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New immigrants send billions of dollars home every year.
How can credit unions capitalize upon this monetary
exodus?
By Laurie Stephens
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30
ENTERPRISE š NOVEMBER 2008
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NOVEMBER 2008 š ENTERPRISE
31
by Nick Rockel
The Canadian credit union and caisses populaires
systems have undergone significant leadership changes.
Enterprise profiles six of the nation’s newest top guns.
If change starts at the top, then the
Canadian credit union system is more
than pulling its weight right now. From
British Columbia to Saskatchewan
and Quebec, the past year has seen
cooperative financial institutions and
their centrals choose a host of new
CEOs. Each one stood out in a field of
other worthy candidates for their keen
intelligence, their leadership qualities and
their devotion to cooperative principles.
And each one promises to keep bringing
change to a system that thrives on it.
That said, the six leaders you’re
about to meet are a diverse lot. Some
of them have spent their entire careers
in the system, while others are fairly
recent arrivals from the chartered
banks. Two are women — a notable
achievement in the financial-services
sector, where the glass ceiling doesn’t
shatter easily. One of these women had
to get herself elected. The second gave
up a powerful government job to enter
the cutthroat world of retail finance.
42
ENTERPRISE š NOVEMBER 2008
But, as you’ll see in the following
pages, all six CEOs share a belief that
credit unions are a powerful force
for good. They also know that the
system is only as strong as the service
and support it provides to members
and their communities. By engaging
employees and winning more business
from the competition, these new
leaders hope to leave behind better
organizations than the ones they
inherited.
Enterprise also chose to include
Albertan Larissa Walkiw in this exclusive
list. Walkiw isn’t a credit union leader
— well, not yet, anyway. But she has
shown the same mettle this year
through her hard work with Common
Wealth Credit Union’s Young & Free
Alberta initiative, which reaches out to
young members aged 17 to 25. As we all
know, real leadership means listening
to those at the bottom, because they
are the ones whose ideas will ultimately
push the system to further successes.
At first, Donald Rolfe had no interest in leading Central 1, the
long-delayed $7.5-billion merger between Credit Union Central
of British Columbia and Credit Union Central of Ontario. Rolfe
was happy as president and CEO of Vancouver-based Credential
Financial and The Ethical Funds Company, the national creditunion system’s wealth-management provider and mutualfunds manager. But, after being approached about the position
last year, he got curious.
Rolfe, whose passion is strategy, started thinking about the
11 million Canadians who use cooperative financial institutions
— and whether the system could capture more of their business.
He was also keen to leverage the power of both centrals,
which merged in July and could eventually combine with their
provincial peers to serve credit unions across the country.
“How do you invoke a strategy that brings value and growth to
an organization?” asks Rolfe, who stepped into the role after
serving as CEO of BC Central since last February. “I’ve always
maintained that nobody ever shrunk themselves to greatness.”
The soft-spoken Rolfe, a Montreal native in his mid-50s,
came to the credit union world from the chartered banks. Before
becoming president and CEO of CIBC Mutual Funds and Investor
Services, he held senior posts at Royal Trust and Royal Bank of
Canada. Rolfe left CIBC during the dot-com era to co-found a
Toronto-based e-commerce and strategy business. In 2002 —
despite his limited knowledge of socially responsible investing
— he was asked to run Ethical and Credential.
At Ethical, Rolfe and his team turned around the funds’
lacklustre performance. They also introduced a scorecard for
evaluating Canadian firms that took the subjectivity out of
ethical investing. Then in 2007, Ethical and Desjardins Group’s
Northwest Mutual Funds formed a new company that now
manages some $6 billion in assets. During his time at Credential,
Rolfe repositioned its wealth-management products and
boosted assets from $4 billion to $12 billion.
A director of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility,
Rolfe says the mutual-fund industry hasn’t caught up to
consumers’ appetite for ethical investments. He thinks it’s up
to the fund companies to raise awareness by promoting these
offerings. “Once they do that, people will get to understand it
and we’ll begin to see a different momentum.”
