Aldergrove Financial Group, Envision Financial, and Prospera Credit Union have teamed up in a cooperative venture aimed at providing grief support to school-aged children.
That support came in the form of a $30,000 donation to the Abbotsford Hospice Society’s Stepping Stones program, which provides opportunities for children and teens to process their feelings, learn to live with loss, plan for the future, and re-engage in the community in a healthy way.
As the United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives, these three local credit unions are demonstrating the difference cooperatives can make in communities around the world, said Gus Hartl, Aldergrove Financial’s CEO.
While I applaud this efforts, I can only hope a similar gesture is forth coming for Langley.
The Stepping Stones program provides grief support to school-aged children and their families, as well extending services and education to the school community – including peer groups, teachers and administrators.
“Through our grief support, the Abbotsford Hospice Society provides opportunities for children and teens to process their feelings, learn to live with loss, plan for the future and re-engage in the community in a healthy way,” said Debbie Lehmann, the hospice executive director.
“We are grateful to Prospera Credit Union, Envision Financial and Aldergrove Financial Group for their progressive approach to partnership and support of our Stepping Stones program. This group of three credit unions is setting a new standard in community engagement and leadership that can be modeled by others.”
“We’re very excited about the partnership for Abbotsford Hospice Society,” said Howell. “This is a great opportunity to educate people about the significant role cooperatives play in building communities across Canada and around the world. In the marketplace, we may be three competing financial institutions, but when it comes to community, we
share a common goal: making a meaningful difference in the lives of the people around us.”
“We’re so pleased to work in partnership with Prospera Credit Union and Aldergrove Financial Group to support the Abbotsford Hospice Society,” says Loree Gray, vice-president of retail banking at Envision Financial.
“At Envision, we are committed to making a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which we live and work and as one of the 9,000 co-operatives and credit unions in Canada, we are inspired to do our part to build a better world.”
“Giving back to the community is a significant part of the credit union philosophy and is something each of our organizations live every day,” says Aldergrove Financial Group CEO, Gus K. Hartl.
“The co-operative spirit continues through this unique partnership as does the vital support provided by the Abbotsford Hospice through the Stepping Stones program.”
In addition to support for the Stepping Stones program, the three credit unions have also come together as sponsors of the Abbotsford Hospice Society’s upcoming gala fundraiser, The Venetian Masquerade, which takes place on Feb. 18 at the Ramada Plaza & Conference Centre in Abbotsford.
New prez named
Earlier this week, Langley’s First West Credit Union announced the appointment of a new president to lead the Envision component.
Shelley Besse, who started with the company almost 30 years ago as as service rep, excelled up through the ranks to management, most recently holding the position of First West’s senior vice-president of operations, sales, and member experience (the last part sounding almost like a travel agency division, to me).
Just to remind my readers, First West is the joint entities of Valley First and Envision Financial. And I’m told that Besse was instrumental in making that transition possible.
“I am thrilled that Shelley has accepted the role of president in our Envision Financial division,” said First West CEO Launi Skinner.
“Shelley is a life-long Lower Mainland resident who understands the unique needs of our local communities. She has also worked in almost every area of our organization, enabling her to bring a deep understanding of our business and our priorities to her new role,” Skinner added.
“As a champion of Lean, the continuous improvement strategy we are embedding enterprise-wide, Shelley is a leader in elevating our member experiences.”
Besse’s journey started at Envision 27 years ago as a service representative, she has held a number of positions in the organization including branch manager; manager, financial planning; assistant vice-president, branch operations; vice-president, sales and service and vice-president, risk management and operations.
In 2009, she was appointed to lead First West through its transition efforts, successfully bringing its two regional brands, Envision Financial and Valley First, together under the First West family and evolving the organization’s new operating model.
“The Envision team is talented and committed to making a difference in the lives in our members and in our communities,” Besse said.
“I am proud of their ability to build deep and meaningful relationships with our members, enabling us to deliver the products they need to achieve their life goals. I am excited to build on our past successes as we continue to expand our relationships and increase our presence in our local communities.”
Besse credits three key learnings that have led to her success:
• Life long learning is important—at the right time
When Besse first joined Envision, she had completed one year of university but was uncertain about her educational direction.
“I was just learning for the sake of learning,” she commented.
“When I joined the credit union, I discovered I had a real passion for working with people and numbers. When I went back to university it was with a new sense of purpose – I wanted to be able to contribute more to my team. Formal education provides a real framework for making decisions and helps you look at ideas from different perspectives.”
• You don’t always need to look up
“When you’re looking to grow your career, sometimes the best move isn’t moving up,” said Besse.
