Message from the Chair.

Jan O’Brien, Chair, Vancity Board of Directors
Jan O’Brien

At Vancity, we know that using the tools of finance for members and their communities produces both growth and impact. In a tough year for Canada’s co-operative movement, we shone a bright light on what co-operatives can achieve and why they remain so vital in our communities.

Our response to COVID-19’s unexpected outbreak showed how a co-operative can mobilize its membership to help each other get through a major crisis together. In a world struggling to figure out how to respond, our values and our strong capital position provided a very clear path: enable members to focus on immediate needs and support the most vulnerable in our communities. The Board was inspired by the dedication and creativity of management and employees as they found ways to help thousands of members, dozens of community organizations, and many local businesses withstand the financial impact of the pandemic. Efforts such as offering zero per cent interest on credit card rates for six months stood out.

Being a financial co-operative has always meant working to address inequities and remove barriers to economic well-being. It was disturbing for the Board to watch how the pandemic was making existing inequities and barriers worse for women and, in particular, for women of colour. The term “shecession” was coined to describe the unequal impact of the economic consequences of the pandemic. Obstacles such as gaps in pay and retirement savings as well as unequal care requirements have been compounded to the point that many women are leaving the workforce altogether, setting back decades of employment gains. I am proud of the work Vancity has been doing to fight this trend, such as our ongoing support of women entrepreneurs and advocacy on key issues such as public childcare.

The last year also spotlighted the fact that racism continues to plague our society, sometimes visibly, and sometimes hidden in legacy structures we are all part of. Vancity opposes racism and stands for diversity and inclusion. Last year, we recognized the need to do more and took an important decision to become an actively anti-racist financial institution. Our first step is a hard look at ourselves as a credit union, to uncover systemic racism. This work continues with a plan to ensure that our credit union is actively rejecting racism.

We continued our Reconciliation work with Indigenous communities including striving to create a more welcome and inclusive experience for Indigenous members. We are also exploring how we can expand the ways we serve Indigenous communities.

Our member focus and co-operative principles also guide our response to the climate crisis. Individual actions may feel like small steps given the magnitude of the crisis. But as a co-operative we all know that many small steps taken together can make a huge difference. Vancity has a long record of working to address environmental issues. Our ambitious climate commitments, including our goal to make Vancity net-zero by 2040, reflect our sense of urgency and will guide us in empowering our members and communities to join a climate transition that builds a world both clean and fair.

The Board was inspired by the dedication and creativity of management and employees as they found ways to help thousands of members, dozens of community organizations, and many local businesses withstand the financial impact of the pandemic.

In 2020, we faced our first leadership transition since 2007. After 13 years at the helm of Vancity, Tamara Vrooman took up a new post as President and CEO of Vancouver’s Airport Authority on July 1st. Tamara guided Vancity through a period of growth and transformation, resulting in an influential community-based credit union that is a model for social and environmental innovation in the financial sector.

The Board conducted a comprehensive talent search that attracted many highly qualified candidates from across Canada. At the end of a thorough process, the Board concluded that Vancity had the right person in Christine Bergeron, Chief Member Services Officer and interim CEO. We have confidence in Christine’s experience, skills and strategic vision for Vancity and know she is the right leader for this important moment in our credit union’s history.

I thank my fellow Board members, including our newest colleagues who joined last year, for working so collaboratively and effectively despite never having the opportunity to meet in person in a year. I also thank the executive and the staff of Vancity for carrying on the essential work of our credit during this lengthy COVID-19 pandemic.

Acting on our co-operative values, Vancity showed our members to be a financial force for resilience in the face of a global crisis. Coming together in the face of the challenges ahead, we can again be a financial force for long-overdue systemic change.

Signature of Jan O’Brien

Jan O’Brien
Chair, Vancity Board of Directors

Christine Bergeron, President and CEO