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Live webcast of Meridian Credit Union AGM starting in 10 minutes
April 23, 2019
3:21 pm
Doug
British Columbia, Canada
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Hi everyone,

Although I'm not a member, I'm attending a live webcast of the Meridian Credit Union AGM, the business portion of which begins in ~10 minutes from now. They're going to have an Open Forum where members and guests alike can ask questions of management. Will keep you posted. sf-cool

Access here:
https://freeman.streamme.ca/meridianagm2019/s/35?language=en

Cheers,
Doug

April 23, 2019
3:42 pm
Doug
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At 3:41 pm, from Chair Karen Farbridge's remarks, 40% of new-to-bank Meridian members onboarded in 2018 were between the ages of 25-44.

At approximately 3:55 pm, from the CFO's report, Motus Bank officially launched April 2, 2019, and is fully operational. It's fully onboarded 1,700 new customers since its April 2, 2019, launch, and they're pleased with that so far.

Also from that report, Meridian welcomed ~28,500 new members in fiscal year 2018.

From Board Chair Karen Farbridge, motions on the floor to adopt Meridian's 2018 AGM minutes, its 2018 financial statements, and approve its board's recommendation of continuing PwC as auditors for the 2019 fiscal year passed unanimously, without any votes opposed.

From Sunny Sodhi, Returning Officer of the meeting and Corporate Secretary, they had 235 valid applications received for Board seats to fill 4 seats at the 2019 meeting. Meridian's Nominating Committee recommended 4, 10 opted to stay on the ballot. 7,253 valid votes were cast.

The first director elected was Gail Harding, who is giving her remarks of thanks. She previously was on the senior leadership team of Canadian Western Bank.

Incumbent director Carol Hunter re-elected.

Third director elected is Andrew Lo, who has worked in the back-office financial technology industry, including heading up Filogix, which is the back-end mortgage origination technology platform of D+H Corp.

Fourth and final director is Tamara Paton, who was re-elected.

From the Members' Open Forum portion of the meeting...

Board Chair called twice for questions from the floor, but seeing no takers at the two microphones, was going to move to adjourn the AGM until the Returning Officer and Corporate Secretary, Sunny Sodhi, who was monitoring the online questions, reminded her that there were several questions submitted online.

The first one came from me, which Sunny summarized and paraphrased, but generally included my noting that the CEO said that Meridian Credit Union does plan on simultaneously welcoming new-to-bank members online from within and outside of Ontario in addition to actively soliciting new customers thru Motus Bank, which Meridian also refers to as "members" even though they aren't technically members/owners of the credit union. It had to do with wondering why other Ontario credit unions, as far as I could tell, haven't opened up to permitting out of province residents to join their credit unions. Sunny wouldn't speculate as to why or why not that might be the case, but did say that Meridian Credit Union's board in 2015, he believed, opted to move forward with amending Meridian's bond of association, in part, because many members had moved outside of Ontario and wanted to continue opening new products and services with Meridian. He added that Meridian's members later approved that board recommendation to amend their bond of association at their 2015 AGM. He said that Meridian won't be actively soliciting new out of province Meridian members, but will accept them if they come to them. Contrast that with Motus Bank where they very much will be marketing Motus on building up its customer and loan and deposit bases.

The second question also came from me and had to do with wondering whether Meridian Credit Union would be both consolidating its Motus Bank subsidiary financial results in the credit union's annual financial results and also separately publishing financial results for Motus Bank, presumably on Motus' website, in 2020. Sunny referred the question to the CFO, who confirmed that yes, indeed, that's exactly how Meridian intends to publish both its and Motus' financial results next year. sf-cool

A final question came from a Meridian member, also submitted online, and had to do with a bomb threat at Meridian's St. Catharines branch whereby Meridian initiated a "system-wide shutdown of its operations," sending all its employees home for the day. The member was wondering about the unprecedented step Meridian took. CEO Bill Maurin addressed the question and essentially re-iterated Board Chair Karen Farbridge's opening remarks when she address some members' concerns about the elevated security precautions at the AGM. For those interested, more details on the security incident are available here, from the St. Catharines Standard:

https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9296389-security-threat-closes-all-meridian-credit-union-branches/

Karen Farbridge thanked everyone for their attendance, encouraged them to complete in-person or online surveys, and then welcomed members at the AGM to the provided refreshments and to meeting one-on-one with the executives and Meridian team members at the AGM if they had any further questions.

