Rita Parikh

Message from the Chair.

Rita Parikh, Chair, Vancity Board of Directors

We don’t need Statistics Canada to remind us of how difficult it is for an increasing number of British Columbians to cope with the rising cost of living. The signs are all around us, and our members have not been spared.

At Vancity, we take the experiences and stories you share with us to heart. That’s why, for example, we made it a particular priority in 2023 to work proactively with members struggling to make loan or credit card payments, and business members challenged by repayment requirements on their COVID-era Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loans. We continued sharing 30 per cent of our profits – more than $22 million in 2023 – with members and communities, supporting community organizations at the forefront of addressing the systemic challenges many members are facing. And we rolled out a new defined benefit pension plan – a rarity among private sector employers – to ensure participating employees have a predictable and steady income in their retirement years.

We’ve always approached our business this way, but in 2023 it was especially important to show members and employees that we have their back when they need us. This is exactly the kind of proactive approach that sets Vancity apart from other financial institutions.

The economic reality impacting our members also affects us as a credit union. In 2023, we experienced one of our toughest years ever, and one that ended with a modest financial loss. We expect we’ll continue to feel the impact of these economic headwinds in 2024.

Overseeing how Vancity navigates this unprecedented economic environment while deepening our support to members and community partners is, of course, a key priority for the Board.

External pressures are real, as are the interrelated crises of climate change, housing affordability, and growing inequality. But we are confident we have the right strategy and vision to withstand them.”

External pressures are real, as are the interrelated crises of climate change, housing affordability, and growing inequality. But we are confident we have the right strategy and vision to withstand them. Leading that strategy and realizing that vision will be our new CEO, Wellington Holbrook.

The Board was thrilled to welcome Wellington to our credit union at the start of 2024, after a seven-month search. We are confident that in Wellington we have the right leader for Vancity to both guide our credit union through the current storm and, together with our exceptional employees, to make good on our promise to members and employees.

Over almost 30 years, Wellington has held an impressive range of senior leadership roles in the financial sector. Wellington comes to us after having served as CEO of one of Alberta’s largest credit unions, connectFirst, where advancing Reconciliation and member and employee experience were key strategic priorities. He also led the Business Development Bank of Canada’s operations in Western Canada. And Wellington drove an ambitious digital and business transformation at ATB Financial, Alberta’s largest local financial institution, with 5,000 employees and over 800,000 clients. Most recently, Wellington served as a senior director with Gartner, researching and advising financial services leaders on digital transformation and modernization; his work there gives us renewed confidence in our ambitious plans to strengthen our digital services and platforms for members.

Importantly, Wellington’s career is marked by a demonstrated commitment to the same values that have animated Vancity since its founding, including our vision for economic transformation. He has proven he is dedicated to deepening impact, and to leading through times of turbulence and change. On behalf of the Board, I am pleased to welcome Wellington to Vancity – and back to Vancouver.

The Board also extends our deep gratitude to former president and CEO, Christine Bergeron, and our interim president and CEO, Nez Aquino, both of whom led Vancity in 2023. We are grateful for Christine’s careful stewardship through the COVID pandemic, and for helping us achieve unprecedented financial results, strengthen our position as a North American leader on climate, and raise our profile in Canada and internationally. We are also deeply thankful to Nez for skillfully leading Vancity with focus and heart through one of the toughest years on record for our members and for our credit union. Fortunately, we will continue to benefit from Nez’s leadership as she continues in her roles as Vancity’s Chief Risk Officer and CEO of Vancity Community Investment Bank, our national impact-focused banking subsidiary.

The Board also wishes to thank Maegen Giltrow for her three years of service on the Board. We are delighted to celebrate her appointment as one of BC’s newest Supreme Court justices, but will miss her contributions to the Board’s work, including as chair of the Governance Committee and as a member of the Audit and Technology Committees.

Your Board is confident that Vancity’s vision of a transformed economy that protects the earth and guarantees equity for all is absolutely the right one for these times. How our products and services – and our voice as a values-driven financial institution – empower you in service of that vision is critical. We remain committed to supporting your dreams, and those you have for your family, friends and communities, and believe we are well placed to emerge from the challenges of 2024 stronger and more impactful than ever.

Signature of Rita Parikh

Rita Parikh
Chair, Vancity Board of Directors