November 29th, 2021

New connectFirst Credit Union branch coming to Strachan Corner

By COLLIN GALLANT on November 18, 2021.

SUBMITTED IMAGE An artist's rendering of the new connectFirst Credit Union branch, slated to be built at Strachan Corner in Medicine Hat.

The credit union that keyed in on Medicine Hat in recent ad campaigns will now build a new branch in the Gas City next year, the News has learned.

The ads, by connectFirst Credit Union, are part of a province-wide campaign to expand the entity and its customer base throughout Alberta.

Now, connectFirst has an agreement to build a new 3,400-square foot branch in the Strachan Corner commercial district in south Medicine Hat.

It will be the first personal banking outlet in the city from the credit union that traces its beginnings to an amalgamation that included the Brooks-based Chinook Credit Union.

“It’s a market we like and it’s a market that we can build on,” chief operating officer Wellington Holbrook told the News on Wednesday.

“We’re making a commitment to having expertise in Medicine Hat. We’ve done our research and we can bring a modern credit union to Hatters.”

For the “foreseeable future,” connectFirst’s commercial and ag lending offices on South Railway Street downtown will also remain open.

That will be a full-service personal banking branch with financial services advisory service, drive-thru ATM and potentially a coffee bar. It would employ up to 10 workers when it is expected to open in later 2022.

The branch will operate in tandem with the existing connectFirst commercial and ag lending office South Railways Street, which remains in operation.

Local response to those services, set up here in 2017, have made the outlet a top performer in connectFirst’s southern Alberta region, according to locally based business adviser Kris Mathers.

Holbrook said offering personal banking and investment advisory services for Hatters was a natural extension, and a having a physical location – especially when banking industry is considering branch closures in favour of online services – is important.

“It’s a time when credit unions should step up,” he said, noting connectFirst has also updated its online banking services. “There are a lot of people who going online is fine for them, but 30-40% of the population don’t like it.

“(A physical branch) will help project us in the community.”

New branch manager Aprill Hintz was hired in August to oversee setting up the new location. She said in-person service will avoid a “missed opportunity” to speak with customers and small business owners.

The company released a series of stylish commercials in the spring featuring Medicine Hat’s better and lesser known landmarks as the backdrop of the Alberta-wide campaign.

It formed as the combination of Chinook Credit Union and First Calgary along with several other credit unions. That has allowed rebranding and a new push to promote the credit union, even expand into new markets, said Holbrook, who said business is improving as Alberta moves past the disjointed pandemic year of 2020.

“It’s been a record year on many levels,” said Holbrook.

This month, the credit union also announced they had contracted Calgary-based transaction and payment service provider Helcim.

“We have a vision of being local in many of the things we do,” said Wellington.

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