Rolfe has some advice for credit unions that are going
through a merger like the one he’s still overseeing: do a quick
integration and deal with people issues first by letting staff
know where they stand. “In my opinion, every employee comes
to work to be successful,” says Rolfe, who has three children.
“As leaders of an organization, we have a responsibility to ensure
their success.”
Asked if there’s anything the Canadian credit union system
needs to work on, Rolfe is silent for a moment. “Sometimes I
think it’s necessary to have a bit of bravado — to dare to be the
best,” replies the former baseball and hockey player. In Rolfe’s
experience, credit unions sometimes feel inferior to the banks,
a position he finds completely unwarranted. “We’re good at
what we do, we should be proud of what we do, and we should
be working toward making sure everybody understands that.”
The Strategist
Donald Rolfe | President and CEO | Central 1 Credit Union
PHOTO: CORY DAWSON
NOVEMBER 2008 š ENTERPRISE
43
During his long tenure at $1.7-billion Credit Union Central
of Alberta, Graham Wetter has never met a file he didn’t like.
Wetter, who was named CEO this past January, stumbled
on his life’s work by accident. As a commerce graduate from
the University of Calgary in 1978, he entered a managementtrainee program at The Bay. Two years later, he saw an ad for a
consumer and economic research position with Alberta Central.
Knowing nothing about credit unions, Wetter took the job.
At the time, the now $16-billion Alberta credit union system
was an $800-million backwater. But the Calgary native had
found what he was looking for. “The really appealing thing
from that point and throughout my career was the ability to get
involved in a whole wide of issues that centrals tend to deal
with,” he says.
No kidding. Wetter has managed government relations
himself since the Alberta system’s financial crisis of the
mid-1980s. After pitching in on the new provincial credit-union
legislation, he went back to school at 33 for a law degree. For
years he was the only lawyer on staff, and before becoming
CEO he served as senior vice-president and general counsel.
The 52-year-old explains that much of his work is about getting
credit unions to talk provincial strategy for everything from
commercial lending to wealth management. “Bringing out ideas
from people and working on compromises and alternatives is an
important part of what the central does.”
As conciliatory as he is, Wetter jealously defends credit
union turf. This spring, he lashed out against High River,
Alberta–based Western Financial Group’s failed bid to take over
Community Savings Credit Union. Wetter says the deal stood in
the way of Community Savings’ merger with Common Wealth
Credit Union and Servus Credit Union. “It would have thrown
a wrench into that initiative, and removed a super-strong and
competitive credit union from the Alberta system and turned it
into a bank.”
Wetter attributes much of the system’s exceptional
profitability and growth — assets swelled 16 percent last year —
to small-business lending. But with market conditions making
it tougher to raise deposits, he adds, Alberta credit unions are
choosing borrowers more carefully. As for the upcoming Trade,
Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) with BC,
Wetter expects to see cross-provincial mergers before anyone
opens a branch outside their home province.
A board member of national credit union wealth manager
Credential Financial and a Calgary Public Library trustee, Wetter
likes to ski, hike and run. When they can get away, he and his
wife go ocean kayaking at their island cabin off the BC coast.
Wetter has also travelled the world. In 1999, he spent two weeks
in Ghana with the Canadian Co-operative Association, helping
the West African country draft its credit union legislation. An
aspiring golfer, Wetter says he’s lucky to fit in a dozen rounds
a year. “But it’s a nice way to get out and walk around and
frustrate the heck out of yourself.”
The Force
The Polymath
Graham Wetter | President and CEO | Credit Union Central of Alberta
Type Tamara Vrooman’s name into Youtube and you’ll find
a video of her talking about ChangeEverything.ca, Vancity’s
Webby Award–nominated online community. Oops — make
that a guy in a blond wig pretending to be Vrooman, whose
willingness to go along with the gag reveals a playful side
often lacking in financial circles. But the underlying message
is serious. Vrooman, 40, says Vancity uses websites like
ChangeEverything to deliver financial services to young
people, but also to show them that social networking is a
credit union tradition. “Historically it’s been offered in a
physical community space, and I think we have an opportunity
to offer it in a virtual space.”
