The power of 10

This year, ACU’s Community Financial Centre (CFC) is celebrating 10 years of building commerce through the power of community. CFC has long been a pillar in the community, helping create a stronger community of small businesses, start-ups, non-profits, co-ops, and social enterprises right here in Manitoba.

Senior Community Account Manager, Mihaela Pirlog, delivering a donation to Urban Circle Training Centre Inc.

The power of 10 years in the community

In late 2011, ACU’s Board of Directors and the Executive Leadership Team began discussions about the importance of investing in building commerce in the community. 

At the time, ACU’s Business Financial Centre (BFC) and the CFC were a combined division. However, seeing the need for more specialized support, in 2012, CFC officially became a stand-alone division. ACU chose Director Nigel Mohammed to lead the newly created division — a position he has held during CFC’s entire existence.  

Nigel Mohammed, ACU Community Financial Centre

“What makes us unique is that our profitability is a means to an end. There is payback for members as a result of convenient access to services, competitive pricing and knowledgeable advisors. But the biggest payback is how we use our profits to reinvest back to the local community,” Nigel explains of the CFC. 

“We each live and choose to raise our families in Manitoba and are proud to have our head office in the heart of our downtown,” he continues. “Members can be confident knowing that, not only do we understand the local marketplace, we are also committed to their success — and by extension, to the success and sustainability of our local economy.”

Centered on members and local organizations

This is a significant benefit for local organizations, as CFC’s commitment to member advice and service delivery is a philosophy that guides the approach undertaken by this one-of-a-kind centre in Manitoba. 

In fact, the team’s expertise and knowledge gained over the past decade serving a niche market have influenced new lending policies, innovative products, and creative partnerships that have transformed communities. This member-centric approach has resulted in strong relationships established with other community partners to provide the kind of advice and access to technical support that members need to succeed. 

Because of the specialized expertise serving not-for-profits, co-operatives and small businesses, the CFC is recognized as a vital community resource promoting education and fulfilling Co-operative Principle #5Education, Training and Information.

Over the years, CFC advisors continue to design and deliver free education sessions to build the capacity of the not-for-profit sector. This includes housing co-operatives delivering affordable housing, newcomers and Indigenous women pursuing self-employment, and existing businesses seeking to grow and expand their enterprises.  

This important work extends beyond provincial borders, as both the BFC and CFC have been invited to make presentations to international groups and delegates interested in learning from ACU’s unique approach to doing business. 

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Related: How ACU’s Nigel Mohammed earned the esteemed I-CUDE designation as an International Development Educator

A decade of innovation and investment in building commerce

Over the past decade, CFC has focused on investing in the community and has worked with local partners to build stronger, more vibrant communities through deepening Values-Based Banking here in Manitoba. The team harnesses its unique, specialized knowledge and expertise to serve the community. 

Oh Doughnuts Winnipeg

With an innovative approach to building commerce through the power of community, the CFC has opened doors to new and innovative partnerships that support decentralizing and scaling delivery channels. They have worked with not-for-profit and government partners to pilot new programs to serve the local community, including developing products and programs designed for underrepresented sectors.

Some examples include:

ACU's Islamic Mortgage

Islamic Mortgage: The first-of-its-kind product in Canada, ACU consulted leaders of the Manitoba Islamic Association to design and develop a specialized Islamic Residential Mortgage product. The ‘Declining Partnership Agreement’ is compliant with the Islamic Faith and is only available here in Manitoba and by ACU. 


Recognition Counts: A program that supports foreign-trained skilled immigrants wishing to acquire local accreditation on their fields of expertise in Manitoba.

Nigel Mohammed with ACU's Community Financial Centre at the Recognition Counts! launch
Recognition Counts! was launched in October of 2012 and was designed by SEED Winnipeg and Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) in collaboration with the Manitoba Government. Manitoba Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Pilot Project of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) fund the program.