Cheers,
Doug

April 23, 2019
5:20 pm
Doug
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Hi everyone,

I've now finished compiling the important notes from Meridian's AGM that I found most interesting. sf-cool

Cheers,
Doug

April 23, 2019
10:10 pm
Loonie
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Thanks very much, Doug, for your time and diligence in keeping us well informed.

As a Meridian member, I don't recall being informed by them that the AGM would be available online. Did anyone else get that notice?

Being one of the 7,253 members who read the candidates' statements and did vote, I think the Nominating Committee's slate was duly elected.

If they signed up about 28,500 in 2018 alone, then how many members are there altogether? And, therefore, what percentage voted?
I think the Nominating Committee did their job. Like most members, I really don't know anything about the endorsed candidates except what they told us, but I felt there were serious flaws in the statements of all the non-endorsed candidates. It's sort of sad though that no members had any questions that I would consider substantial.

April 23, 2019
10:31 pm
Doug
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Loonie said
Thanks very much, Doug, for your time and diligence in keeping us well informed.

As a Meridian member, I don't recall being informed by them that the AGM would be available online. Did anyone else get that notice?

Being one of the 7,253 members who read the candidates' statements and did vote, I think the Nominating Committee's slate was duly elected.

If they signed up about 28,500 in 2018 alone, then how many members are there altogether? And, therefore, what percentage voted?
I think the Nominating Committee did their job. Like most members, I really don't know anything about the endorsed candidates except what they told us, but I felt there were serious flaws in the statements of all the non-endorsed candidates. It's sort of sad though that no members had any questions that I would consider substantial.  

No problem, Loonie. sf-cool

I'm surprised they don't send every member a packet in the mail about the voting? I only found out about the webcast when I stumbled upon their AGM website at meridiancu.ca/AGM. Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union sends around a packet via snail mail every year.

I can answer your question as to how many current, unique members Meridian has, using the CCUA's compiled statistics from Q4 2018. Aside from the $17.9 billion in on-balance sheet assets, they had 351,066 total members, which would most likely include business members as well. So, they grew their membership basis by just under 10%, and Meridian's CEO said that 40% of their total new members in 2018 were between the ages of 25 and 44. So, that's actually an impessive number. It'll be interesting to see if they can sustain that momentum for Motus Bank, with 1,700 new customers onboarded in the first 2-3 weeks. If they can, Motus could easily match the total new Meridian members onboarded, assuming Meridian maintains its same membership growth. sf-wink

There would've been some additional members added since December 31, 2018, to the record date, which was likely in February or March 2019, so, admittedly, that's only about a 2% voter turnout. Coast Capital Savings usually gets about 20-30,000 votes, on a membership base of 550,000+ members, so that equates to about a 5% voter turnout. Actually, I've made a mistake...that's probably a bit low since not all those members are either 18 or 19 years old and thus not able to vote their share. Still, it's probably only about 10-15% in the case of Coast and 7.5-10% in the case of Meridian, but that's just a guess. Not great either, but such as it is with credit union voter turnout. What Meridian should do is do what Coast does, whereby Coast will make a donation of $1.00 per vote received to a designated charity (usually a food bank or the Canadian Mental Health Association) and, the past few years, they've been getting at least the 20-30,000 votes (there is a $20-30,000 cap on the donation).

They held their AGM in Niagara Falls this year...is that a far drive for you, Loonie? I think you said you're in Toronto?

Your point, though, about non-endorsed candidates. It does seem like the credit union goes out of its way to help the endorsed candidates get elected. To be honest, usually the endorsed candidates have stellar resumes so they always outshine the non-endorsed candidates. But, I look at this way: so long as the non-endorsed candidates have run their own business and/or have a solid grasp of understanding financial statements, wouldn't it be good to bring a fresh perspective into the boardroom instead of having, essentially, a lapdog board of directors that essentially rubber stamps management's decisions? So, I voted for Coast's CEO (you have to vote for all vacant director seats, or you spoil your ballot, which I don't like), two of the four incumbent directors, and then the two non-endorsed candidates. The other two non-incumbent endorsed directors, for Coast's board, weren't even Coast members, so it's clear to me they want to bring in starpower to their board of directors. 🙁

Cheers,
Doug

April 23, 2019
10:43 pm
Doug
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Update: If you click on this link, https://freeman.streamme.ca/meridianagm2019, it looks like Meridian is hosting an archive of the full AGM. You'll need to enter your name and e-mail address to view the webcast.

