Learn more about the leaders who are inspiring First West’s strategic direction

First West’s executive management group brings together a top team of experienced and capable leaders who are unified in their passion to simplify lives and help members and communities thrive.

Launi Skinner

Chief Executive Officer

Launi Skinner

Chief Executive Officer

Launi Skinner is chief executive officer of First West Credit Union, one of Canada’s leading credit unions with $14 billion in assets and assets under management, approximately 250,000 members and roughly 1,400 employees. Launi leads First West’s vision and strategic direction, ensuring the organization’s local brand network—Envision Financial, Valley First, Island Savings, and Enderby & District Financial—remains committed to simplifying lives and helping members and communities thrive.

Launi has more than 25 years of experience managing large and complex businesses in both the U.S. and Canada. Before her current position with First West, Launi spent 15 years with Starbucks where her last role as president gave her oversight of 11,300 stores, management of revenues in excess of $7 billion and leadership of a geographically dispersed management team overseeing 130,000 employees. She also had responsibility for U.S. store development, annually managing $400 million in new store builds, $300 million in renovations and global store design.

Launi has been recognized for her leadership and business acumen numerous times throughout her career. She has been named one of “Four Women to Watch” in Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women feature, awarded an honorary doctorate by the British Columbia Institute of Technology and named as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women four times culminating in a Woman’s Executive Network hall of fame entry. Additionally, she received the 2011 Stevie Award for Best Canadian Executive and was named one of Business in Vancouver’s Most Influential Women in Business for 2012.

Launi holds a diploma in business from Okanagan College, received her CGA designation and has completed the Institute of Corporate Directors program. She is currently a board member for Central 1 Credit Union, Qtrade Financial Group, Rocky Mountaineer and is the chair of Science World. In the community she serves as a community leader for the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women as well as past event chair for the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Awards.

Shelley Besse

Chief Credit Officer

Shelley Besse

Chief Credit Officer

As First West Credit Union’s chief credit officer, Shelley Besse is responsible for credit policy, adjudication and recovery. She provides senior leadership oversight to all lines of business, including retail and commercial lending, loan syndication and securitization, joint ventures, junior debt as well as mezzanine and equity investments.

Shelley is a highly respected leader with extensive knowledge and experience in the financial services industry. Since joining Envision Financial in 1984, Shelley has held a number of increasingly senior leadership roles including branch manager, assistant vice-president of marketing and communications, vice-president of branch operations, vice-president of sales and service and vice-president of risk management and operations. She was appointed to lead First West’s merger transition in 2009 and successfully delivered against a three-year strategy to create a high-performing operations team within First West’s new operating model.

Following this role, Shelley was appointed senior vice-president of operations, sales and member experience and focused on providing employees with operations support and for developing and implementing an enterprise-wide continuous improvement strategy known as Lean. In 2012, Shelley became president of Envision Financial. Four years later in 2016, Shelley was appointed chief operating officer of First West where she was responsible for leading First West’s regional operations, encompassing retail, business and commercial banking, wealth management, general insurance, and operations for all of First West’s local market brands.

In 2012, Shelley received international recognition for her leadership and business acumen when she was awarded a Silver Stevie Award in the category of Female Executive of the Year – Consumer Services and a Bronze Stevie Award in the category of Female Executive of the Year in Canada.

Shelley holds an MBA from Royal Roads University, a certificate in financial planning, is a graduate of the Stanford Executive Program, specializing in strategy and organizational design and has received an Operational Risk Management professional designation from the International Council for Operational Risk Management. Shelley is the past chair for the Surrey Board of Trade. Shelley currently sits as a board director for Canadian Credit Union Association and is a member of the Aviso Member Advisory Board.

Tom Webster

Chief Financial Officer

Tom Webster

Chief Financial Officer

Tom Webster has been First West’s chief financial officer since the credit union’s formation in 2010 through the merger of Envision and Valley First credit unions. Previously the CFO of Envision Credit Union since 2004, Tom has directed the financial growth of the credit union from $1 billion in assets to today’s $14 billion in assets and assets under management. Along with his role as CFO, Tom has an extensive background in risk management and has served as chief risk officer.

As a senior executive with more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, Tom’s focus has been on financial and strategic leadership. As CFO he is accountable for the credit union’s financial and treasury operations, including the development of financial and operational strategy, strategic metrics and the ongoing development and monitoring of control systems designed to preserve the company assets and ensure accurate financial reporting. He has extensive experience in project management and business process redesign with strong people skills and a collaborative work style.

Tom has an undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria, as well as a CPA, CA (1987) and recently earned the ICD.D designation through the Institute of Corporate Directors and Rotman School of Management.

