James Lefebvre | Cocktails with KB

I first met James when he and his beautiful wife, Angela, moved here from BC three and a half years ago. Since then, they have both become part of the fabric of our city: investing themselves into the life of Hamilton. James has done amazing things in Hamilton through his work with FirstOntario Credit Union and 2015 holds a very exciting new chapter for him and for the credit union.
I had the great privilege of joining him for cocktails before the Christmas break and we chatted over Manhattans [for him] and white wine [for me] at Radius on James South. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“It’s a small world after all.” My wife and I moved all the way across the country from British Columbia in my finance career, and I have worked in a number of positions along the way. I have worked in the financial services sector for 15 years and even today I still have clients I speak to in British Columbia. The world is getting increasingly smaller, I have co-workers from my early days in British Columbia that have taken jobs in finance across Canada. And as I grow with my career, and as our (my wife) collective careers grow, I suspect this will continue to be the case.

Why Hamilton?

We moved to Hamilton specifically for my role with FirstOntario Credit Union. Hamilton is where FirstOntario is headquartered but when I was first offered the job, I wasn’t certain on the City. I came out here for a week of interviews and tours and I loved what FirstOntario had to offer, but wasn’t completely sure of the area. At the end of my weeklong tour, my wife – Angela flew out to join me and we had a great time. I give Angela the credit for the decision to come out to Hamilton when we did. She saw the true potential behind the City. In hindsight, I wish we had accepted the role earlier, so we could have been here a few months longer. We are very proud to call this City home. It has a great vibrancy and Hamilton rallies around its communities.

Three words to describe Hamilton.

Hamilton is a proud city. I have met so many people here that are really behind the resurrection of the city and they are fiercely proud to call it home. I am one of those people.

I would like to see more people appreciate the small wins that are evident every day in the downtown core.

It’s gritty. This is a tough city. It’s taken its punches, and it’s had industries that have taken punches over the years. That said, I have seen measurable improvements almost weekly in the core that inspire confidence.

Evolving. I see the city through relatively new eyes hav- ing only been here since 2011. That said, I have already wit- nessed an evolution of improvement in the downtown area. It is pretty inspirational when you are looking at the new industries that are emerging, and the impressive new pool of talented people that are moving to town every month.

FirstOntario opened a branch at the corner of King and James shortly after I arrived. Many people thanked us for investing in the downtown core. That branch has now got- ten to a point where we have a full management team that run the retail services and our business services group is moving out to the top floor of the Empire times building down the street from the Lister block. Our new location will encompass 4000 square feet of space dedicated to new and existing business owners, and it will be our hub for com- munity events. This all happened in less than four years and people could not be more supportive or happy for us.

What’s your motto?

I actually have lots of mottos depending on what aspect of my life we are talking about; I look at it as kind of a road map on how to keep going in the right direction.

For my professional life, my motto is “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. It combines the bravado of “big risk, big reward” and the cautious optimism of “don’t do anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable reading about in the newspaper the next day.”

That mindset ultimately helped us make the move from the Okanagan Valley of B.C. to Ontario. I knew this was a great professional opportunity as the GTHA is a great location for somebody in my line of work, but it was also a big move with lots of moving parts and many potential consequences. 2015 will mark our 4th anniversary here in Hamilton and we could not be happier we made the move.

What’s the best thing about what you do?

There are a lot of great things about my job. I get to wear a number of different hats; one of those hats is business development, one of those hats is small/medium business credit, the other is cash management.

It is always great when we are able to assist a business client with products and services that make their financial lives better. But there is nothing better than walking into their restaurant, shop or store and they are so excited to see you, and they’re winning awards or they are doing cool and interesting projects. It’s amazing to think you are a very small, but integral part of their success.

Additionally, it is extremely rewarding to get referrals. I regard referrals as one of the best compliments you can give somebody. If someone is so happy with the product or service you gave them, that they tell somebody else about it, you have done a good job. When I first got here, I was given a cell phone and told to “develop business”. Having never stepped foot in this city, I was met with some challenges. However, persistence has paid off. We are now we are announcing a new business centre and we have hired a number of great new staff.

What’s the best thing about 2014?

There are a couple things. Professionally, I am very excited about the work we have accomplished over the last 12-14 months in preparation to open up our new busi- ness centre in downtown Hamilton. We will be opening the doors to our small business centre soon, however the majority of that work that went in to making it happen occurred over the past couple of years. So, it’s very sat- isfying for me and encouraging for me to see all of that work come to fruition.

Personally, 2014 was a difficult year in that I lost my father. The greatest thing however, was that I able to have 10 unbelievable days with him this past summer. I had not been back to British Columbia in a number of years and there is nothing that could replace that gift of time I got with him in 2014. He is a great man, and my time with him was the best thing I’ve ever experienced.

Best learning experience of your life?

That’s easy. Appreciate your time with the people you love.

If you found 10 dollars in your pocket, what would you do with it?
My dog Roxy would get a bag of her favorite dog treats. They cost $8, so with tax I even get a little change back.


Given the seasonality of this interview, the World Juniors.

Those 10 days with my dad. Second place is easy, I collect Canadian Tire money, so any time I get a “donation” it becomes my second favorite gift.

Black (I like it like an Americano, black.)

Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam.

Jack Johnson.

The War That Ended Peace (He asked for it for Christmas, let’s hope he got it)



Walking Roxy.

Frank Sinatra, “My Way”


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