Eye on the future

Joy Thomas has wasted no time in promoting CPA Canada as a leader on business, economic and social issues since she took over as president and CEO in April 2016.

Joy Thomas was focused on taking CPA Canada to the next level when she took over as president and CEO on April 1, 2016. While she has a new title, her vision for the world’s fifth-largest professional accounting organization was already well established.

“During the past three years, CPA Canada has been busy integrating the operations of three national accounting organizations and creating the new profession. Now it’s time for us to move on,” says Thomas, who was integral to the unification effort. “Our business plan is all about transitioning and getting ready for future change. What will CPA Canada look like five years from now? What skills will our members need?”

Thomas has wasted no time promoting CPA Canada as a leader on business, economic and social issues and has reached out to critical stakeholders. Leaders of former Eastern European countries, hungry to learn about restructuring and financing infrastructure, heard her at a World Bank gathering in Vienna. Closer to home, she advised university students at a national youth leadership conference to watch megatrends and develop competencies in a more interconnected business world.

“There’s never a dull moment,” Thomas notes. “I’m energized by the variety and the challenges of this diverse and complex organization. I’m especially attracted to working with our very enthusiastic, passionate and engaged staff and volunteers.”


Thomas’s astute understanding of what it takes to build a business began at her family’s company. When she left for industry, she became “a tiny cog in a big wheel instead of someone who had the president’s ear,” she explains. “That led me to want to do more, learn more and get a designation to gain credibility.”

Thomas took positions as executive director of CMA Nova Scotia, Bermuda and the Caribbean and as president and CEO of CMA Alberta. She became president and CEO of CMA Canada before leading the unification of the profession with CICA president and CEO Kevin Dancey. After the creation of CPA Canada, Thomas served as executive vice-president, consolidating her leadership and management style while clarifying her vision for the organization. “I bring a solid understanding of how the profession operates,” she says. “I understand the issues that face our members in an ever-changing global business environment.”

In this world where everything from finance to technology is globalized, having a national accounting association with one voice is increasingly important. Moreover, relevant intellectual leadership has incredible power to influence society and economics.

Thomas stays focused on global trends and CPA Canada’s ability to help members grow. She’ll always take the opportunity to share her insights. She has penned articles for The Accountant in the United Kingdom, delivered a state-of-the-union address to CPA Canada’s 400 employees and works with the IFAC Board of Directors and the Global Accounting Alliance.

“There’s a lot going on that has and will increasingly have a profound impact on CPAs and the accounting and auditing profession,” she says. “I see significant opportunity as a result of globalization, technology and other megatrends that are bearing down on our profession and economy.”

Thomas insists that CPAs are uniquely positioned to lead organizations as they cope with change. CPAs can identify and mitigate new risks and seize new opportunities and can use critical thinking and sound judgment to navigate uncertainty and create agile strategies. Most importantly, CPAs have a strong ethical foundation, which is so critical in a volatile world.

The good news is that CPA Canada is on a path to transformation. “We’re both anticipating what’s needed and envisioning what’s possible,” Thomas says. “Our job is to help members stay ahead of the curve.”


CPA Canada’s Member News enewsletter invited you to ask Joy Thomas questions about CPA Canada and the profession’s future. Here are a few exchanges.

Q: Because of wage freezes/cuts and unsupportive employers, CPD (continuing professional development) requirements are increasingly difficult/unaffordable.

A: CPD is a critical element of being a professional and we work to ensure there are many options available. Provincially and nationally, there are so many ways to obtain CPD at a very low or no cost. Consider webinars, technical reading and employee training. Turn to your provincial association for more CPD tips. For more on CPA Canada’s CPD offerings, go to cpacanada.ca/pld.

Q: I would like to see future MRAs (mutual recognition agreement) with institutes in other countries, especially ICAEW (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) and HKICPA (the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants).

A: CPA Canada, through its International Qualifications Board, is reviewing current and potential MRAs, reciprocal membership agreements and memorandums of understanding. These reviews will consider the needs and competencies of all members in negotiating new agreements.

Q: Do you see the CPA profession leading the way on social responsibility/sustainability reporting and accounting?

A: The traditional skills of professional accountants are more relevant than ever when we help organizations meet market expectations and business needs, including those arising from emerging environmental and social issues. Canada’s professional accountants can help identify challenges and opportunities for effective business planning, management and reporting. For more on CPA Canada’s sustainability resources, go to cpacanada.ca/climatechange