My questions in the Open Forum will be at approximately the 59 minute mark, about 15 minutes before the close of the meeting.

Here's a PDF copy of the AGM notice, which I've seen them post in the Globe and Mail in the past. Nonetheless, what you may want to do in future years is bookmark meridiancu.ca/AGM and then check that webpage in early to mid April to find out when and where the AGM will be hosted and how to access the webcast.

Cheers,
Doug

April 24, 2019
2:10 am
Loonie
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Thanks, Doug.

It's very disappointing that so few members bother to vote. So much for the "member-owner".

I think you could be overestimating the number of child members. I've never seen a child either in their branch or at the ATM. Some FIs do have some enviable deals for children, but Meridian is not one of them.

I did receive the voting package and various emails, and I did vote. I just don't remember seeing anything about the AGM being online.

The non-endorsed candidates were not as you are imagining. I agree that it's good to bring in new blood etc., but some of them were on a rant about something (single issue, and didn't sound like a balanced point of view), some were clearly under-informed and had developed unsuitable platforms on this basis, and one was a long-serving previous board member who did not seem ready to tackle today's issues.

I am wiling to consider those not put forward by the nominating committee, but these ones really were not convincing; and they were a small minority of the applicants.

It's good that they have posted the AGM, but, with your minutes, I don't need to look at it now!

April 24, 2019
8:42 am
Nehpets
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Loonie said
As a Meridian member, I don't recall being informed by them that the AGM would be available online. Did anyone else get that notice?
  

Interesting because as a Meridian member, I did not receive notification either.

Granted, I considerably reduced holdings with Meridian due to their poor offerings, but had I known about the webcast, and had the opportunity to ask question(s) I would have had several having to do with many of their technologically out of date processes and procedures that in addition to poor performance, helped drive me away.

Stephen

April 24, 2019
9:38 pm
Loonie
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We'll have to store up our questions for next year. I might have submitted some also. The passivity of the membership is depressing.

Doug, it would have taken up to 3 hours for me to get to Niagara. If you drive, it's a very heavy traffic zone and not fun. i think they held it in St Catharines last year, which is almost as far.
Considering that the voting is done in advance and that nothing much happens at these meetings, an online question submission would cover almost everything.

April 25, 2019
9:36 am
Doug
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Loonie said
Thanks, Doug.

It's very disappointing that so few members bother to vote. So much for the "member-owner".

I think you could be overestimating the number of child members. I've never seen a child either in their branch or at the ATM. Some FIs do have some enviable deals for children, but Meridian is not one of them.

I did receive the voting package and various emails, and I did vote. I just don't remember seeing anything about the AGM being online.

The non-endorsed candidates were not as you are imagining. I agree that it's good to bring in new blood etc., but some of them were on a rant about something (single issue, and didn't sound like a balanced point of view), some were clearly under-informed and had developed unsuitable platforms on this basis, and one was a long-serving previous board member who did not seem ready to tackle today's issues.

I am wiling to consider those not put forward by the nominating committee, but these ones really were not convincing; and they were a small minority of the applicants.

It's good that they have posted the AGM, but, with your minutes, I don't need to look at it now!  

Thanks, Loonie...that's interesting you mention the non-endorsed candidates all seemed to be singularly focused on a certain item. It's interesting they even mentioned that. If I were running for the Coast Capital Savings' board (or Meridian board, if I were a member), I might have a few focus items I'd want to concentrate him but wouldn't outline them in my platform. sf-cool

Here were the bios of the non-endorsed candidates to Coast Capital Savings' board and you can tell me whether you would've voted for them (from the 2019 Board of Directors Election, Special Resolution and Ordinary Resolution booklet):

Figure 1:  Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union non-endorsed director candidate for 2019 Tony Mastrangelo
Figure 1: Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union non-endorsed director candidate for 2019 Tony Mastrangelo

Figure 2:  Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union non-endorsed director candidate for 2019 Parbir Sandhu
Figure 2: Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union non-endorsed director candidate for 2019 Parbir Sandhu

I like that the non-endorsed candidate identified in Figure 1 owned his own independent chain of Vancouver area Italian coffee and gelato shoppes and seems to have a solid educational background (i.e., CFP and CPA/CA). The candidate in Figure 2 has less solid professional experience but otherwise solid educational background. His experience as an entrepreneur is as CEO of his own consulting firm, which could be anything. That said, many small credit unions would like to have either candidate, so I think this is a case of Coast being a little bit of a "board snob" due its size and the relative "prestige" that Coast offers to potential director candidates (by assets, Coast is nearly as big as Tangerine Bank).

