What’s In A Name: Community Impact Officer

Simeon Chapin plays an integral role in communicating and executing Vermont State Employees Credit Union’s goals to make a local and global difference.

CU QUICK FACTS

Vermont State Employees Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.20

HQ: Montpelier, VT
ASSETS: $931.1M
MEMBERS: 69,925
BRANCHES: 9
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 19.1%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.1%
ROA: 0.57%
As community impact officer, Simeon Chapin is in his sixth year helping Vermont State Employees Credit Union ($931.1M, Montpelier, VT) execute ona robust strategy of improving quality of life for everyone in the Green Mountain state.
Leading with values and working with community, national, and even international partners to craft strategies the credit union can put in place inside its own business and communities is part of Chapin’s job description. Measuring impact to ensureit happens is another.
Here, Chapin describes his role at VSECU, which has evolved along with the Green Mountain State credit union’s lineup of socially conscious products and commitments.

How long have you been with VSECU and in your current role as community impact officer?
Simeon Chapin: I was hired as the director of community and social development in April of 2015; so, I am in my sixth year now. The role evolved past the original description, so the title changed in early 2019.
Was this a new role for VSECU?
Simeon Chapin: The role was new when I was hired. VSECU created it as part of an evolving organizational design. Specifically, the role pulled together some functions that were previously spread out over a few departments. As the organizationhas focused on leading with values and measuring our impact as proof of success, the function of the role has also grown in scope.
Why did VSECU create the role? What are your primary responsibilities?
SC: The role was built to help connect the dots and integrate brand values throughout the organization from board elections to the branch experience as well as in the membership and community.
Functionally, I am responsible for impact strategy and measurement, community partnership development, philanthropy, public relations, and supporting culture development.
Did VSECU create the role specifically with you in mind?
SC: Great question. The role was designed before I came to work at VSECU so, initially it was not.
That said, like most of my professional experiences, the role evolved thanks to a combination of what was needed and what I brought to the mission, vision, goals, and objectives of the organization.
What makes you a great fit for this job?
SC: Working for positive cultural change is in my DNA. I grew up in a family steeped in public service, performing arts, cooperatives, and social justice. My early career was focused on bringing people across cultures through arts andmusic, first as a performer, educator, and scholar, later moving into the business side as a marketing director for a record label and tour management company.
I quickly learned how to understand the big context, develop strategy for success, assemble teams, lead projects, and deliver value. Since then, I worked in sustainable international development and regenerative regional food system business. During mytime in music, I earned an M.A. in ethnomusicology, but I believe it isthe transferrable skills of applied research, an understanding of how culture is created in real time, constant curiosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning that qualify me for this work.
The through line in my professional path is finding work that makes a difference in the lives of individuals and community.

Purpose=Impact

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What’s your daily routine?
SC: It starts early with mental and physical exercise, setting of daily priority, a scan of local and national news, a check-in with team projects, and. getting the kids off to school. My workdays are mixed. I book internally focusedtime for research, reporting, and writing while also participating in meetings, calls, and conferences across the organization and community.
Today, for example, I had a meeting with our accounting lead on tracking impact investments, facilitated a meeting with our DEI team, researched a potential philanthropic donation, and prepared staff for an upcoming conference that we have sponsored.Every day is a bit different.
How does your role address VSECU’s philosophy and approach to community impact?
SC: The mission at VSECU is to improve the quality of life for our members and their communities. During the past five years, we’ve put a finer point on what that means and how we deliver on that mission. We have adopted a values-led vision rooted in our cooperative foundation that brings together and balances focus on social, environmental, and financial outcomes the triple bottom line approach to business.
To do that, we’ve adopted new metrics for success and raised awareness about them in our staff, membership, and market. Transparency is a core value at VSECU, so reporting is essential. All of this builds trust. Our partnerships and contributionsbuild relationships and business that lean toward social equity and sustainable community economic development.
What strategic partnerships does the credit union have now that are germane to what you do? What new ones do you hope to forge?
SC: In affirming our core mission, we looked for peers who were leaders in banking practice that balance the social and environmental impacts of their work with the financial bottom line. We were inspired by many members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.
In 2016, we became the first credit union in the United States to join the alliance. In partnership with the other members, we have worked to set up a scorecard for measuring how a bank or credit union practices a triple-bottom-line approach to financeand a methodology for the financial sector to measure and disclose the carbon emissions created by loans and investments.
The learning and knowledge sharing within the alliance is incredibly valuable across many areas of our operations, from risk management to human resources.
I will mention one other partnership that has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vermont Community Foundation partnered with us to roll out member emergency loans thatenabled us to write quick 0% or very low-cost loans to members, including brand new members, who lost income when the economy shut down.
Over the years, we’ve also grown into the state leader in consumer lending for energy efficiency including weatherization, electric vehicles, and solarinstallations and have partnerships with other lead organizations in Vermont’s energy efficiency and renewable energy sector.
We also have partnerships with our state’s community action agencies to support basic needs and build membership with typically underbanked populations.

Learn more about VSECU:

  • Rob Miller On Leadership

  • VSECU Is All-In On Green Lending

  • How Credit Unions Help Credit Unions

How does your work as community impact officer benefit the credit union and your members?
SC: Building bridges between aligned organizations and community groups in our service area makes everything stronger and more resilient. During good times, we help one other grow and thrive. If profits are good, we reinvest. These days,when we are confronting such economic uncertainty, we are working to shore up gaps and helping direct relief resources from partners and the federal government.
Our mission is to improve quality of life, and we cannot do that alone. It takes working with others and bringing our unique capabilities to the table. Without building trust and relationships, both at the organizational level and at the individual level,we are not going to reach our potential impact.
The measurement and reporting are extensions of that relationship building. When we can prove our impact and measure that against goals, we can show our members and community progress and how we are continuously improving.
How do you track success in your job?
SC: I tend toward work on the long arc. So, success is based on how well I am able to work with the organization to set a course of action for increased community impact and then executing on objectives to meet that course.
What has been your most gratifying or satisfying moment so far?
SC: It’s hard to pick one. There is much to be grateful for. Recently, expanding our resources for the member emergency loans during the early weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown was a win for our members, the credit union, and our communities.
The What’s In A Name series is one of several Callahan Collections available at CreditUnions.com. Check out this collection, then browse the collections available for disaster recovery, member feedback, community impact, sustainability, deposits, analytics, and more.
Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
SC: This role reports to the senior vice president of marketing and business development. Currently, I do not have staff that reports directly to me. What I do is supported by, and in collaboration with, colleagues across the organization.Because a piece of the role is to champion the integration of impact with all we do, it is a fantastic way to work.
How do you stay current with topics that fall under your role?
SC: Conversations with folks in the network is by far the best way to be aware of what’s happening. So, plenty of phone calls, emails, and before COVID-19 many cups of coffee with people in the network.
For specific initiatives, like impact metrics, I take part in peer-lead mastermind groups. I find it valuable to learn and share news alongside others in similar roles. I also read books on leadership, local economics, social issues, and environmentalcauses. My news sources are VT Digger and Vermont Public Radio for local, and NPR and the New York Times for national. And email newsletters lots of email newsletters from our industry, local government, and non-profit service oreconomic development partners.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Job titles say as much about the organization as they do the person. Have you seen a title you’d like to know more about? Let senior writer Marc Rapport know at mrapport@creditunions.com or (202) 223-3920, ext. 504. This interview has been edited and condensed.

September 28, 2020

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