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Credit unions have played an important historical role in the Canadian economy. However, recent changes in the financial, agricultural and agri-food industry are posing great challenges to Credit unions in Western Canada. Much attention has been given to the impact of competitive rates and the environment offered by banks on credit union performance to the neglect of issues relating to member satisfaction and commitment which may be adding to other problems in the credit union sector. Studies by Feinberg (2001), Sibbald, et al (1999), Loser et. al (1999) , Fried, et. al (1999), Karels and McClatchey (1999) and Tokle, and Tokle (2001) among others have identified key issues relating to the competitive financial roles of credit unions in small financial services, in comparative analysis studies as well as merger related issues. However many of these studies have focused on the financial aspects of credit unions, and have not dealt with broader issues of whether or not the public understands the nature of credit unions, why people stop or intend to continue being members of credit unions. A mailed questionnaire, designed to elicit understanding of and attitudes towards credit unions was sent out to 1500 Alberta residents. In spite of the fact that the survey was complex with no reminder notice sent, the response rate was 12%. Analysis was conducted with a series of scale and logit regression analyses based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TpB) (Ajzen and Fishbein 1975, 1980 and Ajzen (2001) to elicit respondents´ beliefs, satisfaction and attitudes towards credit unions, and to measure the factors affecting their intention to patronize credit unions. Results indicate 78% of respondents were familiar with and understood the concept of credit unions. The majority (58%) was male, and 71% were aged 45 or older. Respondents who are active members of a credit union generally held positive attitudes towards their credit unions, and 89% rated their credit unions as performing well under a set of six performance categories. Analysis from the logit models found credit unions involvement with the local community and customer service to be the major reasons for credit union patronage. Elicitation of respondents´ intentions to patronize a credit union from the TpB analysis show that among the three attributes (attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavior control), respondents´ subjective norm (siblings influence) and perceived behavioral control significantly explained patronization intentions. Results suggest that a 22 percentage of the public is unaware of credit unions, a further 30 percentage was once and is no longer a member of a credit union. For the 58% of the population that remain committed to credit union, there are still significant issues around member involvement in decision making, communication and provision of education/training to them.


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