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Employer of the year award honours First Credit Union team

President and CEO Dave Craigen cites collective goals as reason for success
GROUP EFFORT: Dave Craigen [centre], First Credit Union chief executive officer and recipient of the 2015 Chamber of Commerce employer of the year, is joined by employees [left to right] Greg Babcock, First Insurance manager, Ashley Panek, financial services representative, Lorraine Allman, retail/credit manager and Texada Island branch manager, and Lori Casparie, accounting clerk.

First Credit Union president and chief executive officer Dave Craigen is taking a recent award recognition as a sign that the organization’s focus on creating a culture that includes continuous learning, leadership development and employee recognition has been successful.

Dave was the recipient of the 2015 employer of the year award at Powell River Chamber of Commerce’s Horizon Business Awards on Saturday, February 6.

“I am very honoured,” says Dave, “however the recognition isn’t mine alone; it’s really a shared success.”

Dave credits the board of directors, management team, and all employees for embracing First’s philosophy of developing leadership in everyone.

“Our leadership program is something that we have implemented over the last five years,” says Dave. “It’s not about one individual, or a group, it’s about everybody doing their part to serve the member-clients, the community and each other.” 

Dave, who is born and raised in Powell River, has been with First for more than 20 years after returning with his family to his hometown. Being away for 14 years to get his start in business, Dave says one thing, above all else, brought him back home.

“It’s the people. We have family and connections in Powell River and we wanted to come back and raise our family here,” says Dave. “Being part of First Credit Union for over two decades has been extremely rewarding; there are so many great memories and achievements to reflect upon.”

First Credit Union has grown significantly under his leadership, and now includes nine credit union and insurance branches in six communities and over 140 employees serving 10,000 members and 40,000 insurance customers.

“The purpose of the organization is to serve the well-being of our members and clients and make meaningful community impact,” says Dave. “We are all very proud to work for an organization that has such a meaningful purpose and it’s a big part of our employee engagement and retention.”

A successful, organization-wide Community Impact Day on October 8 enabled all First team members to get involved with their communities by volunteering with local non-profit societies.

“Our employees love supporting and being part of the communities we serve,” says Dave.

A recent employee-engagement survey at First garnered impressive results.

“We are proud of our scores in these surveys, because they’re another indication that our staff are happy and proud to work for our organization,” says Craigen. 

First Credit Union hires approximately 15 people per year. “Really, we look for people who share our values and care deeply about community and the customers they serve,” says Dave. “Our employees tend to stay with us for a long time, so it’s important that we find people who are the right fit for the organization.”

Dave spends a lot of time visiting the different branches of First, making sure he knows all of the employees by name. As an employer, he hopes his team members see him as a strong communicator.

“I hope that they would say that I am open. I tell them what I am thinking,” says Dave.

Along with a competitive compensation package, some of the benefits offered to employees at First include professional development, employer-paid training, an education-reimbursement program, internal young-leaders program and Community Impact Day.

Ultimately, Dave sees the employer of the year award as confirmation that the people who work for the organization are happy.

“The recognition is wonderful, but I honestly don’t believe this award is mine individually. It’s collective,” says Dave. “There has to be a name attached to the award, but I still see it as First Credit Union’s award. I’m proud to be a part of it, but I accept it on behalf of everybody, because it’s not me; it’s all of us.”

Those interested in joining the First Group of Companies can visit the career page at for more information.

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