President and CEO, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
Taking charge of Canada’s largest community credit union would be a daunting task at the best of times. Christine Bergeron was named interim president and CEO of Vancity in mid-2020, with COVID in full swing. She rose to the occasion.
“Early on in the pandemic, it was about standing up as much as we could to help our members, from small businesses to individuals,” says Bergeron, who’s been with Vancity for more than a decade and officially got the top job in January 2021. “And then we shifted into, OK, how do we start thinking again about our strategy for the next few years?”
Bergeron, who grew up in Cornwall, Ontario, in a French Canadian family of six, originally thought she’d be a teacher. But after earning a sociology degree from the University of Guelph, she moved to B.C. for an MBA at UBC Sauder School of Business. She later became vice-president of Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, a Vancouver-based firm focused on cleantech, before co-founding a hedge fund that invested in sustainable companies. Joining Vancity in 2011, she scaled the ranks to become chief member services officer.
Bergeron has led her team of 2,600 with a steady hand. Vancity grew its total assets and assets under administration by nearly 9 percent last year, to $33.2 billion, and membership topped 560,000. Bergeron says she respects the value that each employee brings: “My approach is always about remembering and really appreciating the work that the teams are doing.”
To get everyone on board, she’s also taken steps to articulate and further strengthen the credit union’s social purpose, which she calls its “essence.”
Besides creating a three-year plan for the organization, Bergeron hired its first chief equity and people officer and reset its Indigenous banking strategy. In early 2021, Vancity became the first Canadian bank or credit union to commit to net-zero emissions—a target it aims to hit by 2040.
Bergeron’s influence extends much further. She’s chair of InBC Investment Corp., a $500-million provincial government fund that invests in companies making an environmental, economic and social impact. She also sits on the federal Sustainable Finance Action Council and is the only North American board member of the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Banking.
For Vancity, which just released its new vision, the pandemic added urgency to the battle against climate change and inequality, Bergeron maintains. “I think COVID showed that a lot of this work needs even more momentum.”