Focus on Leadership | connectFirst Credit Union breaks new trail

April 26, 2022
Leadership Team Calgary Financial Services
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Wellington Holbrook is CEO of connectFirst Credit Union. 

Wil Andruschak ©Postmedia Netowork Inc.

Joel Schlesinger ©Postmedia Network Inc.

Forget what you think you know about credit unions.

Calgary-headquartered connectFirst Credit Union is smashing the old stereotypes as a new credit union for the 21st century.

“A lot of people think of credit unions as grandma and grandpa’s financial institution,” says Wellington Holbrook, who took over as connectFirst Credit Union’s chief executive officer earlier this year.

ConnectFirst delivers access to the latest technologies that make managing finances easier and more convenient, while still offering the things Albertans love about credit unions.

Holbrook says that connectFirst is finding a balance of bringing the best of technology and people to its members and that is what Albertan’s seem to want from their financial institution.

“It’s a value proposition that is really resonating with Albertans.”

The proof is in the financial performance with connectFirst, which is one of Canada’s largest credit unions, posting record net income of more than $25 million in 2021.

Last year, connectFirst members received more than $13 million in dividends, directly a result of the growing success of the organization. And what’s not paid to members is reinvested to improve existing services and to introduce new initiatives.

“For example, we recently set up a new line of business aimed at serving independent businesses and agriculture,” Holbrook says. “These are two key sectors of the Alberta economy often underserved by larger financial institutions.”

Of course, helping when other financial institutions won’t is a hallmark of credit unions.

“We’re deeply rooted in the community and know the people and businesses well,” he says. “That means we just work harder to get to ‘yes’ in helping members achieve their goals when that answer is sometimes the opposite from other financial institutions, even when the fundamentals are good.”

While offering members “one of the world’s leading digital platforms” is a central focus, connectFirst does not lose sight of the importance of the human touch, Holbrook adds.

“We call it Consumer and Concierge Banking for a reason.”

With other financial institutions, this kind of service often only happens for high-net-worth customers. That’s not the case at connectFirst. Every member is entitled to hands-on, face-to-face expert assistance.

“Money keeps too many Albertans up at night, they are worried about retirement, saving for their kids’ education or buying a home,” Holbrook says.

“Helping members with those concerns is really where we shine, especially with those one-on-one conversations with our experts that understand our members, which can truly change their lives for the better.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.

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