Banking can be intimidating for some and anything beyond the basics can become overwhelming. Fortunately, many financial institutions seem to understand this and have created services that are designed to make their clients feel more at ease.

Most people have savings or chequing accounts with their banks which allow the access to basic services, however many financial institutions offer far more services and products than this. Most banks can help you with investments, mortgages, credit, scholarships and financial advising, amongst other things.

Unfortunately not all residents in remote communities have access to banks the way they might if they were living in an urban centre. In some cases certain communities may not even have a financial institution at all. If your community does not have a bank, it may have stores or cooperatives which offer credit, or financial advisors who can help individuals understand where and how to gain access to basic banking needs.

While banks, such as the First Nations Bank, Caisse Populaire Desjardins and the Bank of Montreal, all have branches in some remote areas of Quebec, each offer slightly varying services. While the products and services offered are important to note when deciding which bank to open an account with, a bank’s values and goals may be of interest as well. Some financial institutions, more than others, express an interest and intention to promote the self-sufficiency of First Nations communities and individuals, while others neglect the fact that different communities have different banking needs. Whether you live in a community that has a bank or not, it is important to shop around before opening your first account.

The First Nations Bank

The First Nations Bank of Canada is a financial institution that was conceived by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people. It opened its doors for the first time in Saskatoon in 1997. The FNB’s main goal is to create and promote Aboriginal economic self-sufficiency, for both individuals and communities.

Opening an account at the FNB requires you to follow protocol that is standard for most banks. You will need two pieces of photo ID that also show your signature and date of birth. In most cases, you will also have to share information about your occupation and your current address.

The FNB has several types of accounts to choose from to meet their clients’ specific needs. There are savings and chequing accounts, as well as U.S. dollar accounts, which are designed for individuals who travel frequently to the U.S. This last type of account is not offered by all financial institutions and may be a factor when deciding where you would like to open an account.

Aside from personal accounts, FNB clients also have access to products and services that include loans, credit, investment planning, mortgages and financial management.

In order to apply for a loan or a line of credit the FNB, like other financial institutions, will ask for standard information such as occupation, income and any loans you may already have. In addition, to this the bank will request consent to verify your credit history in order to help them process the application and make a decision regarding the application.

Should you hope to buy a home, the FNB, like most other banks, offers mortgages. Unlike other financial institutions however, the FNB provides important information about the purchase of your first home, before you even apply for a mortgage. By visiting its website, speaking to an advisor or filling out a pre-approval application, the FNB helps make this very important purchase less intimidating. One benefit of the FNB’s pre-approval application is that it doesn’t involve any obligation on behalf of the applicant, however, and if you choose to take out a mortgage during the 60-to-120-day pre-approval period, you might be entitled to a guaranteed interest rate.

As mentioned above, the FNB also offers investment services. Aside from those provided by most banks, such as RRSPs, GICs and mutual funds, the FNB offers term deposits, which are intended to maximize return on surplus funds, and which can be liquidated early in case of emergencies. There is a penalty charge for doing this but in an emergency it’s a relief to know you have access to your money, even if it’s tied up in an investment.

Personal banking is not the sole interest of the FNB. Like other financial institutions, the FNB offers services for businesses as well. Business accounts are the same as those offered to individuals, but the protocol to open one is slightly different. In order to open a business account you will need to provide legal documentation that confirms the existence of the business, identification of the account holders and a description of the nature of the business.

A business account with the FNB will allow the cardholder access to services, such as web banking, collection services, payroll services, loans, credit, mortgages, and overdraft protection. Unique to FNB business account holders is access to the on-reserve mortgage, which allows a business to purchase, construct or renovate single-family homes or multiple-residential properties in order to help create solutions for on-reserve housing.

As you can see, the FNB not only offers many of the services provided by other financial institutions, but it also operates with the intention of creating Aboriginal autonomy. It has products and services that are not offered by other banks and that are designed with the needs of First Nations people in mind.

For more info, visit or contact the branch closest to you.

