The Credit Union Difference

Credit Union Firsts

What many now take for granted, credit unions invented! We are the innovators in Canadian financial services. And if you look closely, most of our firsts are focused on making financial services better, more convenient and more flexible for our members.

  • first loans based on borrower character
  • first payroll deduction service for deposits and loan payments
  • first open mortgages
  • first financial institutions to lend to women in their own names (in the 1960s if you can believe that)
  • first to offer daily interest savings
  • first full-service ATM network
  • first home equity lines of credit
  • first debit card service
  • first registered education plans
  • first fully functional internet banking
  • first branchless bank (Citizens Bank)
  • first cheque imaging service

Quick Facts

Now that you know how often credit unions put their members' needs first, learn a little more about the credit unions that put all Canadians first. There are 427 credit unions in Canada affiliated with Canadian Central.

They have:

  • 1,733 locations
  • more than 5 million members
  • $117 billion in assets
  • $106 billion in deposits
  • $97 billion in loans
  • 24,000 employees

Together they are the second largest lender to small businesses in Canada. The first Canadian caisse populaire, or credit union was started in December, 1900 in Levis, Que. by Alphonse Desjardins.


In the early 1900's, average working Canadians had little access to the banks. Credit Unions, organized locally according to cooperative models, were born in this country as a result. The first credit union was created in Levis, Quebec in 1900 when 80 people banded together as a caisse populaire.

By the early 1940's, credit unions had been established across Canada, primarily by groups of Canadians with common work or life interests. And the rest is history - as the system now employs over 24,000 people, serves more than five million members and manages assets of over $114 billion.

Our history is the foundation of our philosophy: that everyone deserves an opportunity to achieve financial well-being, that working together, cooperatively, works for the good of all and that giving back to communities is a key rationale for profitable operations.