Lunch with Tracy Redies

Tracy Redies, Coast Capital Savings | BCBusiness

After a couple of decades at a big international bank, Tracy Redies has spent the past few years at Coast Capital Savings digging roots deep into the community

When it comes to the perilous path facing financial institutions since the global economic melee, Tracy Redies likes to roll out her favourite zinger before voicing opinions: “I preface discussions with, ‘Just remember, I’m a recovering capitalist,’” says the 52-year-old who spent two decades at HSBC before becoming CEO of Coast Capital Savings Credit Union four years ago. Recovering, indeed. We’re eating organic greens with pecans at the Sheraton Guildford’s Fresh restaurant near her Surrey offices, as Redies talks about how she believes some banks “lost sight of the customer” and that in order to regain public trust in the industry, “institutions need to balance profits with serving their customers, engaging their employees and giving back to communities.” 

But, while she believes many credit unions are working well serving niche markets, Redies is capitalizing on her big-bank thinking in a sector increasingly becoming a scale business, with the possibility that some credit unions that are currently only provincially regulated may become national, and fall under federal regulation. “I’m big on entrepreneurialism and strategy, and I think businesses have to have avenues for growth,” says Redies, who was part of a think-tank working with the federal ministry of finance on the feasibility of this national move. She stresses that any credit union would need its members’ approval before going national.

Coast, which boasts around $14 billion in total assets under administration, has half a million members. Recalling that HSBC was a much smaller bank when she started in the ’80s, Redies says there are parallels with Coast today. “What I see is an entrepreneurial opportunity with an organization that has big dreams,” she says, adding that without such federal reach it’s harder for smaller institutions to compete.

“You don’t have the breadth and scope of business and the diversification. I do think there’s room in Canada for a different type of financial-services player and a federal financial co-operative. It’s a wonderful opportunity but it’s not for the fainthearted because these are challenging times for financial services.”

After learning Japanese and graduating in economics and Asian studies from the University of Victoria, Redies started in hotels before seeing banking as a “solid” long-term career. The career took her family—she is the mother of four aged between 12 and 21—to New Jersey and Edmonton, although the four-time recipient of the Women’s Executive Network’s Canada’s Most Powerful Women award stresses that being a CEO requires many trade-offs.

Extracurricular activities, for example, are fleeting. Redies not only swears by early nights (as a broker, her husband, George, whom she met while they studied for their MBAs at UBC, rises at 4 a.m. for trading at his office in their South Surrey home), but she also dubs herself a “jack of all trades, master of nothing” when it comes to dabbling in interests such as gardening. She may only be “a bit of a hacker” in the saddle, but she enjoys the genealogy of thoroughbreds—a passion sparked by watching Secretariat scoop the U.S. Triple Crown in 1973. She likes to attend upper-echelon meets such as the Kentucky Derby.

The passion for horse racing taps into the family’s fondness for travel. They recently bought a home on a golf course near her sister in Virginia. While not a golfer herself (“I don’t like doing things that I’m not very good at”), she half-jokes it’s a way of “paying back” her husband for all the golf games he’s missed out on due to her job.