Unitus CCU and First Credit Union New Zealand exchange more than ideas

Portland-based Unitus Community Credit Union and Hamilton, NZ-based First Credit Union each host a pair of employees from across the world for two-week intensive program.

PORTLAND, OR (March 29, 2019) — In their latest initiative to unite credit unions across the world in a movement toward greater financial transparency and positive community impact, Unitus has sent two employees to Hamilton, NZ to experience a 2-week intensive exchange program.

“Credit unions across the globe are doing some very creative and inspirational things to make a lasting and meaningful impact on their communities,” remarked Jason Werts, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Unitus. “This exchange program allows our employees to see some of these efforts first-hand and bring back new ideas that will allow us to better serve our community in ways that US-based credit unions haven’t yet discovered.”

Serving in his capacity as chairman of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Board of Directors, Unitus President and CEO Steve Stapp organized the exchange with First Credit Union General Manager Simon Scott. “In this enlightening exchange program, our team not only gets to learn about a new culture, but we also get the opportunity to share best practices that will strengthen both credit unions,” said Stapp.

The two Unitus employees making the trip are Char Sears, Assistant Vice President and Remote Experience Manager, and Gigi Gardner, Organizational Development Consultant. They’ll spend two business weeks working at First Credit Union’s Hamilton, NZ headquarters, visiting a number of branches to meet teams and capture operational best practices, and experiencing the local community culture.

“Seeing how New Zealand’s first and largest credit union is supporting its communities will be fascinating. Learning about their growth strategy and service model, as well as the employee culture will be exciting,” said Sears. “I’m really looking forward,” Gardner added, “to learning about First Credit Union’s employee and talent development programs. Also, their corporate culture and how they help their community. Our hosts will be taking us on cultural trips as well as to different branches and towns. I’m very excited to see New Zealand! “It’s exciting that it is not ‘all work,’” Sears continued, “but really a full immersion into the New Zealand culture through different activities, such as visiting a Maori village and participating in community volunteer activities.”

Aside from the leadership presentations and strategic discussions, Unitus’ duo will experience cultural highlights including a meet-and-greet with the mayor of Hamilton, a 3-hour guided tour and cultural performance in Whakarewarewa Village, and the opportunity to help out at First Credit Union’s Family Fun Day as part of the annual Balloons over Waikato Festival.

Unitus will host a pair of employees from First Credit Union at their headquarters in downtown Portland this October.

About Unitus Community Credit Union

At Unitus, we’re dedicated to improving lives in the communities we serve. As a member-owned  local credit union, we invest in people by doing the right thing. Through partnerships with nonprofit  organizations, we provide support for community groups through volunteerism and financial  donations. Our 104,000 members count on us to serve them and their communities; our 300+ employees share that passion for service. Learn about the local impact Unitus makes by visiting

About First Credit Union

First Credit Union, 100% Kiwi owned and operated, became New Zealand’s first affiliated credit union in 1955, then known as St. Mary’s Credit Union. They are a member-owned financial institution that makes personal finances easier to manage with personal loans, savings accounts, term investments, insurances, and everyday banking accounts. Learn more about First Credit Union at

About the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU)

The World Council of Credit Unions is the leading global trade association and development agency for credit unions and cooperative financial institutions. They promote the self-sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Learn more about the World Council is available at


Autumn Foster

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