In a Nutshell: Coast Capital is one of Canada’s largest credit unions serving customers throughout British Columbia. As part of its commitment to giving back to the communities it serves, Coast Capital promotes the importance of financial literacy through programs that tackle the issue. The federal financial cooperative also prioritizes the need for improved social change in finance and is reducing its carbon footprint through a net zero emissions initiative.
Coast Capital began in 1940 as a cooperative of British Columbia government employees. After a series of mergers between local Vancouver Island credit unions, its name became Pacific Coast Savings Credit Union.
The credit union became Coast Capital in 2000 following a few more mergers. Since then, the member-owned and operated credit union has seen tremendous growth and now has nearly 600,000 members, making it the largest credit union in Canada based on membership.
Coast Capital offers personal and business banking and investment services across Canada. Members can access Coast Capital’s services digitally, as well as by phone and through its 46 branches in British Columbia.
Coast Capital has provided guidance on federalization for credit unions looking to expand beyond their provincial boundaries. Its members approved a proposal for national expansion in the fall of 2016 with 79% voting in favor of Coast Capital becoming a federal credit union.
Coast Capital has been recognized as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, a British Columbia Top Employer, and a platinum member of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. The credit union boasts flexible work environments, health and financial benefits, family friendly policies, and employee engagement.
“We pride ourselves on making our financial cooperative a great place to work and place strong emphasis on the financial, physical, and mental well-being of our employees,” said Maureen Young, Vice President of Social Purpose at Coast Capital.
Promoting a Greater Foothold on Financial Literacy
The credit union is aware that not everyone has the same opportunity to thrive financially, and an important determining factor in that area is having access to financial literacy resources.
In fact, a 2021 poll conducted by Canada Life Assurance Co. found that, despite receiving an average score of 71% on a quiz to gauge their level of financial savvy, only 41% of survey respondents expressed high confidence in financial subjects.
On the positive side, almost half of Canadians (44%) surveyed said they had engaged in some type of financial education to strengthen their financial knowledge over the past five years.
“Gaining an understanding of key financial concepts and developing skills is crucial to building confidence about money-related decisions and boosting your financial well-being,” said Young.
Coast Capital’s core belief is that everyone deserves the opportunity to fuel their aspirations and achieve their full potential. That’s why the credit union strives to aid the community with comprehensive and relevant financial education, and trusted advice, including sharing financial literacy resources and advice across its social platforms and blog.
Coast Capital works with various philanthropic organizations, including the Junior Achievement of British Columbia (JABC), to advance financial literacy. JABC’s financial literacy course is designed to teach the fundamentals of money management to students in grades seven to nine.
The credit union also works with JABC in developing videos, including one on budgeting basics, investing 101, and payment methods.
Another organization Coast Capital supports is Prosper Canada, which delivers skills to Canadians across the country through the Financial Empowerment Champions Program. The program provides free and effective financial products and services to financially vulnerable Canadians.
Innovative Approaches to Financial Health
On the product side, Coast Capital offers a number of useful resources to its members. MoneyChat is a free online financial health assessment tool which was co-designed with Coast Capital members and employees.
“It’s a unique approach to help people understand their current financial health, where they want to go, and how to get there,” said Young.
With MoneyChat, members can get an overview of their financial health and understand their strengths and opportunities to help them reach their goals. The tool provides its resources to members without judgmental scores and in as little as five minutes.
In 2022, MoneyChat won the Canadian Credit Union Association’s National Innovation Award, which recognizes breakthrough products and services that have substantially benefited a credit union’s member base.
Coast Capital’s service also provides access to other resources and tools, including calculators that can be used to help members improve their financial well-being.
“With inflation driving up the cost of living, interest rates rising, and as such, budgets being stretched thinner than ever, it’s so important that people have access to tools and resources that can help them plan for not only their present needs but future financial goals,” said Young.
Coast Capital is Embracing Social Purpose
Coast Capital is a certified B Corporation, which means it is driven by its social purpose to unlock financial opportunities that positively impact people and communities. It works to integrate this purpose into its day-to-day operations and across every aspect of its business.
“As a social purpose company, we’re harnessing all our enterprise capabilities, talents, and resources to build better futures together. We believe social purpose is the business model the world needs to tackle the complex, systemic issues we face today,” said Young.
The credit union is in its fourth year of B Corp certification, having just recertified with a score of 112.8 (41% above the minimum qualifying score). Coast Capital remains committed to growing responsibly as an organization while working alongside leaders in the global movement to build inclusive, equitable, and purposeful economies.
“Each year, we reinvest 10% of our budgeted bottom line back into the communities where we work, live, and serve in support of building better futures for all Canadians.”
Over the last 20 years, Coast Capital investments in its communities totaled over $91 million, and it has reinvested over $4 million in a wide range of organizations and causes in just the last year.
Coast Capital is also a member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance, which is a global, industry-led initiative to accelerate efforts to address climate change and address net zero emissions by 2050. It invested an additional $300,000 to support climate initiatives that contribute to systemic change and work to address social and economic inequity tied to climate change.
For over a year, Coast Capital has been transitioning into a full-fledged social purpose organization. “We recognize that our societies face big challenges that require big solutions,” said Young.
To achieve this, Coast Capital has initiated its Social Purpose Impact Plan, a five-year strategic framework that outlines the purpose of “building better futures together” and the path to blend social purpose into every aspect of the credit union’s business.
Its strategy is focused on three pillars: building and championing equitable and inclusive employment; supporting Canadians with more equitable access to education and training; and delivering financial tools, education, and advice for all.
“Over the next year and beyond, we look forward to continuing the sustained, proactive, and urgent steps we are taking to advance financial inclusion and build better futures together,” said Young.