Chisasibi FNB 819-855-3458

Nemaska FNB 819-673-2733

Being a larger financial institution, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce offers the same basic services as other banks. What is unique to CIBC is that it has created an Aboriginal Banking Team, which is designed to understand of the unique needs of First Nations individuals.

According to its website, the team offers advising, support and products that are intended to reflect the specific financial requirements of First Nations clients. Access to these types of services mean that you can get help with budgeting, investing, obtaining credit, starting a business or even planning for a child’s post-secondary education.

CIBC offers a variety of accounts not unlike those provided by other banks, the only small difference being that it also has student accounts available.

The benefits to holding an account with CIBC, especially for those living in remote communities, include access to “Accessible Banking Services”, a service allowing clients to manage their accounts online, by telephone or at a bank machine, no matter where they are.

Aside from basic banking services and products, like loans, credit, mortgages and RRSPs, CIBC also provides RESPs (educational), RDSPs (disability) and mutual funds.

Finally, CIBC provides insurance, a service that not all financial institutions offer. As a CIBC account holder you can acquire creditor insurance, health and life insurance, or travel, home and auto insurance.

CIBC has a lot to offer its clients, which may make it a good option with respect to personal banking. To determine if CIBC is right for you or to make further inquires about its services, consult its website at, contact the Aboriginal Banking Team, or visit the branch nearest to you.

Aboriginal Banking Team, Central Eastern Region

Manager: Tom Morrisson

Telephone: 416-980-2183

Fax: 905-571-3797

Chisasibi CIBC 819-855-2803
Caisse Populaire Desjardins

The Caisse Populaire Desjardins is not a bank, but a financial cooperative that offers a wide range of banking services to all its members, including those in remote areas.

The fact that it’s a cooperative means that the institution is owned and run by its members and elected officials. This means that instead of working for a small group of investors, the bank actually works for you and your financial well-being.

This being the case, it should not be difficult to understand why the Caisse, aside from typical banking services, aspires to contribute to the economic and social development of the communities in which they are located.

With this in mind, the Caisse has created products and services which are designed to protect the interests of its members, while helping them achieve their financial goals.

Unlike other large banks, when you open an account with the Caisse, you become a member of a credit-and-savings co-op. There are several ways to apply for membership with the Caisse, the easiest being on-line. If you do not have access to the Internet, you can call for an appointment with an advisor at the Mistissini branch. Should you decide to open an account you will have to fill out an identification verification form, provide two pieces of ID, the first being a passport and the second being any of the following: social insurance number, driver’s license, health insurance card, a birth certificate or a certificate of Indian status.

Beyond this, applicants are asked to pay a $5 fee for their “qualifying share”, in other words, the cost of their share of the co-op.

Like other banks, the Caisse offers a variety of accounts to choose from, but unlike most, these are designed to help your money grow. Some of these include the Build-up Saving s Account, the High-Yield Account and Desjardin Youth Profit Account. Other than basic banking, the Caisse provides investment, mortgage, loan, insurance, credit and personal assessment services.

For a full list of account options as well as detailed information about the accounts please refer to the Caisse’s website,, or visit the branch closest to you.

Although it may seem that the Caisse is limited to personal banking, it provides services for businesses as well. Whether you are self-employed, or have a small or large enterprise, the Caisse offers a variety of options and solutions to help your business grow. It provides services that are designed to help you take your company international, teach you how to manage business finances, and protect your company and employees. It can even show you options for adopting sustainable business practices. The Caisse can also provide access to loans and financing, payroll and human-resource services and group-retirement options.

As with all banks, there are a lot of choices to choose from with respect to accounts, products and services. To avoid feeling intimidated, a preliminary search online followed by a meeting with an advisor might be the best way to help you make decisions regarding your particular financial situation.

