Helpful, compassionate, reasonable and neighbourly. They’re not words you’d normally associate with banking but they’re at the heart of Westforce Credit Union and what makes it different to traditional banks.
I recall the stories about how Westforce formed; it was the same year as the Springbok Tour of ’81. As it turns out, 1981 was a big year on and off the rugby field.
Ronald Regan became President of the USA, Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married and Bob Marley died. In New Zealand, The Swingers were number one and in West Auckland, a new type of bank was being formed but not on the high street. A trio of humble Kiwis, frustrated at the lack of banking options for other everyday people, and inspired by similar models in New Zealand and overseas, met in a home on a quiet street and the bones of Westforce Credit Union were born.
The Early Days of Westforce
Created as a cooperative, family and friends soon invested their money or borrowed for everyday essentials. They too were frustrated by the big banks and wanted to improve their financial health in a way that would also help others.
The pioneers behind Westforce had a healthy dose of number eight wire ingenuity too – they were resourceful with a Kiwi ‘can do’ attitude. They weren’t fazed by the big banking boys.
They wanted to be a financial provider that did what it said – no unexpected fees, insane loan interest rates. Driving them was a desire to assist others to become financially independent.
They wanted to help those the banks turned away – people needing money for an emergency or coming out of a difficult situation.
They wanted to have a presence in communities with staff that could relate to others; working in branches that would warmly welcome people from all walks of life as if they were family.
And they wanted customers to be more than their bank balance. They wanted people to join them for the right reasons – to get ahead but also help others, becoming partners in a cooperative. They wanted members not minions.
And they wanted to be a part of the communities where their members and staff live.
Since those early days, Westforce has ticked all the boxes and done much more from supporting school sporting teams and feeding hungry families in Northland to donating to Breast Cancer fundraisers and helping the next generation whenever possible.
The people at Westforce do all this on top of helping everyday Kiwis save for tomorrow or pay their bills today without any surprises.
If you were a bank today, you’d say the concept of a credit union is a force to be reckoned with but comforted by the fact that many people didn’t know credit unions exist. Westforce intends on changing this fact as our members smile, knowing it’s not a bank.
If you want to find out more about Westforce Credit Union and our impact, please visit: https://www.westforce.org.nz/smile/