On the move

Allow CPA Magazine to introduce you to a few of the profession’s fast-rising stars. They come from across the country and across sectors and they are outperforming in business, finance and professional expertise. From setting strategy to setting standards, their achievements are all the more impressive when you consider they are aged just 40 and under.

THE STANDARD-SETTER

Jean-François Trépanier, 35

Senior manager, professional standards group, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, Montreal

At the time of writing, Jean-François Trépanier was in Dublin taking part in a global project to define the audit of the future on behalf of the Montreal office of Grant Thornton. The objective was to drive audit quality and efficiency at the firm — an ongoing hot topic in the profession. Trépanier first joined RCGT as an intern, earned his Canadian accounting designation in 2003 and a US designation in 2004 and cut his teeth on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, taking a straight path to manager. An opportunity to join a private US fashion retailer then preparing for an IPO led him to Los Angeles in 2006. With the economic downturn around the corner, banks and rating agencies were getting nervous and the IPO did not take place (the company still remains privately held) and Trépanier returned to RCGT in 2007. "I realized I faced more challenging complex issues in public practice as an auditor." He hasn’t looked back. When the Canadian Auditing Standards were enacted, he took the lead on implementation and reporting both at the firm and as part of a CPA Canada task force. That first exposure to standard setting has led to several more appointments with CPA Canada, as well as with the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. "Standards will continue to converge and become more international. I want to play a role in ensuring the Canadian voice is heard globally."

THE COLLABORATIVE LEADER

Tim Deacon, 36

Executive VP and CFO, investment division, Manulife Financial, Toronto

A meteoric climb in Toronto’s finance industry was the furthest thing from Tim Deacon’s imaginings as a child growing up in Manotick, a small town outside Ottawa on the Rideau River. This June Deacon was promoted from a senior vice-president to an executive vice-president of Manulife Financial, with a seat alongside the firm’s global leaders setting strategy and direction. This is in addition to being responsible for financial reporting oversight of Manulife’s $640 billion in assets under management and a 600-member team across eight countries. Prior to Manulife, Deacon worked at PwC LLP, where he was a founding member of the global capital markets group and served on PwC’s national technical accounting group. Throughout his seven-year tenure at the firm, he moved through a large number of industries and sectors. "I’m so thankful for that experience. It allowed me to realize I enjoy the ability to be an effective steward of company resources but at the same time use that insight and analysis to help drive growth." He describes his leadership style as collaborative and inclusive. "Early in my career, it was impressed upon me to find the hidden talent in people and give them the opportunity to leverage that talent. People did it for me and I’m passing it on."

THE CAREER STRATEGIST

Kate Ayoubi, 30

Director, reporting, Goldcorp Inc., Vancouver

Kate Ayoubi understood very early that her attributes — logic, an affinity for numbers and problem solving — were a natural fit for a career in finance. She also understood that in order to have the career she wanted, she would have to take control of it. She has done just that. Ayoubi, who earned her designation in 2007, spent 10 years at EY, where she took on high-profile, high-demand multinational clients and spent two years in the firm’s professional practice technical group, a small team of about 20 professionals from across Canada that serves EY’s most complex clients, primarily public companies. By 2011, she was a senior manager. "I’m always looking to challenge myself so that I’m ready for any opportunity." When an 18-month contract with Goldcorp, a fast-growing gold producer with 18,000 employees worldwide, came up this year, she knew she had to take it. "I haven’t decided whether I want to be a CFO, VP finance or a partner. The ultimate position I get isn’t what I am defined by. It’s about taking opportunities to challenge and improve my skills as a financial professional." Ayoubi is also vice-president of the Association of Women in Finance and sits on the audit committee of the Great Northern Way Trust. "In the future I would like to sit on corporate boards and this is an opportunity to learn how committees work."

THE SEEKER

Sean Prior, 32

Finance manager, Husky Energy, Calgary

With a quick mind, equally comfortable with technology and history, Sean Prior developed a keen interest in finance and business during his undergraduate days. During his time at KPMG in Calgary (he earned a spot on the national honour roll after writing the UFE in 2007 and achieved his designation in 2008), he worked with a variety of clients and became a manager within five years. In 2010 he left the partner track to become corporate controller at Tesla Exploration, an international seismic acquisition company for the oil and gas industry in Calgary. He was just 28 years old. The role took him to London, Denver and New Orleans. Six division controllers, all older than Prior, reported to him. In April 2013, he moved to Husky Energy, where he is finance manager, a much more operations-focused role that has him helping steer the direction of the business. Prior credits his quick rise to working hard in a quiet way. "I just want to get the job done. I take personal ownership of my work. In fact, I’m probably my harshest critic." Of his current role, he says, "I’m learning daily. It’s such a different experience to work with geologists, engineers, geophysicists and helping them learn about the finance side of things." Outside of his professional life, Prior was a mentor to University of Calgary undergrads up until this year and is currently one of the driving forces behind the Alberta CA Community Ambassadors, which matches young CAs with board, director and treasury positions with nonprofit organizations in Alberta.

THE VISIONARY

Nicole Barry, 36

Cofounder and CEO, Half Pints Brewing Co., Winnipeg

Growing up with entrepreneur parents, Nicole Barry learned two key lessons that have shaped her career. First, she would be her own boss. Second, she would invest in a business education before jumping into the deep end of entrepreneurship. That education took the form of an undergraduate degree in business, as well as a CGA designation that she earned while working full time in increasingly senior management positions in the insurance, finance and hotel industries. At age 27, she left corporate life and cofounded Half Pints Brewing with her now ex-husband, who spent his early 20s training to become a brewmaster. "I’ve always had a passion for DIY and for independent business. The craft beer business has an amazing culture that fits with my personality and values," Barry says. Since launching the business in 2006, Barry has taken Half Pints from a two-person operation to an award-winning, internationally recognized company with 18 employees and growing. In fact, the business is in the midst of an expansion that will increase capacity by 65%. "We are a financially healthy, independent company with a strong vision and we’re excited about this second stage of growth," says Barry. "I’m a strategic planner. I love envisioning the future, having my foot on the pedal and driving the company where I feel we should be going."

THE ACCIDENTAL DIGITAL ENTREPRENEUR

Ted Hastings 40

Founder and CEO, Rebellion Media, Waterloo, Ont.ed

Ted Hastings got into the tech industry at its height in 2000. Fresh from earning his professional accounting designation, he joined a startup, Endgame Systems, a sales and distribution software company serving the beverage industry, as CFO and vice-president of finance. A year later, at 26, he was CEO. "We were building software to run on a mobile device back before everything was an app." In short order, he rebranded the company as Global Beverage Group, acquiring nine competitors and growing it from 35 to 200 employees before selling it to 3M in 2006. Within a year, missing the adrenalin rush of being an entrepreneur, he joined Geosign, an Internet domains company, as president. He grew that business, rebranded it Tsavo Media and sold it to US-based private equity firm American Capital in 2007. In 2010 he won the Waterloo Entrepreneur Hall of Fame’s Intrepid Award. Two years later, he launched Rebellion Media. Since 2012 he has completed 13 acquisitions of complementary media brands to form a single, diversified media company with 180 employees. "I work all the time and I like it that way. I enjoy the challenges and headaches of growing a business — it motivates me." Hastings equates his drive for business to his love of sports and competing — at one time he ranked among Canada’s top 10 power lifters in his weight class. "Business allows me to compete like the kid I am."

About the Author

Mary Teresa Bitti


Mary Teresa Bitti is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Ont.

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