The Business Case for Disability

As president and chief executive officer of Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union, Tamara Vrooman believes that banking has a vital role in developing a healthy society—building the well-being of people and, at the same time, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the communities in which they live and work. This summarizes Vancity’s vision of redefining wealth.

Tamara views the economy as much more than what is written on a balance sheet; it includes the social and natural economies in which we all live. Understanding the interdependence of these three means that Vancity takes a very different approach to banking, ensuring its products, services and advice deliver financial, social and environmental results for the more than 523,000 members it serves.

As a member-owned financial co-operative, Vancity is ideally suited to operate in an economy that is ever changing because it is through its close connection with members that Vancity sees what is required to meet their changing needs. This ‘member-led innovation’ guides Vancity in its business strategies to use the $25.6 billion in members’ assets and assets under administration it holds to create community impact.

Under Tamara’s leadership, Vancity has gained international recognition for its values-based banking model. Vancity was the first Canadian financial institution invited to join the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, an independent network of the world’s leading sustainable banks and banking co-operatives. Tamara’s voice is also sought internationally—she has been invited by Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, as well as other government and business leaders to share Vancity’s business model at various summits and conferences.

Tamara’s achievements include leading Vancity to become the first carbon-neutral financial institution in North America, to become the largest private-sector living wage employer in Canada, and to tackle the shadow financial system by launching an alternative to predatory payday loans for its members—the Vancity Fair & Fast Loan™. Vancity was named Canada’s Best Corporate Citizen in both 2016 and 2017 by Corporate Knights, and has also received many national and international awards for its business leadership.

All of this was achieved while growing the assets plus assets under administration of the credit union 61 per cent to $25.6 billion and achieving the highest profits in the organization’s 70-year history. Under Tamara’s direction, more than one-fifth, or $5.4 billion, of Vancity’s assets plus assets under administration are invested in impact.

Prior to joining Vancity, Tamara served as Deputy Minister of Finance for the Province of British Columbia and as Secretary to the Treasury Board and CEO of the Public Sector Employers’ Council where she oversaw the government’s annual $100 billion borrowing and cash requirements and developed its $36 billion fiscal plan. Her prior portfolio was as Deputy Minister and Executive Financial Officer for the Ministry of Health.

Tamara pursued post-secondary education at the University of Victoria, earning a Master of Arts in History in 1994 and a Bachelor of Arts with honours in 1991. She also received an Honorary Doctorate (Laws) from Simon Fraser University in 2016 and an Honorary Doctorate (Technology) from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 2013.

On a personal level, Tamara lends her voice and leadership experience to issues related to women, families and children with a particular focus on issues related to equality, inclusion and empowerment.