First West Helps Shape Future Leaders, One Day at a Time

First West Credit Union issues a press release about CEO Launi Skinner's experience with CEO x 1 Day.

LANGLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Feb. 12, 2015)

For many post-secondary students pursuing business careers, getting to experience a day as a senior leader of a large company is a rare, if not non-existent, opportunity. But this month, a number of third and fourth year students are doing just that as part of Odgers Berndtson’s CEO X 1 Day program.

Richmond’s Akaash Bali was one of only three British Columbian’s chosen as a finalist for this year’s program. The fourth-year commerce student at University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business was paired with First West Credit Union CEO Launi Skinner. For the aspiring leader and entrepreneur, the day-in-the-life program provided the chance to experience what it’s like to lead one of B.C.’s largest credit unions.

“I’ve always had my own perception of what types of decisions CEOs make,” says Bali. “Being in this program really helped clarify that perception and gave me a chance to see what exactly senior leaders do on a daily basis.”

Bali said some of his ideas about CEOs were burst when he accompanied Skinner to a line of business strategy meeting. There, he was able to get a taste of Skinner’s leadership approach.

“I was surprised by the confidence Launi places in her leadership team,” adds Bali. “Her leadership approach doesn’t involve micro-managing anyone-she trusts their expertise and simply holds them accountable for their plans.”

CEO X 1 Day, in its second year in Canada, matches up-and-coming leaders with inspiring executives across the country, allowing the students to test their skills and knowledge and get a feel for what it’s like to be a senior leader. For Bali, that meant accompanying Skinner to strategy, marketing and finance meetings, board proceedings, and mentoring sessions with mid-level leaders. Bali even accompanied Skinner to First West’s Big Picture Forum, a yearly, seven-session event where 1,700 employees hear about First West’s vision and strategy for the year ahead.

Skinner says it’s a privilege to have been asked to participate in the CEO X 1 Day program.

“I owe a lot of my success to my mentors who shared their insights and experiences with me,” says Skinner. “CEO for a day is great opportunity to pay it forward and help shape our future leaders. The timing was also perfect to have Akaash join me at our Big Picture Forum. It’s important for leaders to connect with employees at the start of each year to cast vision and get them aligned on the strategic plan and priorities. Our theme this year is “Imagine What’s Next” and at our Big Picture Forum, Akaash learned more about the convergence of innovation, new technologies and seamless experiences and how this not only affects the way we engage our members, but also how we build relationships with them.”

Bali has plans to pursue his chartered professional accountant designation after university and ultimately sees himself in a leadership role.

“Whether it’s five or ten years down the road, I believe I will end up as an executive-level leader, whether with an existing company or my own.”

Skinner couldn’t agree more.

“Akaash is bright, driven young man and he took full advantage of his CEO for a day opportunity,” says Skinner. “My workday can be unrelenting but he approached it with the same positive energy that’s made him successful already as a leader early in his career trajectory. He has a promising future ahead of him.”

About First West Credit Union

First West Credit Union offers members the financial strength, comprehensive product selection and extended branch network of a large financial institution while maintaining local brand identities and a unique grassroots approach to service. Led by Launi Skinner, First West is British Columbia’s third-largest credit union with $10 billion in assets under administration, nearly 240,000 members and more than 1,700 employees. It operates 54 branches throughout the province under the Envision Financial, Valley First, Enderby & District Financial and Island Savings brands. Visit for more information on First West Credit Union.