Today, BlueShore Financial is one of the largest and most successful credit unions in British Columbia, but like the mighty Douglas firs and the lively communities that define our region, it started off very small with just a seed of an idea.
Take a scroll with us through the decades, and discover how BlueShore’s strong commitment to clients and the community have always been a cornerstone of our story and our values.
The 1940s: A credit union takes root
Faced with few financial options for blue collar workers in the midst of a world war, nine North Shore residents decided to start their own cooperative credit union. On May 2, 1941, those nine individuals brought $1 each and gathered at the Palace Hotel to sign the charter for North Shore Community Credit Union, today known as BlueShore Financial.
But the BC Inspector of Credit Unions almost prevented it from happening as a minimum of 10 people were needed to found a credit union. So, one of the founders ran home to grab his neighbour, who arrived in a housecoat and slippers, with $1 in his hand to sign the charter. Thus with $10 in capital, the North Shore Community Credit Union was born and incorporated on May 7, 1941 – eventually growing and evolving through the years to become today’s BlueShore Financial.
The 1950s: New growth brings new opportunities
With the war over, a baby boom was in full swing and the North Shore was about to boom as well. Developers in North Vancouver created new sub-divisions, such as Capilano-Highlands and Norgate, to attract young families. Shopping centres such as Edgemont Village and Park Royal were founded.
At North Shore Community Credit Union, membership continued to grow at a steady pace, to reach several thousand by the end of the decade. Operation of the credit union moved from the basement of our first president, Tom Dearlove, to a small office at 1323 Lonsdale in 1953. Five years later, we built and moved into our first official Head Office at 1100 Lonsdale in North Vancouver.
The 1960s: Save vs. spend in a tough economy
The economic climate was unsettled. High inflation rates and massive union strikes led many North Shore residents to unemployment. Yet despite this, the City and the District banded together to continue to expand civic infrastructure. They completed several major projects including the Upper Levels Highway, Lions Gate Hospital, both municipal halls, public libraries and community recreation centres.
The unsteady economy meant belt-tightening for many people. North Shore residents were reluctant to borrow money, choosing instead to save what funds they had available. By 1962 North Shore Community Credit Union had over $1 million in shares and $1.5 million in assets. To balance the savings influx with attracting new business and increasing loan activity, North Shore Credit Union began expanding our offerings. We started selling Term Deposits, we partnered with Maple Leaf Travel to provide discount charter flights to members, and we sponsored a financial talk radio show called Voice of Vancouver.
The 1970s: Easier access creates rapid expansion
The infrastructure built in the 60s provided easier access into North Vancouver resulting in a visitor boom. The SeaBus created a third connection between downtown and North Vancouver, and Capilano College (now Capilano University) opened its doors.
The decade was a time of huge growth for North Shore Credit Union. We expanded rapidly by adding branches in Lynn Valley, Marine Drive, Edgemont Village, and Deep Cove. Membership soared from 6,155 to 39,474 members with $150 million in assets. We partnered with two other credit unions to bring the first RRSP products to BC credit unions; created a real estate division; built night depository services; and became the first credit union to own our own insurance subsidiary (NORCU Insurance Services Ltd).
The 1980s: Sparks of technology at the credit union
The declines in demand for shipbuilding, forestry and mining led to drastic cuts in industrial employment. But for the first time, large-scale unemployment wasn’t a concern for North Shore residents. The creation of Lions Gate Film Studios and other studios brought Hollywood north, and with it a boom in technology, design, and engineering jobs. It also brought international attention to the area, which, in combination with Expo '86, resulted in another population boom from an influx of immigration.
As the decade unfolded, new technologies were being embraced by North Shore Community Credit Union. In 1980 we installed the first Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in BC at our Lonsdale branch, and soon expanded our ATM network across all of our branches. We installed computers in every branch, allowing more efficient and automated customer service. We became the first financial institution to open a branch in Whistler and also opened a branch at Park Royal. In 1986 we merged with Harbour Savings Credit Union to acquire two downtown locations (later consolidated into one) and a branch in North Burnaby. We ended the decade with $315 million in assets, 36,000 members, and over 100 sponsored community events and charities.
The 1990s: Entering the Information Age
The 90s was a decade of social transition. Both current and migrating residents were becoming more educated and much wealthier. As the demand for industrial work began to decline, new specialized industries began to expand. Tourism also continued to flourish. Whistler grew into an internationally recognized luxury retreat, while Greater Vancouver became known for its active and multi-cultural communities.
