The ACU Employee Spotlight series features some of the many people that work at the credit union, highlighting how their unique roles help members and the community every day. In this article, we get to know Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot.
Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot is certainly no stranger to the importance of financial literacy. As the Financial Access Programs Manager at ACU, she can now reflect back on how she got her start in the business.
As a child in 1985, her family arrived to Canada from Laos as refugees. Mani quickly learned plenty of new things to help her family. One of those was helping her family out to understand their banking and finances in Canada — a challenge where she rose to the occasion. Fast-forward after her post-secondary education, and Mani was able to pursue her dream of helping others in the financial industry.
To Mani, working at ACU has helped fulfill her desire to work with an organization that fosters diversity and inclusion while also giving back to the community. In this spotlight, we get to know Mani a little more, learning about her story that continues in her work to foster financial inclusion.
Getting to know Mani Sheppard-Luangkhot
Question (Q): How long have you worked at ACU?
I’ve been working with ACU for over four years now. In my role within the Financial Access Program (FAP), I work with members, employees and communities to foster financial empowerment and build a financially sustainable future for all.
Q. What is the Financial Access Program (FAP) at ACU?
FAP covers most of our Community Programs including the AssetBuilding Program, Community Partner Referral Program and the RESP Program. The goal of the program is to deliver safe and affordable financial products and services, including financial literacy to underserved households. The program also helps individuals who face multiple barriers such as insufficient ID, low income, or limited access (or no access) to a financial institution. For people living on low income, this can help them save and create opportunities for themselves.
To me, these FAP are about a commitment to financial inclusion along with a commitment to serving the unbanked and under-banked members of our community.
Q. What’s a fun fact about yourself that most people wouldn’t know?
In Grade 9, I won the Judo Provincial championship in my weight division and represented Team Manitoba at the Canada Winter Games.
Helping others kickstart their careers
Q. How did you get started in the financial industry?
Being a newcomer, we grew up in an inner-city area. I remember my childhood having to accompany my parents to appointments and having to translate for them. I even had to explain a car loan, and as a child, I didn’t understand most of the words they were saying — let alone how they calculated interest or even why they had to pay interest. It was a frustrating situation for everyone.
We struggled as a family living on a low-income and my parents were stressed, which had an impact on us kids. I knew I didn’t want others to go through what my parents went through in the future.
Fast forward to adult life when I graduated from college and was looking for a summer job. Little did I know that summer job would turn out to be over 16 years in the financial industry!
With a learning disability, I thought it was close to impossible for me to be in this sector. My commitment to serve my community was stronger than my doubts, and I had to work twice as hard — but it was all worth it. I guess it came full circle with my life experience and my passion for serving others.
Q. How has your role evolved since you started?
Since being in my current role for close to three years, our FAP has doubled in partnerships with community organizations. For those that are underserved or not have full banking access, they can now access our services with a referral from our community partners.
Now, we have been able to help over 800 people per year obtain financial services and advice. In addition, by participating in events that serves as a one-stop-shop for the underserved, we are more mobile and accessible to our communities.
We have also adopted an innovative national financial literacy program called Each One, Teach One, which trains credit union employees to deliver basic financial skills workshops in community settings. ACU has 11 staff trained, and we have already delivered this program to over 600 people.
Read more about Each One, Teach One in action: The Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation
Q. What advice would you give to someone interested in a job like yours?
Follow your passion and don’t worry too much about job titles. Your passion will remain with you, even if your job changes — which it likely will.
If you are committed to serving your communities, then volunteer. Get to know the organizations that serve your community, and continue to exercise your ‘empathy muscles.’
The future of our community
Q. Have you seen members make improvements in their financial lives?
One example is our partnership with Tec-Voc High School to operate Stingers Credit Union. This is a branch of ACU that is run by the high school students to help create business and financial literacy opportunities.
In fact, December has marked our five-year anniversary partnership with Stingers Credit Union. Since inception, Stingers had helped over 550 of their peers to obtain accounts and provide financial literacy. Over 160 students have been involved in the credit union’s operations thus far and enrollment has increased substantially. These students are our future and I am so proud of their accomplishments.