Our purpose: Investing in each other

Richard Vaillancourt

Rick Vaillancourt heads up a financial institution that is making a big difference. As a Certified B Corporation, Omista Credit Union has been recognized as a leader in the global movement of using business as a force for good. B Corporations are a new kind of company that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Rick, CEO of Omista Credit Union, worked for a decade with a chartered bank before he “saw the light.” While working at the chartered bank Rick was transferred to Newfoundland as a young, single guy and – as everybody predicted – he met and married a local girl. It wasn’t long before he was asked to transfer again – this time to Toronto. He had only been married for six months and decided that he didn’t want to continue to get transferred around the country at the whim of his employer.

So he joined another organization, a post-secondary educational institution, as their HR director before finding his way to the credit union system with Omista Credit Union. Established in 1938, Omista will be celebrating their 80th anniversary next year and they have a long history and deep roots in the province. They offered him an opportunity to get back into the financial services sector, a sector he thoroughly enjoyed.

I began our conversation by asking Rick, a chief executive officer with human resource experience, if he thinks someone with an HR background leads differently.

A: I think having HR experience gives you a better understanding of what is important in an organization in terms of the people component. Leadership is all about inspiring people and bringing them to their best. Having the HR background helps me to better understand people and motivate and lead in a positive way. Having the HR experience has served me well.

Q: What is different for an employee at Omista versus a chartered bank?

A: We really focus on our people and tapping into their potential, their ability and how they integrate into the way we operate our organization.

We offer the same products and services that the chartered banks offer. We’re also community-based, which is different when compared to some of the banks. We give back to the community that we exist in.

Q: Are there the same career opportunities?

A: From an employee perspective, we’re not as large as a chartered bank so we don’t often have the same career path opportunities. However, we do offer an employee an opportunity to become well-versed in all aspects of our operation.

We’ve seen a lot of people come through the ranks of our system that start in the front line and move into varying positions of increased responsibility and progress very favourably in our organization as a result.

We also don’t transfer our employees around at our whim, which happens in the larger financial institutions. Our employees know that if they’re working with our organization then they’re here for the period of time that they wish to be there.

Q: What was the reason Omista became a Certified B-Corp?

A: We were very focused on co-operative social responsibility, or CSR, which is a little bit of a variation on corporate social responsibility by looking at how we could be more sustainable and more responsible to our environment. We evolved from what we call a cooperative social responsibility committee structure to a sustainability structure.

In January 2016 we become a B-Corp certified organization. We’re very proud of this. We focus on people, profit and planet. Essentially, we use business as a force for good. Joining the B-Corp Corporation has been a very positive reflection of what our ideals are and what we hope to accomplish.

Q: So the B-Corp philosophy and values already existed within Omista?

A: Yes, it was an evolution for us to move to this next stage. It fit very well into our strategic plan and it’s been very well received by our employees and by our customers.

We are very focused on a “buy local and bank local” philosophy. We have a culture of innovation on what we call “the culture of the evolving member” and becoming a B-Corp fit very well into our plan for where we want to be and it’s helped us to grow as a credit union.

Q: How does being a B-Corp impact the experience of the employee at Omista?

A: The employees identify with being a B-Corp. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how our employees have embraced it. We’re attracting people that are aligned to those values which means a lot to us because if they’re aligned to the values, they’re going to be our best supporters going forward.

Q: How would you differentiate the experience at Omista compared to your competitors?

A: We’re very focused on our community. We’re a New Brunswick-based, owned and operated company – we make our decisions right here in New Brunswick which is different from the chartered banks.

We make our decisions quickly. We get back to our customers quickly. We’re very focused on a full range of products and services for the consumer both from a personal perspective and for a business perspective.

We also have a well-established business-banking centre, which has helped up become very engaged in the small to medium enterprise sector.

Q: You have an interesting way to describe ‘investment’?

A: We invest in each other and we believe that it’s important for us to invest in one another as employees, to invest in our members, our customers and for them to invest in us. It’s become a universal language, or universal motto, a purpose that has captured everything – we’re about investing in each other.

Q: Is there an example you would like to share related to ‘investing in doing good’?

A: We had a day that we called a ‘random acts of kindness’ day where we went out into the community and gave random acts of kindness through a day of giving.

We’re looking forward to taking part in upcoming Habitat for Humanity project with another partner.

Q: How would you finish the following sentence? A leader’s job is to …

A: Inspire employees.

Q: Why use a Credit Union?

A: Credit Unions represent a unique difference and we love to attract and see more business coming our way. We’re a solid system, well-defined and well-established in New Brunswick.

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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Saturday, April 29th, 2017.

 



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