The name of the game in financial services is competition. And when some of the biggest competitors begin coordinating their efforts to reduce their overhead, it makes it doubly difficult for small- to medium-sized firms to compete, let alone flourish. Not so with Concentra Financial (known as the Co-operative Trust Company of Canada at the time of engagement with The Pacific Institute), which recently claimed its spot – for the second year in a row – as one of Canada’s “Top 100 Employers” by Maclean’s magazine.
Concentra Financial provides financial and trust products to and through credit unions throughout Canada, including corporate and personal trust services, registered savings plans, term mortgages and term deposits. In an industry fraught with dramatic and dynamic change, where 2,500 competitors have been added to the financial arena in the last few years, financial services have become a “hot” commodity causing a great deal of pressure on margins. “We needed to redefine our business, and look to improve our efficiencies and productivity. This is very much a ‘people’ issue,” says Dennis Lyster, Vice President of Relationship Management, “and The Pacific Institute is in the people-improvement business.”
Myrna Bentley, who had just taken over as CEO of the Co-operative Trust, was the first to experience The Pacific Institute’s education and determined she needed to bring it back to her executive team. The question on the executive team’s mind was, “How do we take Co-operative Trust to a new level and position it for the future?” Bentley knew that the Institute had the tools they needed to accomplish this.
After a complete buy-in by the management team, the Organizational Culture & Effectiveness Survey (OCES) instrument was implemented throughout the company. What was found was not exactly what the management team wanted, and it determined that now was the time for a new style of leadership. The team analyzed its position in the industry, determining Co-operative Trust’s true value and what its credit union customers really needed.
Following Myrna Bentley’s lead, the executive and management teams participated in the Investment in Excellence® program, and out of that group, 80% wanted to become facilitators. The decision was made to offer the course to the entire staff, on a voluntary basis, with the expected implementation timeline of two years. The enthusiasm of the management team spilled throughout the organization. Two rounds of facilitation, including the entire staff of 170 employees, accomplished the two-year timeline in 90 days! In fact, the only challenge to the process was logistical: getting the 25 “remote” employees to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for the training.The Pacific Institute’s education has now become a part of the corporate culture. Employees have a great sense of trust in leadership and each other. According to Dennis Lyster, “It’s a part of who we are. Our people see the future as an adventure – something to look forward to with a positive expectation.” All new employees are given the education, and the concepts are reinforced with “lunch and learn” sessions
The Pacific Institute’s education facilitated a tremendous shift in the way Concentra Financial views itself, and the way it is viewed by its customers. Before, the desire was to be the “Supplier of Choice” for credit unions. Now, Concentra Financial shares its passion for reaching forward with the vision of “emPOWERING Canada’s Credit Unions,” a more collaborative approach to doing business. The purposeful intent of smaller case “em” and upper case “POWERING” declares the primary focus of Concentra Financial to power credit unions in successful relationships with their members. Concentra Financial accepts co-accountability and co-responsibility for that success. Surveys conducted after the initial implementation revealed an overwhelming 96% of participants felt that Concentra Financial would see benefits as a result of the Institute’s training, ranging from an improved office environment and teamwork to increased productivity. With internal initiatives to change the way it does business, Concentra Financial found that barriers to change simply disappeared. The attitude of all involved has been, “Bring it on!” The executive team pushed forward with its vision for the future, determined to leave a “legacy of leadership.” By employing Ethics and Organizational Success® and the results of the earlier OCES, management has created a new leadership style that seems to fit the organization very well. “The leadership abilities were always there. It just took The Pacific Institute’s education to allow them to shine. Trust is a major factor between our employees, our partners and customers. It’s a great way to do business,” says Dennis. The management team has grown so much, that they are continually focused on keeping the Board of Directors moving with them to ever-higher levels.
2002 found Co-operative Trust celebrating its 50th anniversary, and being named one of the “Top 100 Employers in Canada” by Maclean’s magazine, the results of a survey including 63,000 employers across Canada. Winning this distinction in 2003 for the second year in a row “is just like us,” says Dennis. “Now we are aiming at being one of the Top 50 Managed Companies in Canada. And we’ll do it.” On a more personal note, Dennis found the Institute’s education valuable when dealing with recent health challenges. He used the goal-setting and affirmation process to get himself back to work two months earlier than doctors expected, back to playing golf six weeks earlier, and – in something near and dear to most Canadians – back to playing hockey five weeks earlier than expected. Dennis is just one example among many of how Concentra Financial’s employees have taken The Pacific Institute’s education to benefit their personal as well as professional lives. In an industry where perfection is valued over people, Concentra Financial is looking at things from a different angle. According to CEO Myrna Bentley, it is now “progress, not perfection” and all about doing the greater good for all their stakeholders. With the foundation of the Institute’s education, Concentra Financial’s watchwords for the 21st Century are: Stay Calm. Be Brave. Watch for the Signs.