History To turn a ground-breaking idea into a successful enterprise requires leadership that is aggressive, determined, and totally committed. The founders of the Finnish Credit Union in Toronto fortunately included two families with the necessary qualifications.

David and Tamara Raye

Esko Oskar Iivarinen, born near Käkisalmi in Karelia, came to Toronto in 1951 and went into business almost instantly. His wife, Tamara, was born in Estonia and had escaped on the last ship to leave Paldiski for Helsinki before the Soviet occupation in 1944. Tamara, who had worked first at the Royal Bank and later the TD Bank, in Toronto was the only founding member with any previous banking experience.

The Jalava family

The Jalava family arrived from Helsinki Finland in 1952 and included Mauri and Anna-Liisa Jalava, Mauri’s brother Erkki and his wife, also named Anna-Liisa, their mother Orvokki and Mauri’s brother-in-law, Paavo Hyttinen. Mauri Jalava had worked in Finland as location manager for two studios and as a freelancer for Finnish movie trade magazines. His wife Anna-Liisa was an accomplished artist, as was Mauri’s brother Erkki. Mauri describes how David Raye got the idea for a Finnish Credit Union from William J. Zinches who founded the Toronto Ukrainian Credit Union, So-Use. “Zinches had asked why the Finns didn’t have a credit union, and told Raye to work on it. He then introduced Raye to officials at Credit Union Central who could provide advice and information about credit unions, and how to get one started.” By personally spreading the word among his friends and acquaintances Raye organized a meeting to discuss further the idea of a credit union. The attendance list of 28 names from the founding meeting held at Agricola Church on January 1, 1958 appears below:


The 28 Founding Members of the Finnish (Toronto) Credit Union (listed in order by membership number)

  1. Hannu Sakari Aalto, Real Estate Salesman
  2. Kalevi Turunen, Refrigeration Serviceman
  3. Olavi Haakon Turunen, Mastic Mixer
  4. Esko Tapio Kärkkäinen, Auto Mechanic
  5. Pentti Paavali Mattila, Upholsterer
  6. Urho Olavi Kanerva, Carpenter
  7. Signe Josefine Kanerva, Housewife
  8. Jaakko Olavi Luhtanen, Carpenter
  9. Oscar Henrickson, Stationary Engineer
  10. Mauri Amiko Jalava, Art Dealer
  11. Oscar David Raye, Business Executive
  12. Siinta Victor Lahti, Carpenter
  13. Emil Anselmi Huhtala, Carpenter
  14. Aili Emilia Lahti, Housewife
  15. Lauri Korolainen,Carpenter
  16. Minnie Augusta Henrickson, Housewife
  17. Matti Sam Henrickson, Hardware Merchant
  18. Aili Eva Henrickson, Housewife
  19. Toivo Kalervo Merko, Roofer
  20. Tamara Raye, Bank Clerk
  21. Veikko Juho Jalmari Närhi, Carpenter
  22. Elis Jooseppi Pöntinen, Cabinet Maker
  23. Voitto Vihtori Korpinen, Tool Designer
  24. Reino Uljas Hyvärinen, Carpenter
  25. Hanna Pokki, Housewife
  26. Jaakko Kotkavuori, Picture Framer
  27. Erkki Jalava, Artist
  28. Anna-Liisa Jalava, Artist
Orvokki Jalava and Paavo Hyttinen were also present but, because they acted as witnesses to the signatures, their names could not be registered as founders. Raye was elected as the first chairman and Mauri Jalava as secretary/treasurer. The official address of the credit union was listed as Mauri and Ansa’s home. Mauri, his mother Orvokki and Ansa’s brother Paavo Hyttinen filed the official documents on January 6, 1958 at the office of Ontario Credit Union League. The Finnish (Toronto) Credit Union became the League's newest member. An important discussion went on amongst the founders of the fledgling credit union concerning the criteria for membership. It was decided that membership should be open to all Finns, their spouses and their children: the only requirement would be Finnish identity. The government decided to accept the credit union’s application on February 6th, 1958 and so for all practical purposes, this is the official date of inception of the Finnish (Toronto) Credit Union Ltd. Decades later Raye said that getting the definition of membership based on ethnicity was his greatest service to the Finnish Credit Union. Under the common law, it became a precedent that could subsequently be cited by other groups. Credit unions established by associations or faith-based communities can limit membership on the basis of political or other considerations and company credit unions survive only as long as the company remains in business. A credit union based on ethnicity, on the other hand, remains open to anybody in the province who belongs to the cultural group with no other strings attached. Furthermore, to have access to a financial institution where your own language is spoken is very important. The AGM of 2004 approved a change to the official name in English from the Finnish (Toronto) Credit Union Limited to simply the Finnish Credit Union Limited. Omitting "Toronto" from the name was to emphasize the fact that it is the only credit union in Ontario dedicated exclusively to serving the Finnish population. Regulations set out in the Credit Union and Caisses Populaires Act of Ontario allowed any credit union to accept up to three percent of members from outside of its affinity group. Osuuspankki's quota of non-Finnish members was soon filled. 2008 was the 50th Anniversary of the Finnish Credit Union Limited. During the last few years, General Manager Antero Elo has nurtured his relations with the Finnish and European business communities of Toronto. Osuuspankki has co-hosted receptions in cooperation with the EU Chamber of Commerce, sponsored the Canada-Finland Chamber of Commerce's selection of Finnish Entrepreneur of the Year, and hosted monthly breakfast meetings for Finnish business leaders.

The Credit Union's Finnish identity is as important today as it was at its inception. The outside of the branch facing Eglinton Avenue displays a proud blue and white sign with vertical letters that spell OSUUSPANKKI – unmistakeably in Finnish.