Ukrainian Credit Union on course to weather the storm and continue growing

Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal economic and community life across Canada. It even led to Ukrainian Credit Union Limited holding its first ever virtual AGM, on June 17, during which the credit union communicated some very positive news. UCU ended its 76th year of operation as the biggest Ukrainian Canadian financial cooperative by total assets, number of members and number of branches. Despite the continuing pandemic, UCU’s future looks as bright as ever.

That being said, UCU is taking COVID-19 seriously, with the health and safety of its members and staff being the management’s primary concern. Slawko Borys, the Chair of UCU’s Board of Directors told the AGM that, following the implementation of various provincial restrictions, UCU quickly put in place processes to ensure the health and safety of members and staff. The branches implemented such physical distancing measures as Plexiglass barriers, personal protective equipment and limits on the number of people allowed inside a branch at one time. These actions were noticed by the peers in the industry – UCU has received a number of calls from other credit unions looking for guidance on implementation of these measures.

Anyone who has tried calling UCU’s Call Centre in the past several months will have noticed an enhanced experience. At the onset of the pandemic, UCU quickly increased the number of Call Centre support staff who are now working from home to service the members. This, coupled with UCU’s superior online- and app-based banking systems, allows members to meet many of their banking needs without the need to physically come in to the branch.

In his address, UCU’s CEO Taras Pidzamecky shared financial details of how the credit union has positioned itself to be able to weather the COVID-19 storm. UCU has a strong balance sheet, well managed operating expenses and some of the most innovative employees in the industry, he said. Over the past year UCU raised its assets by $63 million to almost $923 million. Total credit issued last year exceeded $822 million. In 2019, UCU’s operating expenses as a percentage of average assets remained below those of other credit unions in Ontario. The credit union’s net profit after tax reached almost $3.1 million.

UCU’s strong financial footing has allowed it to continue its UCU 2.0 transformation strategy, first initiated in 2018. This strategic plan is designed to set UCU up for success in the ever changing world of the financial services industry. Rooted in UCU’s long history of serving the Ukrainian community of Ontario, the strategy is driving change in three major aspects of its business: 1) Financial performance, 2) Technological transformation, and 3) Building the community.

As Slawko Borys noted, judged by the credit union’s performance in 2019 and during the pandemic, the UCU 2.0 strategy is starting to pay off. Apart from raising its total assets to over $900 million, UCU launched a number of technological enhancements to its processes and service offerings, and opened a new location in Ottawa. The Ottawa facility represents the UCU 2.0 strategy in making sure that UCU’s branches in cities outside of the GTA function as magnets to the community, offering them a location to do their banking, undertake community initiatives and conduct business. In Ottawa, UCU has partnered with the Ottawa-Gatineau branch of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada to provide it with space to act as a permanent home. This facility will also act as a space for the broader Ukrainian community in Ottawa.

The new branch of the Ukrainian Credit Union in Ottawa

Ukrainian Credit Union has always invested in the community youth. This year, UCU has awarded Community Leadership Awards in the sum of $1,000 each to the following five recipients:

  • Mykyta Duvalko – a 2nd year Music student at University of Western Ontario;
  • Max Fedchyshak – an Urban and Regional Planning Post Graduate at Queen’s University;
  • Oksana Luczkiw – who is in 4th year Physics at University of Toronto;
  • Anastasia Skrypnyk – a 2nd year English Language and Literature major, University of Toronto;
  • Katrina Zaraska – a 2nd year Biomedical Engineering student at the University of British Columbia.

UCU also announced the winners of five named scholarships:

  • The Board Chair’s Scholarship in the sum of $2,000 was awarded to Oksana Kosarenko who is studying Global and International Studies at the University of Ottawa.
  • The Eugene Roman Scholarship in the sum of $2,000 was awarded to Alexa Sochaniwsky who is pursuing a mathematics degree at McMaster University.
  • The New Pathway Fellowship, worth $3,000, was awarded to Alexandra Holyk who is studying Digital Media and Journalism at Ryerson University.
  • The Wasyl Sytnyk Memorial Scholarship in the value of $2,500 was awarded to Laura Pudlo who is a Business Management post graduate at Wilfred Laurier University.
  • The Michael Rebryk Memorial Scholarship with a value of $2,500 was awarded to Solomia Chabursky, a 3rd year Music student at the University of Ottawa.

It has become a tradition for UCU to financially support a wide variety of community causes and organizations. The credit union’s 76th AGM recommended to the UCU Board that, in lieu of paying a dividend on membership shares in 2020, the amount budgeted for such a dividend instead be donated to one or more reputable Canadian or international organizations in support of:

  1. Ukraine’s efforts to maintain a democratic, independent state, or
  2. parliamentary or public policy leadership development programs that build community capacity to assist either Ukraine or the Ukrainian Canadian community, or
  3. mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, UCU also generously supports different community media outlets. New Pathway – Ukrainian News would like to sincerely thank UCU’s Board, management and members for their generous donation of $10,000 which will help us weather this tough period and continue printing and serving our community. We are also glad that the credit union is continuing its traditional New Pathway Fellowship which helps young and aspiring journalists to strengthen their writing skills and immerse themselves in the life of our community.