Mistissini Caisse Populaire Desjardins 418-923-3289

Waswanipi Caisse Populaire Desjardins 819-753-2576
The Bank of Montreal

The Bank of Montreal has 11 full-service branches in Aboriginal communities across Canada, and has an “Aboriginal Banking Unit” that was created almost a decade ago, in order to build sustainable relationships with Aboriginal communities, businesses and individuals. BMO understands that the Aboriginal marketplace is evolving and as such is devoted to contributing to the self-sufficiency of Aboriginal people businesses and communities through access to products and services that are designed with the specific needs of First Nations people in mind.

In building its financial relationship with Aboriginal communities, BMO not only provides on-reserve housing loan programs (without government guarantees), but also provides improved access to financing opportunities as well as respects appropriate Aboriginal protocols and practices in order to gain the trust of said communities.

Like other banks, BMO offers basic banking services, savings and chequing accounts, mortgages, investment planning, RRSPs and financial advisors. They also offer business-banking services that are not unlike those offered by the banks mentioned above.

A BMO account, business or personal, can be opened by presenting the required ID and answering some simple questions about your employment and place of residence.

At first glance, BMO seems a lot like any of the other banks mentioned above, but what makes it unique is that it offers scholarships and bursaries for Aboriginal youth. In keeping true to its dedication to the growth and self-sufficiency of Aboriginal communities and individuals, BMO has created an Aboriginal scholarship program and a bursary program.

The Ron Jamieson Financial Group Aboriginal Scholarship Program is a new program for Aboriginal youth who aspire to work in finance. It offers funding and experience through a paid summer internship. Successful interns may even get the chance to earn a fulltime role as a financial services manager upon completion of the program.

BMO also offers bursaries for Aboriginal youth to encourage them to stay in school and pursue higher education. These bursaries are awarded to students in Grade 9+ who are between 13 and 18 and can be up to $750.

For more info on these programs you can visit the Foundation for the Advancement of Aboriginal Youth (FAAY) at

Wemindji BMO 819-978-3588

Waskaganish BMO 819-895-2177
Financial pointers

Banks are the obvious place to take care of personal finances, however, not all communities have access to them. So what do you do when you need to borrow money for a big-ticket item, or stock up on groceries and other household items?

According to Sonny Orr, a financial advisor from Whapmagoostui, there are few options. Worse yet, the options for borrowing tend to come with a high interest rate.

In Whapmagoostui, not unlike other remote communities that do not have banks, the only way to get credit is directly through a local business, such as the Northern Store or Canada Post. The Northern Store in Whapmagoostui offers credit in the form of pre-paid Master cards, or through the “link card system”. The link card offers money transfer services and banking over the phone, but at an additional cost. A cardholder can use telephone services at a cost of $2.50 per call, which can add up very quickly. Aside from these service charges, interest rates on these types of credit can reach as high as 29%. A better option may be to retain a pre-paid Visa through Canada Post. In this case, the pre-paid card can be used the same way as a debit card, and the cardholder is subject only to user fees, and no interest.

According to Orr, a better option would be to get credit through a cooperative. The benefits here are that you do not have to pay as much for services and the interest rates are significantly lower, at 5% or 6%. Cooperatives also reward clients in good standing and in some cases may offer them a line of credit of up to $2000.

If banking on a personal level is more difficult and costly in areas without banks, then banking as a business owner from a remote area must be equally difficult if not more so. There are options of course, but Orr warns people to be careful. There are several southern dealers willing to lend money to businesses, but with high interest. If you want to borrow money, for personal or business purposes, Orr recommends a different solution. Instead of borrowing from high-interest lenders, you might opt to borrow against your own life insurance or mortgage instead. The best option, according to Orr, is to open a good savings account with good return and avoid borrowing all together.

The fact that a community may not have a local bank should not stop you from opening an account, especially a savings account. Banking can be done on-line or over the phone which makes the need to go in person to a branch less critical. This brings us back to the question of which bank to choose. As with any important decision regarding purchases and finances, it is important to shop around. Not all banks are right for everyone, take the time to review their products and services before opening an account to make sure that you make the most of your money.

Whapmagoostui Sonny Orr, financial advisor – 819-929-0011; office 819-929-3364