Darrell Jaggers

Chief Digital & Technology Officer

Darrell Jaggers

Chief Digital & Technology Officer

Darrell Jaggers leads First West Credit Union’s information technology department, operations team and digital transformation practice. A talented executive with 30 years of IT and financial services experience, Darrell has built a strong reputation of accelerating change through an innate understanding of technology and people. He has a track record of successful enterprise system conversions and technology implementations and is constantly looking for the next wave of technology enablement.

Darrell’s reputation as an IT leader and innovator has drawn significant interest from suppliers and the fintech community. This has enabled First West to rapidly build its technology and digital expertise and move to the forefront of digital transformation initiatives.

Darrell ensures his IT experience is used to drive member experience and ensure the security of the credit union’s systems and digital assets. He is passionate about enabling business transformation through technology by providing a comprehensive suite of IT services to First West’s brands and members.

Darrell brings board experience, serves as a leader on credit union system committees, is well known as a strong collaborator and solution facilitator in the industry, and has helped shape credit union information and payment systems across Canada.

Recognized as a member of Vancouver Island’s “Top Forty under Forty” in the financial services category, he has earned distinction among his peers and provides mentorship to many within and beyond the financial co-operative and technology industries.

Leslie Castellani

Chief Governance & Corporate Affairs Officer

Leslie Castellani

Chief Governance & Corporate Affairs Officer

Leslie Castellani leads First West Credit Union’s corporate governance, enterprise strategic planning, government relations, legal services and federal continuance initiative. Leslie is focused on advancing First West’s corporate priorities by creating a dynamic, collaborative and engaging team environment that encourages diverse thinking, fosters enterprise alignment and inspires the achievement of First West’s Why: To simplify lives, helping members and communities thrive.

Leslie’s leadership career spans the technology, telecom and financial services industries. She joined First West in 2011 as vice-president, communications and public relations with responsibility for building the First West brand and strengthening media and public relations in the communities served by First West’s regional brands. Her team was instrumental during the journey that led to Island Savings members voting to join First West in January 2015.

Before joining First West, Leslie led CEO communications at TELUS and inspired an internationally award-winning creative and digital services team for nearly five years. She also led communications and industry analyst relations for six years at Pivotal Corporation, a customer relationship management software company.

A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Leslie holds a bachelor of commerce. Her executive education includes training in Blue Ocean Strategy at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and advanced management at the University of Southern California.

As a champion of First West’s Lead Well social vision, Leslie has managed youth sports teams and is a past director and president of Semiahmoo Family Place and a former member of the University of the Fraser Valley’s board of governors. After gaining national awareness in 2015 for helping her son overcome a rare syndrome, Leslie is sought for guidance and support by families across Canada facing the same medical condition. In 2018, Leslie was appointed chair of the What Really Matters Capital Campaign to build a new YMCA Centre of Community in Surrey City Centre.

Mike Cooke

Chief Risk Officer

Mike Cooke

Chief Risk Officer

Mike Cooke leads First West’s enterprise risk management, regulatory compliance, quantitative analysis, internal audit and corporate security teams. As head of risk management, Mike manages the organization’s exposure to risk ensuring that members continue to be invested in a strong, stable organization for many years to come. This important work includes the application of an enterprise risk management framework, identifying emerging and current risks to ensure mitigating strategies and processes are effectively and efficiently managing risks.

Mike joined First West in 2012 as the vice-president of finance overseeing accounting, financial reporting, tax services and financial planning and analysis. Mike is a proven leader with more than 20 years of experience leading finance and risk management teams for prominent organizations within the professional services, technology and financial services sectors.

Mike is a chartered professional accountant (CPA, CA) and a certified information system auditor (CISA). He attended the Executive Program for Financial Leadership at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business and is currently enrolled in the Masters Certificate in Risk Management and Business Performance program at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Mike is an advocate of giving back to the community and currently serves as the board treasurer for Food Banks B.C., a provincial association that oversees more than 100 food banks across British Columbia. He is also a member of the board for the Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS), an international organization that provides education and outreach services to at risk inner-city youth through the power of athletics and mentorship.

Bryan Mavrow

Agile Enterprise Lead

Bryan Mavrow

Agile Enterprise Lead

As part of First West Credit Union’s leadership team, Bryan Mavrow leads the organization in its journey to become the first end-to-end agile enterprise credit union in Canada. Using agile methods in all areas of the credit union is accelerating its ability to serve members with new solutions, and empowering its staff to be more successful. He also oversees enterprise intelligence, and digital experience activities for which he draws on two decades of success in planning and developing online customer experiences.

Bryan joined First West in 2011, and in his years as chief business innovation officer he has transformed and brought focus to First West marketing, and product and service innovation efforts. Significantly, this has included the introduction of First West’s brand promise, “Keeping It Simple®”, the launch of the Simply Free Account®—Canada’s best daily account—and building First West’s position as marketplace leaders in delivering digital services, including remote cheque deposit, e-transfers and personal financial management tools.

