System-Level Leadership Vacancies - 2/3 - Visionaries Wanted

To advance impactful, perhaps disruptive, change then permanent leaders must be bold, persistent and persuasive. There will inevitably be doubters, detractors and stallers. Were the changes easy, they may already have been implemented. Visionaries wanted.
— Ross McDonald


This article is the second part - Visionaries Wanted - of a three-part series related to current vacancies of permanent leadership at system-level organizations that impact B.C. credit unions.

  1. Empty Seats: Current vacancies & short term impact

  2. Visionaries Wanted: Medium & long-term implications

  3. Glass Slippers: Governance actions & best practices

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This part comprises three sections - medium term implications; external quotations and graphics; and long term implications.


Newly appointed leaders may bring curiosity and energy.

New leaders may ask questions, perhaps not posed for a while. They may contribute incremental technical expertise, professional experience or stakeholder relationships. They may bring creativity to frame fresh solutions to address historical challenges. They may benchmark the status quo versus industry best practices or consider learnings from other provincial credit union systems. They may consider alternative strategies to execute current organization roles and responsibilities. But it will likely take a while for leaders to complete any on-boarding and to reach full productive capacity.

Recruitment may drain scarce leadership capacity, intensify succession planning or accelerate merger discussions.
— Ross McDonald

In the medium term, current initiatives may be re-prioritized. Legacy pet projects may lapse. New focus areas may emerge. Investments and/or partnerships in products, services or operational capabilities may be tweaked. Shifts in system, legislative and regulatory priorities may create opportunities or threats.

Examples are numerous and inherently uncertain. Any securement of a federal charter by one or more provincial credit unions will catalyze decisions by system stakeholders. Any untimely or unappealing response may bolster demand for federal charters. Credit union centrals may accelerate the transfer of trade association activities to the recently formed CCUA. A new Central 1 CEO could reframe proposed steps towards consolidation of second-tier organizations or national payments execution strategy. System stakeholders may need to respond to a stress event, say in regards a deflated housing market.

‘The status quo is not an option. It is a slow and painful road to death’
— Central 1 Credit Union - ‘If not now, when?’

Regulatory matters may also be impacted. Permanent leaders may re-prioritize operations, initiate alternative strategies or execute policy redirection from a new Ministry of Finance. Operational expectations, stakeholder accountability, governance practices or reporting standards may be reassessed. To optimally fulfill responsibilities, some execution of regulatory functions may shift between FICOM, CUDIC, credit union central(s) and/or other resources. Regulatory priorities, supervisory practices, or operations models from other provincial jurisdictions may be selectively adopted in B.C. Any surge in federal charters would reduce the reach of provincial regulators and may reduce, or perhaps temporarily eliminate, deposit insurance assessments.

System-level leadership appointments may impact other executive positions. A new leader may seek to change their executive team. Recruitment may drain scarce leadership capacity, intensify succession planning or accelerate merger discussions. Credit unions already face an ‘Executive Exodus’ (Enterprise magazine, May/June 2016) given baby boomer retirement. A 2015 Central 1 survey found that 36% of Canadian credit union CEOs expect to retire by December 2019, with half of those by December 2017.

Vacant positions in the Financial Institutions Division [at FICOM] are concentrated in senior level roles and specialized positions.
— Auditor General of BC, 2013


In time, future system leaders may wield vision and courage. 

Established permanent leaders may brandish bold imagination to envision a stronger future for provincial and federal credit union systems and their members. They may possess the persuasive prowess and determination to lead execution of transformative change through member-driven collaborative processes or politic-quagmired legislature.

In the long term, the Canadian credit union landscape may change materially. Some evolutionary changes, while likely challenging, seem reasonably foreseeable. Historically local, provincial credit unions may be displaced by hybrid of federal and provincial credit unions with differing legal basis; economic scale; membership geography; internal capabilities and regulatory requirements. Mandated credit union membership to provincial credit union centrals may be substituted for voluntary membership of consolidated central service provider(s), perhaps per the recent Central 1 ‘Consolidate and Integrate’ proposal. Traditional branch-based service channels may be diminished in favour of digital delivery, in response to consumer preferences and cost efficiency. Consolidation of credit unions, whether by mergers or other tactics, will likely continue with potentially acute strategic disconnect between large complex ‘corporate’ credit unions and small local community credit unions.

