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Access Credit Union (ACU) boasted strong growth in 2018, according to the financial statement presented at the institution's annual general meeting Thursday in Altona.

At the end of 2018, total assets for the credit union registered at $2.635 billion representing an increase from $2.438 in 2017. Net income grew from $13.310 million in 2017 to $15.282 million in 2018.

Loans and deposits also grew, out-performing the Manitoba system. At the end of the year, loans totalled $2.275 billion, a growth of 7.34%. Deposit growth was 6.87% for a total of $2.391 billion.

This growth is on par with the pace set over the last 3 or 4 years, according to President and CEO Larry Davey.

That being said, he noted the credit union continues to run into added costs associated with things like added government regulations and expanded technology services.

Currently, members of Access Credit Union can use 6 different channels to interact with the institution, including mobile banking.

"The consumers and our members are looking for that to be expanded," explained Davey. "As they utilize technology in numerous ways in their life and enjoy the convenience of it, they're looking for that same convenience from their credit union."

That level of service, he says, comes at a cost that increases with each update.

"We get revenue from loans and we get revenue from fees and if we have all of these costs, now it comes down to where do you get the revenue to cover it, where do you save on the expense side? We've been very efficient on saving on the expense side but you can only cut so much."

In addition, Davey says their team was caught off guard this past year by the removal of the Manitoba Tax Credit which is expected to cost Access Credit Union an extra $10 million over the next 5 years.

The financial institution also celebrated the opening of its Innovation Centre, located between Morden and Winkler, in 2018.

"The innovation centre has really provided what we were looking for," said Davey.

The Centre is ACU's look at what the next generation of credit union branches could look like as finance continues to merge with technology. The branch functions as a teaching facility for members about new technology and an opportunity to learn which technologies members gravitate towards.

"We've seen them help a lot of members who then don't have to go the branch as often, they're just more comfortable using their phone or their iPad," noted Davey.

Thursday's annual meeting also saw a series of changes made to ACU's governance by-laws in an effort to streamline the operation of the Board of Directors and provide more equal representation around the board table as the institution's territory continues to grow.

First, the decision was made to allow for members to be grouped into 3 or more districts, each with equal board representation.

Second, term limits were removed from a director's eligibility for re-election.

Another amendment has granted the Board the ability to remove a director if a majority feel that person isn't fulfilling their duties as laid out in the by-law.

As for what the future holds, Davey feels it is an exciting time for ACU as the consolidation of credit unions is anticipated to continue across Manitoba.

"We have to keep our eyes open to it because we don't want to be left out in the dust, but all I can say is that our board would only look at the right opportunity for us moving forward."

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