One of the advantages of banking with a community-focused financial institution is a personalized approach that is deeply rooted in the economic well-being of the individual customers and the communities it serves. Today we are pleased to profile one of our valued Central 1 members who is a leader in this personalized approach to banking and has been making an incredible impact in Indigenous communities across Canada for over 25 years. 

First Nations Bank of Canada (FNBC) became a chartered bank in November 1996 and since then has been servicing communities that are often misunderstood, underserviced or sometimes ignored by larger financial institutions. FNBC truly understands the unique needs of the communities they are in, and as a result can provide the right support to their customers. Their commitment has allowed for meaningful gains towards Indigenous economic self-sufficiency.  

Lori Lester, VP Operations & Information Technology, sat down with us to answer a few questions about FNBC, their work with Central 1 and some of the unique challenges of the communities they call home.  

What can you tell us about First Nations Bank? 

FNBC is a Canadian chartered bank and trust company with over 87 per cent Indigenous shareholders including groups from Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec. FNBC is a leader in the provision of financial services to Indigenous people and an advocate for the growth of the Indigenous economy and the economic well-being of Indigenous people. 

We have two kinds of branches—nine full-service branches, like our branch in Saskatoon where our head office is located and our branch in the James Bay Cree Region. These branches serve their communities, as well as the commercial banking needs of the wider region. 

We also have ten community banking centres in places like Pangnirtung—a small community of 1,500 people in northern Canada.  Communities of this size typically would not have a financial institution in their community. We go into those regions because, first and foremost, people need banking services.  

What prompted FNBC to pursue a partnership with Central 1 and how does it support your institution to deliver on its goals? 

We had a strong existing relationship with Central 1 in relation to our digital banking platform. When the need arose to review options in relation to our clearing and settlement processor, it only made sense to review Central 1’s product offering as Central 1 is one of the largest payment processors for Canadian financial institutions. Central 1’s support, range of services and innovation enables us to deliver new products and services to our customers while ensuring a secure and robust environment to do it in.  

The pandemic made a notable shift in how Canadians pay with an increase in the use of digital payment options. What are your thoughts on this shift and how has it impacted your financial institution and your customers? 

Like every other financial institution, we have seen an increase in Interac e-Transfers in both retail and business customers. Businesses are wanting and needing higher e-Transfer limits to meet the requirements of their business.

For people in northern communities, cash is still a readily used payment type. The internet is slow and not always reliable, so the adoption of digital solutions is still evolving. While we expect this to change once the northern communities have access to high-speed reliable internet services, we need to ensure we have the right services in place until then, and the right set of digital payment options in place for customers as digital connectivity advances.

Central 1 is an integral part of Canada’s banking system, processing more than 645 million payments annually on behalf of 295 financial institutions for over 5 million Canadian individuals and businesses. We’re the largest payments processor for Canadian credit unions, processing the majority of credit union payment items. 

Reach out to our dedicated payments experts to learn more about Central 1’s Payments Solutions. 

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