With so many credit unions trying to woo the Facebook
generation, this may sound like wishful thinking. But if anyone can
get results, it’s Vrooman. She’s young herself — a rarity among
credit union leaders. More important, the multi-instrumentalist
and ex-bureaucrat from Kamloops, BC, is highly ambitious.
In 1994, Vrooman completed an MA in history at the
University of Victoria, where her specialty was Canadian public
policy between the world wars. She decided to skip a PhD
and get involved in making government decisions instead. So
Vrooman sought work at their BC crossroads — the Ministry of
Finance. When the hiring committee doubted her math skills,
she marched back to UVic for graduate courses in everything
from accounting to quantitative analysis. Vrooman joined the
provincial government as a co-op student in 1996. Just eight
years later, she had served as deputy minister at both health
and finance.
Headhunted by Vancity, Vrooman says she took the helm
in September 2007 after finding that the board’s vision for
the credit union aligned with hers. To make $14.1-billion
Vancity quicker on its feet, she slimmed the senior executive
team down from 28 to nine. Vrooman was also brought in to
improve net income, which has flagged during the past several
years as employee costs grew. She sees an opening for Vancity
as a large and stable community-based financial institution
that capitalizes on the strong public demand for socially
responsible investing.
“There’s a way you can grow your money that also allows
you to contribute to the good and the health and wellbeing
of your community,” says Vrooman, who sits on the boards of
several nonprofits. “And you don’t have to sacrifice a single
thing to do that.”
She may lead a credit union with 50 percent female senior
management, but Vrooman has no illusions about how few
women manage to reach the C-suite. She says righting that
wrong will mean providing opportunities and support — and
being honest about the demands of balancing work and family.
Vrooman, who has a young son, knows from experience that
even the most powerful career woman can’t do everything
perfectly. “Whoever created that image, I’d like to get my
hands on them,” she says. “Just like Superman is fictitious, so is
Superwoman in the corporate sense.”
Tamara Vrooman | CEO | Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
PHOTO: CORY DAWSON
PHOTO: ROTH AND RAMBERG
46
ENTERPRISE š NOVEMBER 2008
NOVEMBER 2008 š ENTERPRISE
47
9E<<;;8H;7A <7I>?ED
by Maria Tallarico
Look chic this holiday season with these naughty and nice tips.
Winter wonderland wardrobe
‘ T i s t he season... of endless
and tear. For men, black pants with or without
a cuff are fashionable and functional. Pants
are meant to cover your shoes, not graze the
ankles or drag on the floor. When getting
pants fit, bring the shoes you’ll most often be
wearing with them and have them hemmed a
quarter inch from the floor.
jacket may be inevitable (sometimes avoiding
frostbite is more important than fashion). But,
for looking your best, go for a pea coat that
fits you well in the shoulders and sleeves. Black
isn’t mandatory; navy, brown, cream or a fun
shade like orange or green is also fashionable.
White Shirt
A luxurious and accessible fabric, silk is a great
day-to-night choice. Men, opt for a silk tie
with a bold print, tie it in a basic four-in-hand
knot for the day and, before you head out at
night, change to a bolder knot like the full
Windsor or the cross-knot.
If ties are too formal for your office, wear
a vest (wool or cotton) over top of a collared
shirt or tuck in a dress shirt and show off a
bold belt. Striped wool scarves also look sharp.
For women, a silk scarf, blouse or headband
adds a pop of colour to a basic outfit. When
choosing a silk top, go for a collared, buttondown style that looks crisp, simple and chic
when paired with black slacks and a patent belt.
Finally, a purse is an easy way to change your
look. If you’re heading out after work, ditch the
giant bag for a functional and cute clutch that
fits your wallet, lipstick and cell phone.
Happy holidays!
after-work commitments and dwindling
disposable income. Come December, shopping
for oneself is severely out of style thanks to a
lack of funds, a lack of patience for holidaycrazed crowds, or a combination of both.
Don’t go into sartorial Scrooge mode.
