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Embracing Diversity: A Pride Month Conversation with the CEO of Luminus Financial 

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This Pride Month, we sat down with George De La Rosa, CEO of Luminus Financial to discuss his journey and career. As an openly gay CEO, he shares valuable insights for aspiring leaders including his advice on making a difference, the challenges of breaking barriers in a traditional industry, the support he’s received, and more. 

Q: Can you walk us through your journey to becoming a CEO at such a young age in the credit union industry? 

A: I was introduced to the credit union industry through a co-op placement in my last year of high school. Right after the co-op placement, they offered me part-time work during the summer and part-time work while I was going to college and university. It’s been 30 years this end of June and I’m still in the system. 

Q: What were some of the key experiences that prepared you for a leadership role? 

 A: I have always talked about the fact that I’ve been blessed to be able to do various roles within the credit union system. I started out as a member service representative, or teller as is commonly known, and I went to branch management. I’ve done business development, sales, and marketing management.  

Through all of those experiences, it helped me become a good leader because I’m a big believer that you’re not going to ask someone to do something that you yourself won’t do or know how to do. I think that that has helped me a lot. 

Q: In terms of breaking barriers, what did it mean to become one of the youngest CEOs in Canadian credit union history? 

 A: At the time that this happened, I didn’t realize it. I was stressed out. I was freaking out because I thought, what did I get myself into? But, as I went into other industry events, it really started to hit me because I wasn’t seeing other leaders that were my age.  

Unfortunately, sometimes, I think you have to be very cognizant of your appearance. I look younger than I am. In many instances, there were people that didn’t realize exactly what role I was doing, what role I was in, or why I was at a certain event for all executives. It was a little bit of a challenge, but I didn’t let that hinder me. It drove me to continue to prove myself through whatever other successes we’ve had: growth of assets, income, et cetera. 

Q: As an openly gay CEO of a credit union in Canada, how do you hope your leadership will influence the industry and its approach to diversity and inclusion? 

A: That’s a great question. At work, we always talk about the fact that being openly gay has never been the thing that we talk about. It’s always just been George, the leader of this organization and the visionary of this organization. That wasn’t the very first thing that we talked about. But it allows all of us, especially at Luminus Financial, to understand that if your leader is openly gay, then it’s acceptable.  

Diversity has been very important for us. Inclusivity is always very important. No one feels out of place. I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud of the fact that although being gay is something that maybe others may see in a negative light, it’s never been that way in the entire credit union system. If anything, I always found myself very accepted and respected. 

Q: Have you faced any specific challenges or received particular support related to orientation in your role as CEO? 

A: I have always been a good networker. I like to keep a good set of people that I can reach out to if I have answers or questions or to bounce ideas off. That’s always been very important. With my team, I never see anyone as below me, I see everyone as equal to me. We work hand in hand, we’re very open with each other. I rely on them as much as they rely on me. That network is always very important.  

Over the last 30 years, we’ve been able to support the Credit Union Council of smaller credit unions in Ontario. We now have the community-based credit union group that supports credit unions in Ontario and BC as well. Being involved and providing that cooperative support that we’re known for in the credit union system has been very valuable for me. 

Q: What advice would you give to young aspiring leaders, especially those from diverse backgrounds, looking to make their mark in the financial industry? 

A: Embrace your diversity because that’s what makes you, you. I’ve never been one to change who I am. I’ve never been one to hide who I am. I’m from a Hispanic background, I’m an immigrant in Canada, openly gay, and now I’m a father and I love that. I tell people my life story because that’s relatable. That’s how you can relate to others.  

Don’t let your diversity or who you are hinder you. Don’t hide behind it. If anything, embrace it. Always know that especially in the corporate world, what really matters is the success of your career. 

Q: What is your message to everybody during Pride Month? 

A: We love you, we embrace you, we support you. If you’re ever feeling underbanked or underserved by any other financial institution, look up Luminus Financial, of course, but also any credit union. The credit union system has been there for the gay community since many, many years ago. We were the first to lend to gay couples. The community is supported by the credit union system, so definitely look up your local credit union. 

Happy Pride Month from everyone here at Luminus Financial! 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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