Bryan has an unwavering commitment to innovation and delivering exceptional member service. Under his leadership First West piloted North America’s first wearable payment accessory using Visa payWave® technology named the Dashband™. This focus on merging technology and member experience earned First West the Canadian Credit Union Award for Innovation in 2016. Bryan shares his innovation mentorship throughout the credit union system and in the communities First West Serves, for example with the South Island Prosperity Project at Social Innovation Challenges as advisor and judging panelist.

Before joining First West, Bryan held leadership roles across a variety of high-change businesses. He established an early career in the online industry helping grow one of Canada’s most successful internet services companies in the dot-com days where he architected the first online channels for companies including TELUS, SC Johnson, Kraft and Colliers International.

In previous roles, Bryan served as vice-president/general manager of Hot Tomali, where he won the AD AGE International Small Agency of the Year Award. He has also led a global-serving franchise team as vice-president marketing and communications for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and as director of internet architecture for Intrawest, where he designed online engagement for millions of resort guests across North America.

Bryan attended the University of British Columbia and BCIT, contributing  to BCIT’s marketing programs advisory committee and has taught a number of continuing studies courses over the years.

Liz Bailey-Connor

Chief People & Culture Officer

Liz Bailey-Connor

Chief People & Culture Officer

Liz Bailey-Connor is a veteran of the human resources industry. With more than 25 years of diverse and increasingly senior roles, Liz has established herself as an advocate for people analytics, continuous improvement and positive transformational change. She is well-known for maximizing the potential of her teams by empowering them to build their capability, enhancing their self-awareness and confidence and supporting their growth to reach their full potential.

As First West Credit Union’s chief people and culture officer, Liz oversees the strategic planning and execution of all facets of human resources including culture, recruitment, talent management, employee and labour relations, compensation, benefits, rewards, learning and organizational and leadership development. Her goal is to re-imagine and transform human resources strategies and solutions to align with First West’s vision and culture while ensuring the credit union enhances the employee experience.

Before joining First West predecessor Envision Credit Union in 2008, Liz worked as director of talent management at Vancity Credit Union and held several leadership roles both in the business and human resources at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Liz also has experience as a secondary school teacher and chartered psychologist in the United Kingdom. This diverse background gives Liz a unique perspective on opportunities, challenges and solutions in the human resources industry.

Liz holds a bachelor of science in human psychology as well as a master of science in psychology from the University of London. She holds a human resources professional designation (CPHR) and is a member of the B.C. Human Resources Management Association. Liz has been honored with a communications award from the B.C. Professional Communications Association.

Away from the office, Liz is an active member in her community, having volunteered as a board member on several non-profit organizations. Currently, she is a director of the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation and actively participates in the signature causes and community at First West.

Susan Ewanick

Chief Member Officer

Susan Ewanick

Chief Member Officer

Susan Ewanick is a community leader and business executive with more than 25 years’ experience in the financial services industry. As chief member officer, Susan champions First West’s member-first philosophy.

Susan is responsible for leading the retail, business and commercial banking, wealth management, and general insurance for all of First West’s local market brands: Envision Financial, Valley First, Enderby & District Financial and Island Savings. Susan also provides oversight for First West Capital.

Before rejoining First West in 2016 as president of the Valley First division, Susan was vice-president and head of commercial banking for HSBC in Western Canada. In this role, she was responsible for growing market share by providing differentiated advisory services to domestically- and internationally-focussed small and medium enterprises.

During a 20-plus year career with CIBC, Susan gained extensive experience in retail, business and commercial banking, structured credit for large private and public companies and led the affluent wealth management offer. Susan assumed progressively senior leadership roles including market vice-president, retail distribution, which encompassed 1,200 employees in 100 branches throughout B.C. and northern Canada, with assets under administration of $21 billion.

Susan holds a bachelor of arts in economics from Simon Fraser University and a master of business administration in executive management from Royal Roads University, which included international business studies at the University of Grenoble in France. Susan is also Lean Greenbelt certified by Lean Sensei International and recently became a member of the MacKay CEO Forum.

A champion of First West’s social vision to “lead well”, Susan is proud of her past volunteer contributions as board chair of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and ministry-appointed board of governor for Vancouver Community College. Susan is currently serving on the board of directors for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Angela Brown

Head, Brand Engagement

Angela Brown

Head, Brand Engagement

As First West Credit Union’s brand engagement leader, Angela Brown drives the success of the organization’s marketing, communications, community investment and facilities teams.

Since joining the organization in 2008, Angela has transformed First West’s product and service innovation and marketing efforts. Her many ground-breaking accomplishments include introducing First West’s brand promise “Keeping It Simple®”, launching the Simply Free Account®—Canada’s best no-fee everyday personal banking account—and building First West’s multiple brands’ individual positions as marketplace leaders in digital services like remote cheque deposit, Interac® eTransfers and online personal financial management tools.