Prepare for a happy holiday season with easy
wardrobe helpers that’ll have you rushing from
work to happy hour drinks with your team to
a pre-holiday dinner with friends with nary a
“bah humbug.”
The white shirt goes perfectly with jeans, black
pants or skirts. Tuck it in, leave it out, pair it
with a scarf or vest — the options are endless.
The It List
Shoes
Santa’s not the only one with a naughty and
nice list. There are wardrobe staples that
should be hanging in every closet. And not
because they’re trendy or expensive, but
because they are key pieces that work for day,
night, fall, summer — and will get you through
some hectic mornings in minutes flat!
Depending on the weather in your region, you
will need either snow or rain boots. Go for
something sturdy, comfortable and weather
proof and change when you get to work. For
ladies: Black flats! Black flats! Black flats!
Patent, leather, quilted, it doesn’t matter.
For men, slip-on black leather loafers are great,
or go for a dressier look with patent lace-ups.
Silk
Black Pants
For ladies, a simple straight leg will do. For
the more adventurous, wide leg pants are in
again, just don’t go for the ultra-wide unless
you want to wear them for only one season;
the bottoms will go through quite a bit of wear
52
ENTERPRISE š NOVEMBER 2008
Coats
Living in the Great White North requires a Great
Big Coat. Men and women should opt for a
wool blend and, for super-wet days, a trench
coat. For rain/snow combos, a puffy, quilted
NOVEMBER 2008 š ENTERPRISE
53
CEO Gordon Kirkwood took
Entegra Credit Union from bust to boom
DR. ANA MARIA PEREDO
SHINES A LIGHT
DESJARDINS LENDS
HAITI A HAND
ATLANTIC CREDIT UNIONS
SHOW HOW IT’S DONE
;dj[hfh_i[
Editor
Roberta Staley
Enterprise is published by
Central 1 Credit Union.
Art Director/
Production Manager
Michael N. Sinanan
central 1 credit union
Board of Directors
Circulation Manager
Stephen Crandall
Contributing Writers
Yolanda Brooks
Amanda Euringer
Alison Gillmor
Richard Littlemore
Diane Luckow
Alisdair Smith
Laurie Stephens
David Swick
Maria Tallarico
Contributing Artists
LucyAnne Botham
Zoe Bridgeman
Evaan Kheraj
Ian McCausland
Tallulah Photography
Luisa Rino
Andrew Zbihlyj
For information concerning
Enterprise contact:
Roberta Staley
Enterprise
1441 Creekside Drive
Vancouver bc
Canada v6j 4s7
Tel
Fax
604 730 6359
604 730 6434
To advertise in Enterprise, contact:
Advertising In Print
938 Howe Street
Suite 710
Vancouver bc
Canada v6z 1n9
Tel
Fax
604 681 1811
604 681 0456
To place an advertising feature
in Enterprise, contact Roberta Staley:
604 730 6359 or rst[email protected]
Chairperson
Dan Burns
Vice-Chairperson
Jack Smit
Richard Allen
Lloyd Craig
Elain Duvall
Terry Enns
Fred Gorbet
Sean Jackson
Scott Kennedy
Catherine McCreary
Ross Montgomery
Phil Moore
Lorne Myhra
Dave Sitaram
Fred Wagner
Jack Whittaker
The opinions expressed in articles in Enterprise are
the authors’ and not necessarily those of Enterprise
or Central 1 Credit Union. In addition, the inclusion
of an advertisement does not imply an endorsement
of the product or service by Enterprise or Central 1
Credit Union. Enterprise will not knowingly carry false
or misleading advertising. Enterprise reserves the
right to refuse any advertisement. Both Enterprise
and Central 1 Credit Union disclaim any and all
warranties, whether expressed or implied, including
(without limitation) any implied warranties of
merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose
and neither Enterprise nor Central 1 Credit Union will
accept any responsibility for the reader’s use of the
information and / or opinions presented in Enterprise
or any loss arising therefrom.