Let’s face it - we have been down this road before. The consolidation of provincial centrals is hardly a new idea.
— Central 1 Credit Union, ‘If not now, when?’

Some implications are frankly speculative. Emergent financial technology innovation or expansive technology giant strategic ambitions may disrupt financial services, including credit unions, and stimulate new competitive entrants or business models. Any unconventional political representation at federal and/or provincial level may introduce policies of a disruptive or unexpected nature. Perhaps an increasing scope of operational functions of credit unions may migrate to credit union central(s) or credit union service organizations.

The number, complexity, and impact of issues facing the credit union system and its new permanent leaders may seem daunting.
— Ross McDonald

Likewise, the regulatory landscape could change materially. Roles, responsibilities, and governance of relevant organizations may be re-imagined. Risk-based assessments may leverage artificial intelligence, big data or other technologies. CUDIC or FICOM may become a provincial crown corporation, perhaps comparable with other jurisdictions. Perhaps all large, complex and/or multi-province credit unions may be regulated by OSFI - whether through the popularity of federal charters or otherwise - and provincial regulators oversee smaller, simpler and/or local credit unions. Perhaps provincial governments may align deposit insurance, regulatory standards or supervision expectations/practices. This may simplify consumer protection as multi-province credit unions gain traction. Or some manner of consolidation of provincial regulator functions may access economies of scale and expertise. While perhaps politically unimaginable today then provincial jurisdictions may shrink, regulatory environments may become more complex, and/or provincial systems may become more inter-connected.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the above conjectures will be inaccurate, incomplete or plain wrong. Some may even appear unimaginable today. Future-guessing is perhaps better left to science fiction bestsellers. But the number, complexity, and impact of issues facing the credit union system, its regulators and collective new permanent leaders may seem daunting.

To advance impactful, perhaps disruptive, change then permanent leaders must be bold, persistent and persuasive. There will inevitably be doubters, detractors, and stallers. Were the changes easy, they may well already have been implemented. Visionaries wanted.



“CCUA has been established as the national trade association”

“The National Payments Strategy is nearing completion of work towards ... consolidation of the payments function”

“not all centrals are ready to merge into one national organization at this time. However, there may be some centrals that are ready to explore it right now.”

“Efforts to bring about an economic scale, integrated wealth management platform would continue.”

Source: Central 1


“With their shortage of staff, it would take over 14 years to review all of BC’s credit unions instead of FICOM’s intended target of two to three.”

“FICOM may not [in 2016] be able to detect a worsening situation at a credit union in time to address and reduce the risk of failure.”

“Given that FICOM is funded entirely by credit unions ... and in recent years it has not spent all of the revenue it receives, it should be able to hire additional staff without an increase in its funding.”

Source: Auditor General of BC


“lack of clarity [of its role] makes it difficult for Stabilization Central to resource itself for a long-term vision.”

“... difficult for Stabilization Central to gain access to all information that is necessary to effectively identify and manage risk in the system.”

Source: Stabilization Central



“We expect the future for Credit Unions will include the following:

  • The primary relationship between Credit Unions and their members will increasingly be digital

  • Traditional economies of scale will increasingly be challenged by distributed, transparent and collaborative networks

  • The strategic management of data will be critical

  • Financial margins will continue to be under pressure

  • Regulatory costs and capital requirements are likely to increase

  • The diversity amongst Credit Unions will continue to grow”

Source: Central 1, author abbreviations


“SaskCentral aspires to a vision of a nationally unified and internationally capable co- operative financial network. [Central 1 proposed] vision would be realized when the services of all Centrals are consolidated.”

“Our vision for the national system calls for significant consolidation of Tier 2 organizations to a single national trade association and a single national wholesale financial institution.”

Source: SaskCentral, Alberta Central


This concludes the second part of a three-part series. A list of sources and references will be appended to the final part in this series.


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.