Tracy Redies has one goal in mind – to change the way Canadians feel about banking, forever.
“People look at banking as something they have to do as opposed to something they want to do,” Redies recently told Business in Vancouver. “What we’re trying to do is make that whole interaction with the customer a lot more friendly, a lot more enjoyable … most customers really want something simple that meets their needs.”
Since she became president and CEO of Surrey-based Coast Capital Savings in 2009, Redies has adopted a two-pronged approach to leadership.
On the one hand, she’s fully embraced the credit union’s zany brand (her appointment was announced via a strip of headshots that featured her best photo booth faces); on the other hand, she’s presided over a period that’s seen thousands of new customers flock to Coast Capital’s banner and introduced innovative new products.
“We take our business seriously, ourselves not so much,” the 49-year-old explained. “What we’re trying to do is be that WestJet/Southwest [airline] of financial services where, again, we’re serious about delivering great service and great products to our customers but we want to have some fun doing it.”
Redies describes Coast Capital as the “disruptive innovator” of the banking world, a company that challenges the traditional orthodoxy of big financial houses.
One of those innovations was Canada’s first free chequing account, which was launched prior to Redies’ tenure but is part of a “simple financial tools” theme she’s carried forward.
Last November, Coast Capital launched the You’re the Boss mortgage.
Considered one of the most flexible mortgage options in Canada, You’re the Boss offers a half-and-half rate, which draws on the strengths of five-year fixed and variables rates.
“People are concerned about two things: ‘First off, which interest rate do I pick? Which term? Do I go fixed or do I go variable?’
“What we’re trying to do for people is make it simpler for them so they can sleep at night.”
You’re the Boss also includes a save-and-take-payment feature that allows customers to pay off their mortgages faster or draw on extra payments they’ve made.
Redies has also campaigned to have legislation introduced in Ottawa that would allow credit unions to expand nationwide, and introduced what she calls “daily revolutions” at each branch.
“The way our staff are looking at this is … if we want to change the way Canadians feel about banking forever, each one of them has to [ask], ‘How do I change the way my customer feels about banking today?’”
And the messaging has worked.
These days, Coast Capital includes 425,000 members spread between 50 branches.
The credit union has approximately $12.9 billion in assets under administration, but Redies wasn’t always the head of a large financial institution.
Her roots can be traced back to a small town in Ontario called North Porcupine. Her parents, immigrants from the U.K., instilled in Redies a belief in hard work from an early age.
Her father also thought Asia would eventually play a vital role in the global economy.
She agreed, and after high school attended the University of Victoria to pursue a double major in economics and Asian studies.
Afterward, she went on to the University of British Columbia to earn a master’s of science degree in business administration and international trade and finance.
She parlayed that education into a position with HSBC Bank Canada.
For more than 20 years, Redies held a variety of positions with HSBC at branches all over the world.
Eventually, she became president and CEO of HSBC.com, where she led a global team of 700 people in Chicago, London, Hong Kong and India.
In that time, she also managed to have four children and find time to give back to the community as a director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, the C.D. Howe Institute and the CH.I.L.D. foundation, which fights children’s intestinal and liver disorders.
Carlo De Mello, national director of KPMG LLP’s credit union practice, said Redies is a person who thrives on challenge.
“She has high expectations and exhibits strong strategic vision – something that makes her a true business leader,” De Mello said. “It doesn’t hurt that she has a dynamic and charismatic personality, which also makes her a great role model for her team.”Â •