The contents of Enterprise are covered by copyright
and all rights are reserved. No material in this
publication may be reproduced in any form without
permission.
Enterprise does not accept unsolicited material.
issn 0319-8626
18
January 2009
Subscription rates (in cdn dollars):
$29.95 / year (Canada); $34.95 / year (usa);
$39.95 / year (Overseas).
Cover photo by Ian McCausland
14
Volume 69, Number 1
<;7JKH;I
H;=?EDI
E8I;HL7JEHO
9E<<;;8H;7A
“You might have a beautiful property, but
you might have a crack-house across the
street or a burned-out, boarded-up house
next door.”
Gordon Kirkwood, CEO, Entegra Credit Union.
Faith Healer
14 Entegra Credit Union CEO Gordon Kirkwood
of Manitoba brought a gasping institution
back from the brink.
Alison Gillmor
Revolutionary
For subscriptions, contact Stephen Crandall:
604 730 6358 or [email protected]
32
32 British Columbia’s Dr. Ana Maria Peredo
is still trying to change the world.
Richard Littlemore
GLOBAL
Calm After the Storms
18 Desjardins Group is helping beleaguered
Haiti overcome enormous financial and
educational challenges.
Roberta Staley
ONTARIO
Lights, Action, Credit Union!
28 Ontario’s actors and Sri Lankan immigrants
now have a credit union to call their own.
Laurie Stephens
ATLANTIC
High Impact
24 Six credit unions show why they come by
their bragging rights honestly.
David Swick
PERSON OF INTEREST
10 Detail Man
Ranard Mackenzie, 19, started his own
business with a microloan from Alterna
Savings Credit Union in Ontario.
Roberta Staley
DIALOGUE
12 Simplus as Pie
Simplus software is helping lenders analyze
the profitability of every account.
Diane Luckow
38 Embrace your curves, work your way to the
top, set realistic New Year’s resolutions and
don’t let the bear market get you down.
:;F7HJC;DJI
6 Editorial
8 Small Talk
46 Marketing Maven
Liquid crystal display (LCD) TV screens
are a hip way to communicate your
marketing messages.
Diane Luckow
JANUARY 2009 š ENTERPRISE
5
kijfWijj^[Xh_Z][
Gordon Kirkwood, CEO of Entegra Credit Union
in Winnipeg, took the financial institution
from bust to boom by putting total trust
in his staff — and himself.
By Alison Gillmor
Photography by Ian McCausland
14
ENTERPRISE š JANUARY 2009
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JANUARY 2009 š ENTERPRISE
15
H;=?ED =BE87B
Desjardins Group’s subsidiary,
Développement international
Desjardins, is helping modernize the
caisses populaires system in Haiti, a
West Indies island nation long troubled
by hurricanes and environmental
disaster, political turmoil and hunger.
By Roberta Staley
Seventy-eight students, aged 11 to 18, cram into a classroom at
Ecole Nationale Mme Pageot middle school in Haiti. Six hundred
students, dressed in uniforms of navy skirts or shorts and blue
gingham shirts, attend the facility. Overcrowded classrooms and
an archaic system of teaching prevail in this nation, where only 50
percent of children attend school.
18
ENTERPRISE š JANUARY 2009
Photography by Tallulah Photography
JANUARY 2009 š ENTERPRISE
19
March 2009
MESSAGE IN
A BOTTLE
TWITTER
AWAY
CO-OPS’
GRAVE MANNER
US CREDIT UNIONS
NAVIGATE STORMY SEAS
canadian credit unions and caisses populaires
are trying to cope with the gloom enveloping the world as
the financial system crumbles.
24
ENTERPRISE š MARCH 2009
MARCH 2009 š ENTERPRISE
25
a cloudy January afternoon, 20 British Columbia credit union leaders are
gathered around a table in the basement conference room of a downtown
Vancouver hotel. Billed as a mini Davos for small and medium-sized
credit unions, this low-key conference falls on the same date as the
World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Its title, posted on the door to the
chamber: The Fragile Franchise.
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MARCH 2009 š ENTERPRISE
27

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