Angela is especially passionate about First West’s commitment to fighting hunger in First West’s communities, and spearheaded the creation of the organization’s high-impact signature causes in support of Food Banks B.C.—“Feed the Valley” in First West’s Valley First division, and “The Full Cupboard” in First West’s Envision Financial and Island Savings divisions. At the program’s inception in 2010, Angela boldly cast a vision to raise $1 million in 10 years for local food banks. Nine years later, First West has already surpassed the $3 million mark. The program has been recognized by the Canadian Credit Union Association with the first Innovation Award ever given for community investment. Angela takes immense pride in the incredible commitment that First West’s employees, members and community partners have shown to achieve these amazing results.

Before joining First West, Angela held increasingly senior sales, marketing and public relations roles in the insurance industry. Early in her career, Angela honed her skills in the media, as a journalist, and storytelling is in her blood. She holds her Certified Sales Professional designation through the Canadian Professional Sales Association, and has led the marketing teams she has overseen to numerous industry awards. She continues to be actively involved in the community, currently serving as board chair of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society. Angela is also the vice-chair of the Ficanex Group of Companies, a financial services and fintech company serving credit unions and tier-two banks in Canada.

Meet the leaders who are at the forefront of our divisional brands

Our regional presidents direct leadership teams with local market knowledge at each of our divisional brands: Envision Financial, Valley First, Island Savings and Enderby & District Financial.

Paulo Araujo

President, Valley First and Enderby & District Financial

Paulo Araujo

President, Valley First and Enderby & District Financial

As president of Valley First and Enderby & District Financial, Paulo is responsible for leading and growing First West’s retail, business and commercial banking teams as well as wealth management services in British Columbia’s southwest Interior.

During the last 20 years, Paulo has worked in various roles within Valley First, including Vice President of Retail and Business Banking, Director of Retail Banking, Regional Manager South Okanagan Region, Senior Manager of Retail Credit and Branch Manager. In addition to his current role as president, Paulo also runs his family’s orchard in the South Okanagan. He is Lean Green Belt Certified and has taken leadership courses through The Banff Centre.

Dedicated to community leadership, Paulo is active in Valley First’s signature cause, Feed the Valley and is a director on the board of the Okanagan College Foundation. Also, Paulo is an avid supporter of the South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association, where he is a coach and has led three different teams to a gold medal in the provincial championships, and chief cheerleader to his three sons.

David Lanphear

President, Envision Financial

David Lanphear

President, Envision Financial

As president, David Lanphear provides leadership to all of the credit union’s lines of business in the Envision Financial region. David has 21 years of financial services experience and is known for his strong leadership skills and ability to inspire his teams.

Since beginning his financial services career with Envision Financial in 1998, David has held a number of progressively senior positions during his career including assistant vice-president, Investment Services; assistant vice-president, Insurance Services; vice-president, Commercial Banking and Insurance, vice-president, Retail Banking and Insurance and since January 2016, president of Envision Financial. He is a graduate of the Criminal Justice Program at the University of the Fraser Valley and is also a Certified Financial Planner. David has been the recipient of the National Young Leaders Award (under 35) for the Canadian Credit Union System and has also been awarded Envision Financial’s CEO Award of Excellence twice during his tenure.

In addition to his role with Envision Financial, David is involved in the community and currently volunteers as a Board Director for the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and sits on the Fund Development Committee of the Abbotsford Community Foundation. He is also a sports enthusiast, having coached hockey for 7 years, as well as his son’s baseball team. David resides in Abbotsford with his wife and two young children. In his spare time he enjoys skiing, running, travelling and spending time with his family.

Kendall Gross

President, Island Savings

Kendall Gross

President, Island Savings

As president of Island Savings, Kendall leads First West’s retail banking, business banking and wealth management team serving Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Kendall has more than 30 years’ experience in the financial services industry and has spent 25 of those years in senior leadership roles. After several years with a large Canadian bank where he led major projects and district teams, he joined the credit union system in 2015 as a member of First West’s Valley First division. Kendall is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and holds multiple Canadian securities certifications as well as his Green Belt in Lean methodologies.

Kendall is a dedicated leader in the community, having previously earned honours from the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and BDO’s Top 40 Over 40. He has been involved in youth football for more than a decade, serving as a provincial championship-winning coach and a director at the board level. His leadership and passion have garnered him several coaching awards, including Kelowna’s Bob Giordano Memorial Award for Coach of the Year, the B.C. Community Football Coach of the Year (twice), and three B.C. Lions Orange Helmet Awards. He also enjoys supporting other local causes including programs provided by community food banks.

Kendall and his wife and family live in Victoria.