Banking on values.

I’m at YVR, waiting for a flight to Copenhagen. I’m going to a meeting of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, a group of 24 banks, credit unions, microfinance organizations and other financial institutions dedicated to a sustainable banking model. These organizations have a “shared commitment to find global solutions to international problems – and to promote a positive, viable alternative to the current financial system.”
Global Alliance for Banking on Values

We’re meeting in Copenhagen, hosted by Merkur Cooperative Bank, to discuss how to better convey to consumers what a values-based banking model and approach is all about. How do we get people to include thinking about what their money is invested in while it’s parked at the bank as one of their decision factors when choosing a financial institution – in addition to rates, location, brand, etc…

It’ll be an intense few days of meetings and visiting Merkur’s clients who are working to create a more sustainable, equitable society. I’m excited and a little nervous about it. I am looking forward to meeting new colleagues from around the world who share a vision of addressing society’s problems through the tools of banking. And, of course, I’m honoured to be representing Vancity, as always.

I’ll blog while there if I have anything interesting to say, and I’ll also be taking photos on Instagram.

What a difference a week can make.

Vancity Staff

Vancity staff at one of our new prototype branches.

Late last year, Vancity launched its new Employee Immersion program. Up until that time, we had a pretty traditional employee orientation. Sometime in the first few weeks on the job, new employees spent a day learning about the organization, our benefits packages, where they fit into the organizational structure.

As a mission-driven organization, we needed a way for new employees to deeply experience the organization they are joining. Last year, HR led the way to a very different way of thinking. All new employees now have fixed hire dates, and their first week on the job is at our Immersion program with a cohort of other employees from across the organization. They spend a week learning about the co-operative principles, the history of Vancity, our vision of Redefining Wealth, our model of values-based banking. They visit community partners to learn how Vancity invests in community organizations to help them create positive impact in our community. They spend a day at a branch and a half day at the call centre to learn how our member service ties back to our approach. They map out the impact Vancity can have in community (a module I helped co-create and deliver regularly). They immerse themselves in what Vancity is, so, when they actually start their jobs the following week, they understand how to best apply themselves to help achieve our vision and strategies.

At the end of that intense week, if new employees are not excited about what they experience and what the organization is doing, we’ll thank them, and pay them a small fee for their time and lost-opportunity cost. We recognize that the Vancity vision isn’t for everyone, and it’s okay if some people opt out of the organization based on their experience of the Immersion week, because in order to achieve what we’re attempting we need people who are engaged and committed and rowing in the same direction. So far, however, no one has opted out.

Because its such a transformational program, not just new employees are getting “immersed” this year, but also all people changing roles in the organization and all people leaders. That way we level-set the entire organization around our mission, and engage all our people in our strategies and business model. It’s a hell of an investment, one that I believe will pay off.

This week, I’ve been attending the Immersion program in one of three senior leader sessions held this year. It’s been an honour spending time with peers and colleagues, challenging each other to look at what we’re doing differently, learning more about the organization I’ve worked at for more than seven years and growing in my understanding of our potential to continuously improve the way we serve our members and the organizations and businesses in our communities.

It’s an exciting time to be at Vancity, we’re leaning further and further into our mission. I know at times I can seem perhaps like too much of a Vancity cheerleader, but programs like this Immersion and the areas we’re investing in to become a social-purpose financial institution are a strong reason why I’m so passionate, committed and inspired.

How a branch can express your mission.

Vancity Branch Redesign
For the last year and a half I have been tangentially involved in the redesign of two of Vancity’s branches. It’s been an amazing project, looking beyond the expected excitement about new fit and finish within the branch, and at the kind of business we want to do within the branch and how Vancity can best bring its mission and vision to life in these spaces.

We call these two branches in South Burnaby and Port Coquitlam our prototypes, living labs that opened last month. You can see photos, as well as a video that shows what we’re trying to do and why: