Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Credit unions' CEO announces retirement

After 15 years, it's 'the right time'

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Since Garth Manness became CEO of Credit Union Central of Manitoba (CUCM) in 1999, the assets held by those member-owned financial institutions have grown almost five-fold and membership has almost doubled.

Manness, 65, announced he'll be retiring at the end of the year and the CUCM's board now has the challenge of installing a new leader to continue what has been a winning formula for the past 15 years.

Russ Fast, the chairman of the board of CUCM, said it will be a difficult task.

"We have a unique business model," said Fast, who's been chairman for 13 years. "It's going to be a challenge for sure to find a leader that will maintain that. I've had a tremendous partnership with Garth. He's a values-based guy and has made it very easy to be the chairman of the organization."

'We have a unique business model. It's going to a be challenge for sure to find a leader that will maintain that'

-- Credit Union Central of Manitoba chairman Russ Fast

Manness, will who remain a senior adviser to the new CEO for two years until the end of 2016, said it was the right time for he and his family to retire and the right time for the organization to find a new chief executive.

Over the course of his tenure, Manitoba credit unions have grown to $23.4 billion from $5.18 billion in combined assets in 1999.

Manness refused to take credit for any of that growth.

"I see myself as being fortunate to be here during a time of substantial growth," he said. "I've been part of a tremendous group, part of a bigger system. The credit unions themselves have done an excellent job making sure they can remain competitive on rates and services."

In addition to asset growth, membership has almost doubled to 600,000 from 398,000 and the number of branches have increased to 189 from 161. There are now fewer smaller credit unions, shrinking by more than 50 per cent in that time frame to 36 from 67, to feature more effective focused management.

CUCM manages many back-office functions for the individual credit unions including managing liquidity reserves and monitoring credit granting procedures. It also provides services such as corporate governance, government relations, representation and advocacy.

Manness believes the focus on member services by the member-owned financial institutions has been a significant factor in its dramatic growth. (By comparison, between 2006 and 2013, total assets at the Big Six banks have grown by 75.3 per cent whereas Manitoba credit unions have grown by 93 per cent.)

"It's natural for them to focus on member service and they have done that very well in Manitoba," Manness said. "The result has been significant growth in business, market share and continued loyalty from the members."

In fact, Manitobans have embraced credit unions in greater proportion than anywhere else in the country except Quebec.

A whopping 38 per cent of Manitobans belong to a credit union (down from 47 per cent last year) and Manness figures credit unions handle about 50 per cent of the loans to small businesses in the province.

"It is tremendous market penetration," he said. "Credit unions understand the financial- services marketplace well and work diligently to make sure they are competitive on price and products and are also able to meet all the new technology requirements. That ensures they are able to grow at the rate they are growing at."

Fast said the board hopes to have a new CEO by the end of the year, but the organization will not be strapped if that is not the case.

"The credit unions have a tremendous amount at stake (in Manness's successor)," Fast said. "There are regulatory and structural changes but we have an operationally strong senior team."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2014 B5

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