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Fueling the Fire of Success:
A decade spent helping establish two orphanages in South Africa taught Sundie Seefried, CEO of Partner Colorado Credit Union, how important acceptance is to establishing communication, building relationships and achieving success . Despite her conservative upbringing, she chose to accept the legitimacy of the cannabis industry, identifying the opportunity to offer groundbreaking, necessary financial services to a burgeoning business category. While many financial institutions judged the morality of legalizing cannabis, Sundie spent her time delving into research. She admits to having an ethical dilemma early on, wondering about the legacy she would create, but
instead she came to the conclusion that providing a legitimate business with reliable financial services was absolutely the right thing to do…and she did it in a wildly successful fashion. Today, she is proud of her innovative work inuncharted territory. Under her guidance, Partner Colorado Credit Union and its division, Safe Harbor Private Banking, have become a leader in Colorado’s cannabis related financial services.
Opportunities like this don’t come along every day.
“Opportunity lays where others don’t or won’t do something even though a demand exists,” Seefried says. “In addition, one must be in sync with fundamental drives and motivations. As a Credit Union leader, it was important to serve the community and benefit our members.” Once she learned of the neighborhood crimes often associated with an all cash-industry lacking secure financial resources, she not only felt motivated to help, but driven to provide a quality option to this under-served market.
Operating in a controversial industry can be a heavy burden to bear. Seefried says one must be ready to stand alone and continue the path without concern about what others think. “When you are cutting a path, one under extreme scrutiny and regulation, your peers seem to fear you might harm the industry’s reputation. It’s definitely a test of your resolve and you better muster the stamina to finish the long game,” she explains. “In an emerging market, leaders face the best and worst of competitors. To persevere, I had to recognize that those who cannot create will steal, and those that cannot compete will destroy. It’s a tough lesson to swallow.” She says, “When so many people have failed ahead of you and so many expect you to be next, your recurrent mindset must be that failure is never an option, that no matter the duration or effort required, you must be truly willing to endeavor over and over again. That mantra fueled the fire of our success.” As of the end of November 2020, Safe Harbor Private Banking manages over 500 cannabis banking accounts and has processed over $8 billion dollars. Safe Harbor Private Banking has also helped 10 other financial institutions get their cannabis banking programs up and running.
Pioneering other paths in the financial world.
Today’s financial world remains largely dominated by males, many of whom believe that women should follow… a concept that surprised Seefried. Logically, she knew that her board of directors did not hire her to follow, but to lead as a CEO. To be successful, Seefried believes that one must break from a mainstream mindset and take risks others may not want to take. As the very visible founder and CEO of Safe Harbor Cannabis Banking, Seefried uses her prominent position to promote female leadership in the financial world. Seizing every opportunity to speak and advocate, Seefried has become a role model, helping create a new trajectory for women in business, one that encourages them to lead by taking the path less traveled, to be creative and fearless.
Giving back—still a driving force in her life.
Returning to her philanthropic roots, Seefried established the Partner Colorado Foundation in 2005 to fund undergraduate scholarships and support local organizations. From health care, foster care, adoption, counseling, mentoring, food, clothing, shelters and more, Credit Union staff, partner organizations and local companies have collaborated to make a tangible difference. And it’s working. To date, 269 scholarships have been awarded, along with numerous grants, for a total of $588,000 given back to the community. Additionally, Partner Colorado Credit Union employees volunteer over 600 hours each year to help worthy causes.
Endeavoring. Over and over again.
Seefried is understandably proud of the Credit Union’s accomplishments in the field of cannabis financial services. She is not, however, content to sit on her laurels. Her future efforts lie in the expansion of serving the commercial lending demands of the cannabis industry, as well as growing the business to serve the banking needs of hemp and CBD companies.
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