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‘It was a dream’: Libro CEO ends 35-year career with credit union

Thirty-five years ago, Stephen Bolton joined what was then the St. Willibrord Community Credit Union, fresh off his farm in Strathroy-Caradoc and out of school with a business degree.

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Thirty-five years ago, Stephen Bolton joined what was then the St. Willibrord Community Credit Union, fresh off his farm in Strathroy-Caradoc and out of school with a business degree.

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On Friday, the managing director of the current Libro Credit Union announced he would retire from the financial institution where he worked his entire career, once again returning to a farm in Strathroy-Caradoc.

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“It’s a landmark day for me. I have mixed emotions. I love this place, but I know it’s time for another leader,” Bolton said on Friday, before announcing his retirement to workers. at a Libro event at RBC Place London.

Bolton, 57, succeeded Jack Smit 11 years ago. Looking back on his tenure, it would be easy to suggest that his legacy is meteoric company growth.

Under his leadership eight years ago, Libro bought United Communities Credit Union in the Windsor-Essex area – although Bolton preferred to suggest merging the businesses, hating the idea of ​​a takeover.

This has seen Libro’s $3 billion in assets grow to over $7 billion and its 65,000 members soar to 113,000. More recently, its total portfolio was valued at $10.9 billion in 2021, a up $1.3 billion from 2020, which itself was up $1.1 billion from 2019.

But Bolton sees his legacy differently.

“For me, legacy is not growth. It’s the way we treat people, how we engage more and more individuals in the community,” he said.

“I receive emails from owners (members of credit unions) satisfied with the coaching they received. These emails make my day. It’s about making people better off. »

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Bolton will retire in March. Libro’s board has hired executive search firm Korn Ferry to help find the next chief executive.

Bolton plans to travel and volunteer with community groups and causes. He became a grandfather a few weeks ago.

“There are organizations I am passionate about – the LEDC (London Economic Development Corp.) is one of them. I came to admire and be involved in starting businesses,” he said, adding that he was concerned about the problem of housing and homelessness in the city center.

Bolton sits on the LEDC’s board and its chief executive, Kapil Lakhotia, has praised his contributions in London.

When looking at the financial services landscape in London, Bolton has “stood out” as a leader who supports the community, Lakhotia said.

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“Steve was a rock star in London’s business community. He leaves a legacy of being a relentless champion of positive change. It contributes to local initiatives and has anchored Libro in the community,” Lakhotia said.

David Taylor, chief executive of Versabank, another London-based financial institution, also applauded Libro’s record.

“Libro did a fantastic job. It has grown a lot and opened branches and has a great reputation,” Taylor said. “Libro is an excellent example of a credit union.”

  1. Steve Bolton, managing director of Libro Credit Union, said the London-based financial institution was pleased with its performance in 2021. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

    London-based Libro posts $1 billion growth for the second consecutive year

  2. Libro Credit Union CEO Steve Bolton (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

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Libro also has a legacy of giving – supporting community groups large and small in many Ontario communities, including more than $300,000 to United Way offices in southwestern Ontario during the pandemic crisis and $6,000 for food programs run by the Children’s Aid Society. But many of his donations are between $10,000 and $20,000 to various community groups.

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“Historically, Libro has been made up of little guys. We’re true to our roots. Our focus area has been community,” Bolton said.

As for that first day on the job, when he was 22, Bolton started out as an agricultural and commercial account manager and stayed close to his farming roots.

“There is a lot to live. When I look back it has been a dream,” he said.

Bolton announced his retirement on Friday at Libro’s Prosperity Day, an event celebrating staff attended by more than 500 people.

Last month, Libro also announced that executive vice president of strategy and innovation, Tania Goodine, would retire, also in March.

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