Nothing beats a good novel or a well-developed storyline on the big screen—particularly those epic tales where the future of a people, country, or even the world hangs in the balance. What I love about these stories isn’t just the unexpected plot twists, rebel leaders or underdog victors—it’s the journey. It’s how the characters persevere, sacrifice and understand a deeper purpose that moves them towards a goal.
I’m drawn to stories where uncertain outcomes are faced with surprising selfless resolve and where the characters themselves are shaped by their choices. I’m fascinated when people and teams acknowledge that “good” just isn’t good enough and are challenged to become better and to do better for those around them.
That’s why I find our credit union’s journey so enthralling. Two years into our journey, First West Credit Union has built an exciting cast of characters, delved deeper into our storyline and refined our tactics. We’re discovering important players where we didn’t expect them, and twists that we had not anticipated—all as we move toward our end goal of redefining what it means to be a credit union here in British Columbia and across Canada.
A path less travelled
Since the First West journey began, I’ve had a good number of colleagues in the financial services field ask me when we would return to “doing things normally.” I respond in a good-natured manner, but I’m always intrigued by the notion that what we’re doing isn’t the norm.
As members, you already know that, more than any other time in our history, your board and management team are focused on ensuring we make local, common sense decisions—decisions made from across the desk, not at a corporate head office. You also know that we’re about local leadership—the people you did business with before are still the ones you do business with today. We’re also passionate about supporting our local communities through our corporate citizenship initiatives and the First West Foundation.
So maybe the way we’ve chosen to do business isn’t “normal” compared to other institutions in the financial services industry, but I’d rather work to ensure credit unions remain relevant and viable for the next generation instead of doing the “usual” thing.
I truly believe your credit union has the ability and passion to make a real difference in the financial lives of our members, with the same spirit we’ve enjoyed for generations. As your board chair, I am extremely pleased when I’m able to report that your credit union’s management and employees are dedicated to doing what’s in the best interest of our members, whether that’s considered normal or not. With that, your board has full confidence that our CEO, Launi Skinner, and the management team will continue to guide our organization through these difficult economic times with the same deft skill they have demonstrated to date.
What guides our steps?
If the past two years are any indication, significant momentum is building for our journey. As we grow and thrive in our local markets we consistently draw on 6 Big Ideals:
1. Succeed together
2. Act local
3. Value all
4. Make common sense decisions
5. Create good things
6. Inspire exceptional results
These ideals shape everything we do as a credit union. In drawing on them, we ensure adaptability and success in delivering timely solutions for each member’s unique needs. Dedication to these ideals also distinguishes us as an innovative, relevant and competitive organization.
Down the road
Our first two years demonstrated to our members in the Valley First and Envision Financial regions that we are able to remain locally-focused, while implementing strategic changes for both regions. As we continue our journey, we never lose sight of our desire to grow and repeat this success with like-minded credit unions.
We continue to take steps towards finding new partnerships and implementing our unique model, and under Launi’s leadership, we are actively seeking out these opportunities.
In the coming year we expect more challenges, in more volatile markets with unseen futures. Yet, with our experiences behind us and our steps carefully mapped, the rewards we will reap for operating outside of the “norm” will surely be great for us and our members.
On board and going forward
To all those at First West, Valley First and Envision Financial, thank you for living out our 6 Big Ideals, adjusting to changes, and succeeding in what you’ve been asked to accomplish. I also want to thank the board and the regional councils for your support in my first year as board chair. In particular, I would like to acknowledge and express my heartfelt thanks to Terry Enns for his board chairmanship of Envision Financial and First West over the past 15 years. His leadership of our credit union has left a profound mark on our organization.
To our members, thank you for your support and for entrusting us with your financial dreams. I want you to know that your credit union will continue to become a better institution. We are dedicated to providing innovative industryleading products and solutions that assist as you face your own journeys and road ahead.
If you have questions or would just like to talk, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This article was originally published in the First West Credit Union 2011 annual report.