John Haines, the board chair at Your Neighbourhood Credit Union (YNCU), says board engagement, responsiveness and ability to make rapid strategic decisions are critical to an organization’s success.
Located in southwest and northern Ontario, in a vibrant economy known as “the most intelligent community in Canada” that’s home to tech innovators, manufacturing leaders and multinationals, YNCU competes daily for advantage as a lender.
After 20 years chairing the board, Haines is looking ahead at YNCU opportunities, and shared how using the Aprio board portal became one of the YNCU board’s high-performance assets, one that will help him hand the reins to a new chair.
The challenge of security
Haines admits that he was first skeptical about a board portal. When YNCU merged with another credit union that used Aprio, he saw it as an unnecessary cost.
The organization built an internal system to share board material, but security was a problem. Information was unencrypted and being unsafely distributed. The board knew they were at risk of a data breach. “It’s a huge reputational risk,” says Haines. “If people find out your information is being shared around, that’s significant.”
A solution for data risk, and board autonomy
Security was the original reason the YNCU board began using Aprio. Staff within the credit union can provide board members secure access to information inside the board portal without compromising internal credit union systems. “The board should be arms-length from critical databases but board data should have the same critical data protection,” explains Haines. Board material shared via Aprio is encrypted and secure.
The privacy capabilities of Aprio also support board autonomy. As Haines explains, “One key thing a lot of boards are missing is that you want to have different information available to the board versus management. High-performance boards need to have autonomy from management, not adversarial but independent. Management also needs their own private visibility into the information important to them.” Within the board portal, each document and discussion can be private to non-management or specific committee members, or open to the entire board.
Impact: Higher performance board, equipped for rapid response
YNCU has been using Aprio for three years, and Haines wouldn’t run a board without it. From faster decision-making that wins deals to improved director performance and reporting, the Aprio board portal provides both a management and competitive advantage for YNCU.
Faster decision-making wins deals
The Aprio board portal also speeds decision-making. When a commercial opportunity used to arise, Haines would be on the phone for hours trying to reach people and obtain board consensus. Now, he contacts the corporate secretary to create a poll in the board portal. Board members can vote via mobile phone or other device, from any location, and make a decision in minutes that’s then ratified at the next meeting.
“The ability to make a decision quickly makes us a great partner,” said Haines. “If you’re performing at a different level than your peers, that gets noticed. We’ve won deals because of fast decision-making, and it also gives us negotiating leverage, to obtain better terms on deals.”
Highly engaged, prepared directors
Haines has high expectations for director contribution and holds every board member accountable for being informed and decision-ready. Board meetings alone don’t provide an accurate perception of participation.
Aprio reports give visibility into directors’ participation. “With Aprio,” Haines explains, “You see directors preparing weeks in advance, going to documents numerous times versus the director that only begins prep an hour before the meeting.”
Directors are located across the province. Despite the distance, they’re able to stay closely connected and engaged via the board portal.
Stress-free tech adoption and succession
The portal also helps with board succession and training. “New directors who haven’t seen Aprio before are immediately impressed with how quickly they can get up to speed,” Haines says. “Directors have busy lives. They’re running their own businesses and have many commitments. Aprio keeps them looped in, easily, all year round, and they offer helpful support that’s flexible, no matter how tech-savvy a director is.”
Haines is currently orienting a new board chair. He’s finding the portal a convenient and invaluable tool for scenario-based training. Because all material, calendars, contacts and activity history are stored in the portal, he can demonstrate to the incoming chair the board annual routine and key chair responsibilities.
Rapid regulatory reporting
The document storage in the portal goes beyond supporting directors themselves. It supports regulatory reporting, including DICO governance reporting, by providing a full history and rapid search capabilities to efficiently compile compliance reports.
“Regulators are looking for evidence,” says Haines. “You need to show that you’ve done it, not just say you did it. Aprio ensures that we have the detail we need, and that we’re able to compile reports quickly from data in hundreds of documents.”
When asked what advice he would give other credit unions, Haines simply says, “Use Aprio. You’ll never regret your decision.” He adds, “It’s clear that Aprio spent the time and effort to develop the technology and deliver the service that boards need.”
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