“To increase your knowledge and breadth of experience, you may need to look laterally to similar positions in other areas of the organization. I have always been willing to take on responsibility for new areas in our organization. This has given me invaluable experience, widened my perspective and made me a better leader.”
• Never under estimate your people – or yourself
“Along the way, people have always taken chances on me—even when it may not have seemed that I had all the credentials or experience,” Besse said.
“This has taught me to never underestimate people’s abilities. We don’t always need to look outside of our organization to solve problems or come up with new ideas. Our people have the knowledge and capability needed to achieve great things and they have shown this time and again.”
Among her many credentials, Besse holds an MBA from Royal Roads University, a certificate in financial planning, and she is also a graduate of the Stanford executive program, specializing in strategy and organizational design.
Most recently she received an operational risk management professional designation from the International Council for Operational Risk Management, and she currently serves as a director for the Surrey Board of Trade.
Debt tips offered
Speaking of Envision, they issued some tips about how to deal that perpetual Christmas hangover, namely personal debt – which invariably skyrockets in December for many.
With personal debt levels in Canada at record highs, Envision provided some top tips to helping people manage and pay down personal debt and get finances back on track.
From prioritizing repayments to consolidating loans, to knowing when to ask for help, they have list some simple and effective strategies people can begin implementing now to address their debt.
While the December holiday hustle and bustle may be long over, for most Canadians, the bill-paying hangovers are just beginning.
With credit card bills and bank statements rolling in, many of us are feeling the financial crunch and asking ourselves how we can best manage our personal debt.
“It is a well known fact that many people tend to overspend in December for the holidays,” said Lisa Free, an investment advisor at Envision’s Abbotsford Village branch.
“With personal debt levels at record highs in Canada, it’s important the Canadians put a plan in place to be more disciplined with their spending and debt repayment to get their finances in order.”
Here are Free’s top tips for paying off your personal debt and getting your finances back on track:
• Prioritize repayments
“Many of us use our credit cards when making our holiday purchases, which usually carry high interest rates,” says Free.
“When looking at what you owe, it is important to prioritize your repayment so you pay off the bills with highest interest rates first. This means a lower overall repayment and more money in your pocket.”
• Consider a consolidated loan
“For some people, the easiest and fastest way to pay off debt is to take out a consolidated debt loan,” explained Free.
“A consolidated debt loan combines all outstanding loans, usually with a lower interest rate, so you only have to manage one repayment.”
• Don’t fall behind
“It is so important to stay on top of our bills,” stresses Free. “Once we fall behind, there is a tendency to borrow more to pay off what we have already borrowed. Staying on top not only requires discipline and sacrifice, it also means making tough decisions.”
• Plan for the future
“The best way to eliminate debt is to avoid it altogether,” says Free. “It is never too late to start saving and by developing a realistic budget, it is much easier to manage your spending and also factor in those little extras. Unfortunately, too few of us create and stick to budgets, even when we make better financial management our number one New Year’s resolution.”
• Ask for help
“It’s expensive to live in B.C. and many struggle with making ends meet,” acknowledges Free. “If you’re having trouble with budgeting or repaying your bills, make an appointment with a financial advisor. Many credit unions, like Envision, will work with you to develop a simple and personalized financial plan to help you get back on the right path.”
There’s an app for that
And again the Langley-based Envision Financial has been making news recently with plans to awards several $2,000 scholarships to secondary and post-secondary students who bank there.
With $32,000 allocated, Envision hopes to help students with at least one more year of full-time studies cove their mounting tuition costs.
Applications are being accepted up to April 2 at www.envisionfinancial.ca/Personal/CorporateCitizenship/Scholarships.
And while Envision was in the groove of helping educate the future leaders of our country, so too was Prospera.
The credit union recently presenting more than $20,000 in awards and scholarships to deserving students in communities throughout Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan. It’s a tradition called the 2012 Educational Awards, and applications are currently being accepted.
This year, in addition to the four existing awards (one of which is presented in each of the four regions served by Prospera), the financial institution announced a brand new Ron Sweeney Rising Star Award, to be presented to an exceptional high school student preparing for post-secondary education.
“At Prospera Credit Union, we believe in helping people realize their full potential. We also know a little extra money never hurt anybody,” said the company spokesperson.
Applications are open to both members and non-members, and available on the Prospera website at www.prospera.ca or at any of Prospera’s 16 branch locations. Deadline for applications is March 31.
In 2012, Prospera is also announcing that the credit union will be partnering with Junior Achievement to deliver their Economics for Success program, which encourages middle and high school students to take a closer look at the advantages of staying in school and how the choices they make can positively impact their future dreams, aspirations and outcomes.
- Stay tuned for more about this initiative as it comes available.