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A credit union is a financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members. They are operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at reasonable rates, and providing other financial services to its members. Credit union account holders are the owners of the credit union. They elect their board of directors in a democratic one-person-one-vote system regardless of the amount of money they invested in the credit union.

Many credit unions were created to help communities become sustainable and more independent.

Franz Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch opened the first “people’s banks”,or Vorschussvereine, in 1850 and by 1858, there were 25 of them in Germany.They are widely considered the first Credit Unions in the world.

In 1864,Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen founded the first credit union in rural Germany. Rural communities struggled with low seasonal incomes and small populations which made it difficult to manage financial institutions. By 1888, Credit Unions were in England, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria and were starting to catch in other countries as well.

The first credit union in Canada, Caisse Populaire de Lévis, was formed by Alphonse Desjardins in Quebec in 1901. 


Guide to Co-op Act written in plain, accessible language

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