Cheers,
Doug

April 25, 2019
9:42 am
Doug
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Loonie said
We'll have to store up our questions for next year. I might have submitted some also. The passivity of the membership is depressing.

Doug, it would have taken up to 3 hours for me to get to Niagara. If you drive, it's a very heavy traffic zone and not fun. i think they held it in St Catharines last year, which is almost as far.
Considering that the voting is done in advance and that nothing much happens at these meetings, an online question submission would cover almost everything.  

Great idea, Loonie, and also to Nehpets. We'll indeed have to start a thread in early April next year, post any question(s) we want to ask so as to ensure we aren't duplicating each other's questions. sf-cool

Thanks, Loonie, for clarifying the driving distance to the Niagara region. From the sounds of it, in the past five years, Meridian has held most of their AGMs in either Niagara or St. Catharines. I understand one of their predecessor credit unions was Niagara Credit Union, so they want to "stay true to their roots," I suspect, and their head office is in St. Catharines (though they have an executive office in downtown Toronto), but it'd be nice if they could rotate their AGMs each year into a different region of Ontario in which they operate. First West Credit Union does this by rotating between their Victoria administrative office, their Langley head office, or their Penticton administrative office. They've also held meetings in Surrey and Kelowna.

To your earlier point about my nicely summarizing the AGM, keep in mind, though, I only cherry-picked points I found interesting and didn't re-hash much of the CEO's "broad strokes" vision for the credit union or some of its financial results that can be easily gleaned from the annual report. sf-cool

Cheers,
Doug

April 25, 2019
10:16 am
Loonie
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My vision isn't good enough to read the non-endorsed CC candidates.
But, if you don't mind, I'd rather not take the time to look them over as it's not anything I can act on and they need to be seen in comparison to endorsed candidates anyway.

I do think that modern CUs do need to recruit board members with substantial relevant experience, preferably at the highest levels, simply because their businesses have become so complex. Running coffee shops doesn't compare with running banks. This effectively leaves out most members. So, I think they might consider some sort of arrangement where a couple of seats were reserved for people without a financial background but who have a good feel for what members might like and dislike about their CU.

I do, however, sometimes vote for non-endorsed candidates in other kinds of board elections.
One of the universities I graduated from has what may be a unique structure where there is a management board apart from the regular one which is elected entirely by alumni (not the alumni assoc'n). There are a lot of very high-powered people on it and it's probably a feather in their caps because of the perceived prestige of the university in question.
A couple of years ago, a group of disgruntled alumni put forward an alternative slate. The powers-that-be weren't happy, but realized they had to allow it as all had been duly nominated. None of the people on the alternative slate got elected, although I did vote for at least one of them that I remember. I can no longer remember what their issue was.

April 25, 2019
10:26 am
Doug
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Thanks, Loonie, for your added comments. sf-cool

I do agree that you need to have a good degree of knowledge and some interest in credit unions, banking, or just serving on a board of some size or scale. However, I don't necessarily think you need to have a "Big 5" bank calibre resume since directors are not running the credit union - that's for the management to do. They do need to recruit the CEO, but they can - and often do - engage external HR consulting companies to advise their relevant board committee as to a matrix of key competencies required of certain candidates. So, I think as long as someone has a solid work history, a sound aptitude for reading, analyzing, and understanding financial statements, and some board experience (including on non-profit boards, like the local United Way), they should be given serious consideration by members. sf-cool

University and college boards are a different matter. In B.C., most of the seats are appointed by provincial cabinet, with some seats reserved for faculty and students. However, as far as I'm aware, the government appointees tend to dominate the boards so it really is government driving the show (as it should be, given the public taxpayer dollars that go into them). The rest of the directors are more or less there to puff up their resumes. I don't hold much regard for university and college boards of governors and even less so for the students unions. As far as I can tell, the Langara Students Union is completely useless. Their student union fees just add to the cost of an education and they don't really support or advocate for students in any way. Nor do they allow online voting, which excludes distance education students from participating. 🙁

Cheers,
Doug

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