Meet Raj Sidhu: A community-minded business leader

Don’t let his youthful exuberance fool you; Raj Sidhu has spent 20 years working in the financial services industry, with many of those years being dedicated to helping local businesses grow and thrive through his commercial banking roles. Sidhu is thrilled to now be working as Regional Manager of Commercial Banking for Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union.

“What I love most about the credit union culture is having the ability to be nimble towards change and staying in tune with what is happening in each community. The needs of business in Surrey could be vastly different than the needs of business in downtown Vancouver. You can’t paint all businesses with a broad brush.”

The business of acting local

Sidhu’s story begins in Campbell River, B.C., where he grew up. His parents worked in real estate and had a secure connection with many of the local businesses. Growing up in a tight-knit community taught Sidhu the importance of relationships, reputation and being invested in your backyard. These are all traits that have traveled with him throughout his career.

“In a smaller community, it’s all about building genuine relationships, and your brand is critical because everybody knows one another by name. Those are the same philosophies that help guide us in the credit union system as well,” explains Sidhu.

He’s quick to point out why having a local perspective is essential when it comes to supporting the objectives of local businesses.

“All of our local communities are unique. They all have nuances and economic differences that play a huge factor in the decision-making process for local businesses. Being able to support these businesses with their financial strategies and having a seat at the table means that we have earned their trust, and trust is essential in this business,” says Sidhu.

After gaining valuable experience working within a few different roles at various financial institutions, Sidhu returned to Envision Financial this spring, where he had spent some time earlier in his career. The advantages of working with a member-owned cooperative were clear for Sidhu.

The “act local” mantra isn’t reserved only for the office. Sidhu is heavily involved in his community of Surrey, where he lives with his wife Ruby, and their two sons, Arjun and Karam. He is very supportive of local mentorship- volunteering in a leadership role with a local Toastmasters chapter, and facilitating development workshops at local schools focused on leadership, public speaking, and personal branding.

Leadership lessons

When it comes to leadership, Sidhu focuses on inclusion, diversity, and development. Throughout his career, he has been fortunate enough to work with a variety of different teams, and one of his most valuable learnings is the importance of having a diversity of thought “When you have diversity within a team, there are so many unique and valuable perspectives. A good cross-section of people, whether it be age, gender or cultural background, means you are going to have a variety of viewpoints to support decisions that are being made for another diverse group- business owners.”

“I think it’s important to hear from different voices in the decision-making process. I like to create an open and transparent environment where my team can share ideas and collaborate in a respectful way,” says Sidhu.

To foster real diversity of thought, Sidhu knows that it’s essential to create a safe environment built on honesty and trust.

“Bringing forward a new idea or taking a risk is never easy, but when you step out of your comfort zone, amazing things can happen. Being uncomfortable leads to new experiences, personal growth and can potentially open doors that you never even knew existed.”

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