This article is the first part - Empty Seats - of a three-part series related to current vacancies of permanent leadership at system-level organizations that impact B.C. credit unions.
Empty Seats: Current vacancies & short term impact
Visionaries Wanted: Medium & long-term implications
Glass Slippers: Governance actions & best practices
This publication may be easier to read in PDF format. Download per bit.ly/bc-leadership-doc-all
There is currently a void of permanent leaders at system-level organizations that impact B.C. credit unions. All leaders of credit union centrals and relevant provincial government entities are currently appointed on an interim, acting or retiring basis. Unquestionably improbable but such are circumstances. Individually each leader has system influence but collectively they wield transformative impact. This article explores system implications in the short, medium and long term. The future is alas tricky to predict, especially given a context of new permanent leadership. Presented implications will inevitably be wrong but they strive to illustrate the nature of potential change and the magnitude of positive opportunity. But first, the entities.
B.C. SYSTEM-LEVEL ORGANIZATIONS & LEADERSHIP STATUS
Central 1 Credit Union
Central 1 Credit Union provides a suite of wholesale products and services to credit unions nationally. It is also the primary liquidity manager, payments provider and trade association for its credit unions in B.C. and Ontario.
Central 1 Credit Union announced on 19 May 2017 that its CEO, Don Wright, ‘has decided to step down, effective July 31’. The related press release noted that 'To ensure a successful transition, Wright plans to stay on at Central 1 until a new CEO is chosen' and that 'The process of selecting a new CEO will begin immediately'.
Stabilization Central Credit Union
Stabilization Central Credit Union provides remedial advisory as a ‘stabilization authority’ to credit unions, including those under regulatory intervention; manages the Master Bond Program; and aids in the timely identification of system risks.
Its Board appointed an Interim CEO, Jennifer Scott, following the January 2017 departure of Chad Boyko. Its Board initiated a public search for a permanent CEO in February 2017. As at publication date then no appointment had been announced.
Financial Institutions Commission (‘FICOM’)
FICOM is a branch of the B.C. Ministry of Finance that provides regulation, prudential supervision and market conduct oversight to provincial credit unions, provincial credit union centrals and selected other financial services industries.
Current FICOM leadership is wholly comprised of non-permanent appointments. Carolyn Rogers resigned as Superintendent of Financial Institutions in May 2016. Frank Chong, Tara Richards, Michael Peters and Chris Cater hold roles of Acting Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Acting CEO, Acting Superintendent of Pensions, and Acting Superintendent of Real Estate and Acting Registrar of Mortgage Brokers respectively.
The B.C. Ministry of Finance publicly marketed the positions of Superintendent of Financial Institutions and CUDIC CEO in July 2016 and again in December 2016. The B.C. Ministry of Finance also publicly marketed, in March 2016, positions that included Deputy Superintendent Regulation, Deputy Superintendent Prudential Supervision and Deputy Superintendent Market Conduct. As at publication date, and to knowledge of the author, then neither FICOM’s Commission nor CUDIC’s Board - governance bodies with the same membership - had announced permanent appointments.
Credit Union Deposit Insurance Corporation (‘CUDIC’)
CUDIC is a statutory corporation, administered by FICOM, that provides deposit insurance coverage for provincial credit unions; determines annual assessments; manages the ex-ante fund, and substantially funds FICOM operations.
Its Board appointed an Interim CEO, Frank Chong, following the 2016 departure of Carolyn Rogers. The Superintendent of Financial Institutions of FICOM also holds the role of CEO of CUDIC. CUDIC has an Acting Executive Director.
B.C. Ministry of Finance
British Columbia held provincial elections on 9 May 2017. No political party secured a majority of seats. Political party discussions and government legislative processes appear to be evolving. As at publication date, any impact on the leadership, priorities or specific policies of the B.C. Ministry of Finance remains unclear.
IMPLICATIONS OF NEW SYSTEM LEADERSHIP
The credit union industry is a busy place. Numerous circumstances and developments have created current need or future opportunity for material change. Some initiatives are reactive to externalities, such as demographic changes in member expectations or emergence of financial technology. Some initiatives are proactive to bolster the long-term market competitiveness and positive impact of the credit union industry. While a few changes may impact a single credit union then most material developments are at system level. Even matters initiated in regards a single provincial system, such as regulatory legislation or standards, may likely influence peer policies and practices nationally over time.
The implications of current B.C. system-level leadership vacancies could be considers in multiple ways. For simplicity, this article uses a time-based approach:
Short term - Likely operational execution
Medium term - Perhaps priorities reset
Long term - Possible substantive pivot
SHORT TERM IMPLICATIONS - LIKELY OPERATIONAL EXECUTION
Faced with high complexity and material uncertainties then existing decision makers are prone to pause.
The greater the number of risks, probability of occurrence and/or severity of impact then the stronger is the incentive to defer decisions. Examples of this include major political uncertainties (e.g. Brexit or CETA); corporate opportunities (e.g. M&A transactions); forthcoming legal or regulatory decisions (perhaps federal credit union); unclear visibility on economic conditions (e.g. base rates); and changes in leadership.
In the short term, system stakeholders may focus on the execution of day-to-day operations. Members and communities must still be served. Centralized infrastructure must still operate. Government processes continue. For middle managers, staff and membership then it may feel like business-as-usual. At least for a while. But without clear leadership then system-level initiatives, legislative reviews and regulatory decisions may be progressed with a reduced level of ambition or urgency, if at all.
An example may be deposit insurance. In March 2016, CUDIC circulated a consultation paper in regards its methodology that determines assessments. In January 2017, the Acting Executive Director CUDIC reporting to Interim CEO CUDIC issued a public letter that stated ‘FICOM and CUDIC staff determined that further work was necessary’ with expectations of a release of a ‘new methodology for comment to the system by Fall 2017’. 2016 CUDIC assessments of C$47 million represented 18% of system net income. The deferral may impact any credit union subject to active or recent regulatory intervention.
Governance bodies, selection committees and any executive search advisors will presumably be busy. In some cases then a Board may consciously seek to appoint an Interim or Acting CEO, say to bridge a limited time gap between a departing and recruited permanent CEO or to engage specialist leadership expertise for a specific issue. For example, the Board of Lake View Credit Union (C$330 million assets and 10,500 members) recently appointed an Interim CEO shortly after it announced the exploration of a potential merger with Integris Credit Union (C$700 million assets and 25,000 members). But any failure to appoint a permanent qualified leader on a timely basis may merit questions to - and of - a governance body in regards succession planning, recruitment deficiencies and remedial Board intentions.
This concludes the first article of a three-part series. A list of sources and references will be appended to the final article in this series.
DISCLAIMER & COPYRIGHT
This article reflects the personal comments of the author, Ross McDonald. This article does not represent the views of any financial cooperative, corporate organization, regulatory body or government ministry. Comments are wholly based on information that is in the public domain.
Although the author has made every effort to ensure that the information in this article was correct at press time, the author does not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
All rights reserved.