New CEO takes over at fast-growing financial institution connectFirst Credit Union


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After a career spanning 27 years, including 13 years as CEO, Paul Kelly is retiring from what has become one of Canada’s largest and most successful credit unions.

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After extensive research by the Board of Directors, Wellington Holbrook has been named the new CEO of connectFirst Credit Union effective February 9th.

A versatile executive and banking and financial services expert, Holbrook has over 25 years of industry experience, including all aspects of banking with the Business Development Bank of Canada and ATB Financial. Holbrook joined connectFirst in 2020 from ATB, where he was Chief Transformation Officer.

As COO of the credit union, his operational leadership helped connectFirst embark on a new entity, promising to find ways to make banking services more meaningful for Albertans.

The connectFirst brand name brought together a number of southern Alberta credit unions, including the largest First Calgary Financial, under a separate label.

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Holbrook’s experience in information technology served the technical team well in converting to the most secure banking system available at all of its branches in 40 communities in central and southern Alberta last year. .

Meanwhile, Holbrook says members have been patient, enduring frustrating inconveniences, but the result is a much improved member experience.

The answer has been evident in connectFirst’s unprecedented growth and the strongest financial performance in the credit union’s 83-year history.

More than 3,800 new members have joined in the past year, and this figure does not include the 4,000 added due to the merger last November with Spark – the Energy Credit Union. Loans to members increased by $459 million and assets reached over $6.2 billion, representing a significant investment in the 100% Albertan-owned business.

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It makes for some exciting times, and Holbrook says it’s an honor to be named the new CEO.

“Over the past two years, we have worked to disrupt the way Albertans view credit unions and financial institutions in general,” he said. “We are reimagining the way we do things at connectFirst, and we have ambitious goals that include building a more prosperous future for our members and all Albertans through passion, knowledge, expertise, connection and understanding of our teams. »

The teams have 750 employees, of which more than 400 are based in Calgary. ConnectFirst currently has 42 branches providing unique financial services to communities in southern Red Deer, and continues to add more, including a branch under construction in Medicine Hat and renovations in Oakridge and the main branch at the CORE Mall. in downtown Calgary.

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Many financial institutions are closing branches, asking the average consumer to work with them online. Holbrook says, “We make big investments in our digital platforms, but many clients need the attention and understanding of a real person – they deserve a conversation with a financial expert.”

He says there are also plans underway to expand to the north of the province. Spark has a branch in Fort Saskatchewan, offering operations in the Edmonton area, and the capital is also a target for expansion.

Holbrook will continue to fulfill connectFirst’s “Make Money to Make a Difference Mission” throughout Alberta, while continuing its commitments to professional activities and community involvement. For three years he was a member of the board of directors of the Calgary French & International School, six years as a member of the board of directors of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and, since 2016, he is a member of the board of administration and is currently Chairman of the Calgary Convention Center Authority.

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The Sorrenti family ran a restaurant in the Burns building in the mid-1980s, so they certainly weathered the ups and downs of this industry for many years. Jordan Sorrenti and his wife, Kerry, embarked on a well-deserved retirement, but it was interrupted in 2019 to operate the family barbecue and brewery Paddy’s on Burnsland Road SE. They now wish to return to retirement and are looking for someone else to grow. fast-paced business.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]

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