstream banks and much larger financial-services providers, offering higher interest rates and lower service charges to members than they can find at conventional banks and credit unions, and even at online banks. “A lot of institutions come out with new services that are just window dressing and provide no real value to customers,” Taylor says. “We constantly examine and evaluate what other banks are doing, to see if we can adapt those services to serve our members.”