The Comox Valley has been a good market for the Canadian Western Bank since it opened a branch here 16 years ago, says Courtenay assistant vice-president and branch manager Jason Zaichkowsky.
“Here we’ve got a thriving community,” Zaichkowsky said in an interview at Crown Isle during a three-day retreat this month for the bank’s Western Canadian senior managers. “We’ve got a Costco under construction, which is going to lead to development of other opportunities in the area … recently an announcement of a brand-new hospital.
“So there’s lots of good things, not to mention the airport, the base (CFB Comox), the ski hill and all the other amenities that this location has to offer.”
Larry Pollock, CEO of the entire Canadian Western Bank operation, in general shares Zaichkowsky’s bullish attitude about the Comox Valley and Western Canada.
“We’ve had a really good run here through the global financial meltdown,” Pollock said at Crown Isle. “We had record earnings each year — ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10. We made a major acquisition with National Leasing in Winnipeg in 2010, which will add a lot to us going forward.
“First quarter this year was extremely strong. We were up about 10 per cent over last year.
“Our rates are still low. It’s a good environment in which to build a business.”
The Comox Valley, he reiterated, has been a good one for CWB.
“We specialize in commercial lending, so our loans through the meltdown never deteriorated at all. We’ve got a lot of undrawn credit that’s now been approved. People are starting to borrow money and do things.
“Apparently there’s some economic activity here, a new hospital, a shopping centre, Costco — that’s a good sign. When you have major players like that coming into your market, they must see something positive.
“There guys are real pros — Costco, Walmart — all of these box guys, they really know what they’re doing.”
Pollock said the company has no plans to open another Comox Valley branch, preferring to expand the existing location, which he said WCB has done three or four times in Courtenay, “always taking a bigger premises, adding more staff and more loans.”
If you’d like some extra cash for a project, Pollock said
CWB awards personal loans of up to $50 million.
Zaichkowsky was pleased to host 31 senior managers for the retreat at Crown Isle Resort and Golf Community to plan strategy.
“They’re showing their commitment to the Comox Valley by having the meetings here,” Zaichkowsky said. “They see this as an important part of our business.”
Besides the planning session, a social event at Crown Isle drew a broad spectrum, including clients, prospects, business partners and media, Zaichkowsky noted.
“It’s a big event for the branch.”
Edmonton-based CWB has 39 — soon to be 40 — branches in Western Canada, as Zaichkowsky noted, the only chartered bank in the country with its headquarters in Western Canada.
So the word about the charms of the Comox Valley continues to spread among people in other parts of Canada.
This particular CWB retreat followed a retirement ceremony last May at Crown Isle for Courtenay branch manager Al Dafoe. Several high-ranking bank managers were so impressed with Crown Isle and the area that they scheduled this spring’s retreat here.
“It’s exciting because traditionally they’re had this meeting in the Victoria area for a number of years,” Zaichkowsky said.
Several CWB managers came out early to get in some golf that they are unable to play in April in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and even the B.C. Interior.