Roberta Bobicki said she never aspired to become CEO of a multi-million-dollar financial institution.
“It just happened,” she said. After working at the Revelstoke Credit Union for 40 years, she retired on April 30. Bobicki has been the CEO since 2007.
For four decades, she witnessed clients open accounts as children, get married and have their own children open accounts.
“This is all I have ever done,” she said.
Her career in finance started in 1978, as a teller at Kootenay Savings in Trail, B.C. Originally from Revelstoke, Bobicki said she started to miss home and applied for a local job.
In 1981, she got hired as a teller at the Revelstoke Credit Union and negotiated her salary at $12,000 per year.
“That was a decent wage at the time,” she said.
|Roberta Bobicki started as a teller at the Revelstoke Credit Union in 1981. She climbed through the ranks to become CEO in 2007. (Contributed)|
Today, there are approximately 40 credit unions in B.C., all of which are regulated provincially. By comparison, banks are regulated federally.
Over the years, Bobicki worked in different positions at the company. From a teller, she moved into the loan department and later worked as a collection agent. Her job was to negotiate repayment options with debtors and help them find repayment solutions.
Back then, she remembers going for dinner at the Regent and watching men — who had a reputation of being brazen — hide behind corners when they saw her.
“They knew I’d come and chat with them about what they owed,” she said with a laugh.
Regardless, Bobicki said she did not judge when collecting. She made sure to sit down with everyone and help with what she could.
“I was solution orientated. I find people are good at the core,” she said.
One of the most memorable times at the credit union was the 20 per cent interest rates on mortgages in the 1980s. The Bank of Canada was cranking up its rate at the time to try and stop runaway inflation that was playing havoc with the Canadian economy.
Back then, Bobicki said the credit union had approximately 28 properties for re-sale due to missed payments.
By comparison, although house prices are surging, today’s interest rates are below three per cent and foreclosures are rare.
Another challenge was when Bobicki became CEO in 2007.
“About five minutes later, the world economy crashed,” she said.
Prior to COVID-19, many economists consider the financial crisis of 2007 the most serious since the Great Depression.
Excessive risk-taking by banks, along with the U.S. housing bubble bursting, caused real estate prices to plummet and an international banking crash.
Even Revelstoke was not immune and house prices began to plummet by 2008. Some homes lost up to half their value.
“We bounced through it though. This community is resilient,” Bobicki said.
Today, house prices in Revelstoke are the second highest in the Kootenays at $546,000 for single-family dwellings.
Affordability, Bobicki predicts, will continue to be a challenge for Revelstoke.
“We don’t have the salaries to support high house prices.”
Since Bobicki became CEO, the company’s assets have more than doubled to $250 million. The credit union is a major funder for local community projects, including the helicopter pad at the hospital, the pool, splash park and golf course.
“Roberta deserves the majority of the credit for the success of the Revelstoke Credit Union,” said Alan Chell, board member of the credit union, in this year’s annual report.
“There is no one that knows more about the credit union system or cares more deeply about credit union values and our community.”
After a busy career, Bobicki said she will have to reintroduce herself to her home, especially the kitchen.
“My husband says I don’t even know where the pots go.”
She plans to relax and especially looks forward to sitting in the back garden with a cup of coffee.
“The biggest decision of my day will be whether to have soup,” she said.
When permitted, Bobicki said she will hold a huge retirement party with a bonfire, catering and a live band. There will be people from credit unions across the province and half of Revelstoke will be invited.
“This is a notice to our neighbours. They have been warned,” she said with a laugh.
Michelle Hardy has been appointed to replace Bobicki, having worked for the credit union for 15 years.
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