Influential Women in Business Awards: Christine Bergeron

Q&A: CEO, Vancity

Christine Bergeron leads Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union | Submitted

BIV is pleased to recognize five outstanding leaders with 2022 Influential Women in Business (IWIB) Awards.

This year’s recipients have achieved remarkable success in their respective careers. They are recognized by their peers for their contributions to community, and they are advocates and champions of women in business. Recipients will be celebrated on March 8 at the Terminal City Club. The event will be livestreamed at biv.com

Christine Bergeron is CEO of Vancity, the largest community-based credit union in Canada. She chairs the board of InBC Investment Corp. and currently represents North America on the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s banking board.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

I am most proud of all the little moments. It isn’t about one highlight but rather the consistent focus and demonstration throughout my career that together we can allocate capital for better outcomes. What gets financed and who gets financed today determines the society we will have in the future.

Your toughest professional challenge as a woman in business?

I’m not sure if this is solely due to being a woman, or rather part of my own personality, but pushing through self-doubt along the way. It’s not enough for women to have a seat at the table. It’s not enough for us just to lean in. We have to lean in, speak up and work to challenge old assumptions and biases.

Greatest advice ever received?

Don’t self-select out. Take the work seriously, not yourself. Never dismiss a red flag. Stay true to you. Focus on the work, not the title. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, so be kind.

What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

I always knew that mistakes, or tough days, can make you better at what you do. But I wish I had better understood how important it is to carve out time after the mistake to reflect, to write down my thoughts and really truly think about what I would do differently going forward. And to share that with others. 

What does it take to be a leader in 2022?

Trust, and ability to communicate effectively, listen attentively and empathize with others — so a lot of compassion. Acknowledging that you do not have all the answers. Arguably these have always been important for good leadership. Something that is different today is this ability to sit in two different mindsets, and be okay with that; you can feel uncertain and anxious in the short term, while also feeling confident that the long-term path is the right one.

Your top takeaway from leading during the pandemic?

To prioritize purpose and culture. When times are uncertain, teams need to be reminded of the organization’s ‘why’: Why do we exist? Why would anyone want to work here? Why should they care? Leading with values and making decisions that transcend the more pragmatic, transactional ones — like bottom-line growth — to ones that serve the needs of people living through a challenging time, and provide employees with purpose when they show up to work. It’s crucial to always reinforce people’s worth by highlighting the challenges they’ve overcome, what they’ve achieved and the skills they’ve shown to achieve them. Strike a balance between reality and hope, and communicate this to your organization. Pragmatic optimism has helped Vancity problem-solve and imagine a brighter future.

What is your best habit?

I am physically active every single day.

A book you would recommend?

I’ve been reading much more fiction recently. Some I’ve enjoyed recently are: Katherena Vermette’s The Strangers and The Break, Mira T. Lee’s Everything Here is Beautiful and Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. I’m also fascinated by books on behavioural economics; people and how we make decisions.

A surprising or improbable fact about yourself?

I’m not sure there is anything. Really, what you see is what you get.

What are you looking forward to personally and professionally this year?

Professionally, I look forward to seeing how our organization embraces our strategy and continues the relentless focus on people and planet we’ve had over the last 18 months. So, ultimately, the outcomes we can have in community, and the influence we can have on the economy. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Personally, I am hoping to travel with my family, and see family members that live overseas. Here’s hoping. •