Message from the CEO.

Christine Bergeron, President and CEO
Christine Bergeron

It’s easy to talk about being there for people and communities. It’s much harder to actually do it.

Vancity has been taking action and putting people first for 75 years. In fact, it’s what we were founded to do. But 2020 challenged us like no previous year and inspired us to respond in unprecedented ways. I am very proud of how Vancity met these challenges.

Just three months into 2020, we were tested by a pandemic that caused so many in our communities to face financial hardship and uncertainty on top of concerns for the health and well-being of loved ones. Vancity reacted by putting our profits and tools to the service of members. We helped members facing immediate financial uncertainty by offering loan and credit card payment deferrals, offering a reduction in credit card interest rates to zero for the first six months of the pandemic, and waiving fees for online and telephone banking, among other steps. We contributed $2 million to the Vancouver Foundation’s Community Response Fund (CRF), which delivered rapid essential relief to organizations serving our communities and vulnerable people across B.C., and added $600,000 in Community Investment grants after the CRF closed. We assisted local businesses through Support Local BC and by processing $247 million in Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans for our business members. And we adjusted how we provide the essential financial services members need to prioritize everyone’s safety.

The pandemic, and our decision to prioritize our members and communities on such a scale in response to it, impacted our financial performance in Q2 and early in Q3. But we were focused on ensuring we maintained solid financial footing and our performance improved considerably in the remainder of the year. By the end of the year, total assets plus assets under administration increased 8.0 per cent or $2.3 billion over 2019, and ended 2020 at $30.5 billion. Our membership increased by almost 7,000 members in 2020, a growth rate of 1.3 per cent. And our triple bottom line assets under administration (TBLAA) increased by 13.7 per cent or $1.1 billion over the previous year. We remain very focused on strong performance in the face of all the uncertainty around the near-term economic recovery.

Of course, Vancity’s performance is also tied to how the world around us recovers from the pandemic. That simply going back to the economy we had before COVID-19 isn’t good enough is clear from the fact that, while the pandemic hit everyone very hard, its economic effects were not shared equally. Women, newcomers, and Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) were all disproportionately impacted when job losses and business closures piled up. The sectors most impacted by the pandemic have higher rates of women business-ownership, and women shouldered a disproportionate share of rising childcare demands. These faultlines need to be addressed as part of a just and clean recovery and we will continue to use the tools of finance and our voice in creative ways to help bring this about.

Just three months into 2020, we were tested by a pandemic that caused so many in our communities to face financial hardship and uncertainty on top of concerns for the health and well-being of loved ones.

The pandemic also did little to slow the other global crisis on our doorstep, the climate emergency. As 2020 progressed, it quickly became obvious that the recovery must be inclusive, put people and planet first, and build the clean and fair economy that Canadians need and want. We had already been working with both internal and external experts to identify where Vancity can have the biggest impact in addressing the climate crisis, and we focused this work more closely to aligning the recovery with a climate transition that helps everyone. The climate commitments we announced in January 2021 were the result of this multiyear process.

The main driver of our climate commitments is enabling our members to successfully transition to a clean and fair economy. To achieve this, we will employ both a variety of banking tools and our ability to advocate on behalf of our members to our government partners. Our mortgages, the most carbon-intensive part of our portfolio, will be a particular focus for us. These will also be important steps towards fulfilling our pledges under the Collective Commitment to Climate Action, which we joined along with 37 other signatories to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Banking (PRBs). In 2020, Vancity became North America’s representative on the Board overseeing the implementation of the PRBs.

Building a clean and fair world goes beyond addressing the climate crisis. Vancity has long been committed to removing barriers to well-being resulting from legacies of racism and systemic discrimination. And opposing racism in all its forms remains critical, as recent events keep reminding us. But walking the talk begins at home, and in 2020 we determined to become a proactively anti-racist organization. As we outline on page 13 of the full annual report, we are already acting to ensure our employees can come together in an open and safe-from-judgment manner to talk about race and racism, that our frontline employees and members are protected in harmful situations, that we identify and address blind spots and systemic biases in our own processes and decisions, and that our leadership and staff reflect the diversity in the communities around us. Carrying through with this work is a high priority for us in the coming years.

Vancity has long been committed to removing barriers to well-being resulting from legacies of racism and systemic discrimination. And opposing racism in all its forms remains critical, as recent events keep reminding us.

2020 required extraordinary energy, focus and compassion from every member of the Vancity team. And our employees stood up to the challenge, resulting in 56 per cent of our members rating their level of satisfaction with our service delivery at nine or ten out of ten, three percentage points better than in 2019. With so many of us isolated from family and friends while dealing with all the stresses brought on by COVID-19, it was important for me personally that we look after the well-being of our employees during this trying time. That’s why we provided enhanced access to health advice and implemented a new mental-health well-being program. We are in the process of redesigning and improving the retirement benefits we provide, and have successfully negotiated a renewed collective agreement with our unionized employees and the union representing them (BCGEU). It makes me proud that in such a challenging year our employee engagement score was up to 69 per cent, an increase of seven percentage points over 2019.

Delivering on our goals for 2021 and the three-year strategy we developed in 2020 depends on the effort and dedication of our employees, and on how Vancity as an organization enables our employees to do a great job. A lot more work is still ahead of us, but what I’ve seen since taking Vancity’s helm in July makes me confident. If we continue to do right by our members, employees, and the world around us, Vancity will continue to grow, while also empowering all of us as members to come together to meet the challenges of the climate emergency and to help dismantle legacies of systemic racism and discrimination.

Signature of Christine Bergeron

Christine Bergeron
President and CEO

Jan O’Brien, Chair, Vancity Board of Directors