Manitoba Tipi Mitawa Home Ownership Program: A program that was designed by the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and with funding from the Province of Manitoba. MREA partnered with ACU as the trusted financial partner to provide mortgages to urban indigenous families pursuing homeownership and to build long-term relationships with the families on their journey toward their financial future goals.

Building relationships within our communities

The CFC’s roots however, run deeper than a decade, as they have built strong connections with community partners and not-for-profit organizations since the early 1980s. Since then, they have been active in community-building partnerships that help foster healthy, self-reliant neighborhoods. 

These community investments have a positive impact on thousands of Manitobans in terms of providing affordable housing in underserved communities, employment opportunities for low-income earners, access to financial services and advice and financial alternatives to people underserved by traditional financial institutions. They also provide support for fellow co-operatives, playing a vital role in actioning ACU’s values.

Recognizing the importance of access to safe, affordable housing, CFC not only uses flexible financing as a force for good, but also adds its voice to advocating and building capacity of the not-for-profit housing sector. 

Old Grace Housing Co-operative - ACU's Community Financial Centre

Housing co-operatives were established as a “community structure” to ensure the right of housing remains affordable for all. With decades-long government subsidies expiring, many housing co-ops found themselves unable to sustain operating costs without passing increased charges on to their members. This resulted in many low-income families unable to afford higher housing costs and the co-ops unable to invest further in providing quality, affordable housing.


How CFC was able to help

Recognized as a Centre of Excellence providing financing to not-for-profit housing providers, in July 2012, CFC was invited along with representatives of Credit Union Central of Manitoba to present to House of Commons, Special Committee on Co-operatives. They would discuss the importance of housing co-ops and the impact these expiring operating agreements would have on both the co-ops and low-income families.

ACU’s voice, together with several other key stakeholders across the country, influenced the Government of Canada’s decision to allow housing co-ops the option to refinance its legacy fixed-rate mortgages to access lower market rates, thereby facilitating long-term planning and greater financial sustainability for the housing co-ops. 

ACU was proud to have been the first financial institution in Canada to provide renovation financing to Manitoba’s largest housing co-op under this new refinancing flexibility, resulting in improved upgrades to 150 members and maintaining safe, adequate affordable housing.

“By investing in partnerships, programs, training and advocacy benefiting members and community at large, ACU and the dedicated CFC team demonstrate a commitment to Cooperative Principle #7 — Concern for Community,” says Nigel.

Values beyond finance 

You might wonder, why is a financial institution so focused on “building commerce through the power of community?”

The answer is simple: ACU members have asked us to do more than just have a financial bottom line. 

Opening day at Le Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market and the grand opening of the market’s new four-season canopy structure.

We’ve invested in the communities we live in, work in and play in. Although it might be common to view financial institutions as having one bottom line – making a profit – that doesn’t hold true for ACU. We push for more.

“People are recognizing that the unique relationship credit unions have with their members and community offers a positive choice from the traditional customer relationships of a financial institution,” Nigel explains. 

As a B Corp, we continue to strive to do more for our people and community, and invite other businesses, organizations and co-operatives to join us in using business as a force for good. Together, we make a difference, and by exploring “Behind the B,” we can encourage the expansion of this global movement.

Get expert advice ACU’s Community Financial Centre

The CFC helps small businesses, including business start-ups and non-profits, by providing lending decisions that are made locally, based on the specific purpose of the loan and the viability of your company or organization.

They offer:

  • Full business banking services
  • Commercial mortgages
  • Construction financing
  • Bridge financing term loans
  • Operating lines of credit
  • Letters of credit
  • Advice and counseling
  • Start-up or growth financing options
  • Strategic grants for Building Condition Reports Partnership with Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association and HLC Consulting Ltd.
  • Creditor insurance solutions

For more information on how ACU can help you start or expand your small business, please contact Nigel Mohammed, Director of CFC, at nmohammed@acu.ca.

About Lisa Delorme Meiler

Lisa is an accomplished Graphic Designer and Artist. She has worked for ACU for over a decade and has two decades experience in the creative industry. When she isn't following her creative passions, she is busy enjoying the great outdoors and the company of family and friends.

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