Working together to serve our community. In conversation with Lisa A’Hara.

Lisa A’Hara is Director of Investment at Coast Capital Savings. Coast Capital, in turn, is one of South Island Prosperity Project’s key partners.

From the beginning, Lisa has had a strong interest in SIPP. She believes we have been a unifying force in the region, and will play a key role in creating jobs for young professionals – the sort of jobs that will make the regional economy more sustainable.

Lisa joined us in conversation, discussing everything from Coast Capital’s recent move to national credit union status, to the University of Victoria innovation centre that Coast Capital helped establish. She lends the perspective of someone who is truly passionate about the region, it’s people and ensuring our communities continue to thrive.

If you’d like to listen in on our conversation, just press play. If you’d like to browse the highlights, just keep reading. Enjoy!

A great collaborative step
A’Hara took an early interest in the South Island Prosperity Project when Coast Capital signed on as a Project member. She immediately saw it as a positive force in bringing the region together. “People and businesses don’t see borders or boundaries. I think we need to act as one, in order to have more impact.”

While a collective approach helps attract better talent and clients, she believes we need to keep our focus on the community, and building strength in a sustainable, grass roots way. “At Coast Capital, we’ve never lost our community grass roots engagement. Our focus is youth and creating opportunities locally. That’s why, at a time when many credit unions are seeing their clientele ‘age out’, we’re dynamically growing.”

The brand differentiator
A’Hara believes in the power of brands, both for the region and Coast Capital. “Coast Capital’s community brand is not just a brand. It’s incredibly important to our employees. Again and again, when we poll employees as they join us, they cite our brand as the reason they joined us over another financial institution. On a parallel track, I think we need to get the brand of the South Island region out. Tech is doing well here, which has something to do with the fact we’ve cultivated a great lifestyle brand. Now we need to let other sectors know.”

Then there’s the brand of innovation. Creating the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Centre at UVic was all about supporting youth, ideas and the small business market. But it was equally important as a beacon to outside businesses that innovation was part of the south island brand.

“Our need is to create good paying jobs in a number of sectors” says A’Hara. “Tourism jobs are not necessarily jobs that will help pay a mortgage.”

A’Hara agreed that our region needed to attract businesses beyond tech, tourism and healthcare. She foresaw a landslide effect – once other sectors established themselves in a significant way, it would create momentum and more prosperity.

With that in mind, Coast Capital’s move to becoming a national credit union would bring more (and more competitive) services to the region. “Not only is this move creating more sustainability for ourselves, but it’s opening us up to more resources.”

At the end of the day, A’Hara believes the region is poised to expand economically. To prepare for that growth, our communities need to have the right resources. “We need to be able to help people live here and move here. We need to create jobs that support mortgages. With that, we’ll achieve sustainable prosperity.”

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