First Choice members will have a chance to vote on the merger towards the end of 2023.

All staff are set to be offered roles at Beyond Bank.

“We are very excited to become part of Beyond Bank’s network. They have a strong track record of supporting local communities where they are represented," said Paul Dawson, First Choice's general manager (pictured above). 

Beyond Bank is Australia's fifth-largest customer-owned bank according to APRA data, with more than $10 billion in residents' assets as at the end of July 2023 - and 290,000 customers.

By comparison, First Choice holds assets worth around $100 million across 4,000 members.

First Choice was founded in 1970 providing services to local shire councils in Orange and NSW's central west region.

It describes itself as an "ultra-niche" mutual bank.

It's been a relatively busy year for the customer-owned sector, with People's Choice Credit Union and Heritage Bank merging in March; Hunter-based Greater Bank and Newcastle Permanent also merged at the same time.

These two entities usurped Great Southern Bank to become the first- and second-biggest customer owned banks, with more than $27 billion and $23 billion in residents' assets respectively. 

The Customer Owned Banking Association's (COBA) 58 member institutions collectively hold more than $150 billion worth of assets - around one-sixth the size of ANZ, and one-tenth the size of CBA.

"When customer owned banks seek to merge it is because the action will lead to a better financial institution for all members, rather than the need to deliver dividends to shareholders," said Stephanie Elliot, COBA spokesperson.

Photo of Paul Dawson by Orange City Life and re-used with permission.