As our membership became more sophisticated, so did we. We dropped "Community" from our name, and coined the "Partners in your Community” slogan. We expanded our service in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor with a branch in Pemberton. We also began customizing the member experience by developing our Relationship Banking approach. We created a “Let’s Talk” campaign to give members their first one-on-one financial planning solution. By 1991, every teller had a personal computer with state-of-the-art technology. We introduced telephone banking and Solution Centre service for member convenience as well as our first Access Card and MasterCard® products.
The 2000s: A new millennium, a new approach
The Vancouver area entered the new millennium with bright hopes and expectations. The already popular Vancouver real estate market became red-hot and it quickly evolved into one of the most expensive Canadian cities to buy into. The Sea-to-Sky highway was rebuilt and expanded to ease passage along the corridor. And the first rapid transit system connecting the airport to the downtown core was completed.
Our increasing focus on relationship banking firmly took hold in 2000 when a new CEO, Chris Catliff, took the helm. We had a vision of a sophisticated banking experience for the affluent market in our trade areas where ensuring the financial well-being of our clients became our primary goal. We also expanded our branch network further, opening a location in Squamish. We adopted our first customer relationship management program that allowed us to keep track of vital client information in one central location. By the end of the decade our innovative Financial Spa® branches had earned us international acclaim; we continued to trail blaze technology solutions; and our upscale yet flexible approach to financial expertise helped our assets soar from $750 million in 2000 to $2 billion in 2010.
The 2010s: New name, same values
The decade opened with the 2010 Winter Olympics, bringing the world’s eyes to Vancouver once more. Neighbourhoods across Greater Vancouver and up the Sea-to-Sky corridor rose to the occasion with gusto. Foreign investment and real estate strengthened and confidence in the city soared high. Infrastructure continued to be improved with the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge, the expansion of Highway 1, and the Evergreen rapid transit line into the Tri-Cities.
In 2013, the credit union went through its own transformation, adopting our current operating name, BlueShore Financial. All part of a long-range plan to build a healthy and sustainable organization, the name change was followed up the next year by the opening of the new custom-built BlueShore Financial head office and Lonsdale Financial Spa in the heart of central Lonsdale, North Vancouver.
From 2010 to 2020, BlueShore achieved many prestigious accomplishments including being named one of the 50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada and receiving the Waterstone “Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures” award. Our Financial Spa concept and our innovative technologies continued to earn us international awards and accolades. And our growth across Greater Vancouver solidified, with a West Broadway branch opening in 2011 and our 13th branch in the vibrant Kerrisdale community, opening in 2018.
The 2020s: Driving a digital transformation
With hopes of a new “Roaring Twenties”, the decade kicked off with great excitement but quickly took an unexpected turn as a mysterious virus spread around the world. 2020 would be a year like no other, but one that would see people’s resilience and resolve rise to the challenge, with the support of one another and digital technology.
BlueShore has navigated both the pandemic and the advancement of the digital era by adapting our branch operations to prioritize the health, well-being, and needs of our staff and clients. Our Solution Centre expertly managed an increase in emails, online chat messages, and inbound calls. With timely, relevant, informative virtual updates we stayed connected to, and supportive of, our clients.
Also in 2020, we celebrated our President and CEO, Chris Catliff’s 20th anniversary with BlueShore. Under Chris’ leadership BlueShore has become an award-winning organization recognized for its client service, financial expertise, corporate culture, and innovation. And in 2021, we celebrated 80 years of providing financial services to the community – perhaps in an ironic twist of fate, the global pandemic saw a few of us marking the occasion by working from home in our slippers.
As the decade unfolds, we continue to push towards greater digital transformation. For BlueShore, this incorporates our Financial Spa, both physical and digital. Digital transformation is not just about the tools and technology; it is also about having an agile workforce. At BlueShore, we have fostered a culture that embraces innovation, agility, and discovery. We continue to have a strong corporate culture and high employee engagement and in 2020 we were named a Kincentric Best Employer in Canada for the tenth consecutive year.
We are set to accelerate on our digital journey in many ways, from fortifying our technology infrastructure, to upgrading our business applications and continuing to fine-tune our “high-tech high-touch” approach of blending digital and human interaction.
We are excited to continue to serve our clients in meaningful and innovative ways.
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