Shubhneet Lotay and Coleen Benesocky

Coleen Benesocky, left, and Shubhneet Lotay

Accounting | The Profession

How CPAs are making a difference in their communities

Meet nine Canadian CPAs who are giving back, and gaining valuable experience and knowledge in return

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Lindsay Derat, CPA, CA, CBV, CFA

Lindsey DeratWhy I Volunteer: “In early 2017, I had the opportunity of becoming a financial literacy volunteer for CPA Canada. The timing was ideal as I was searching for a way to get involved in my community while sharing the knowledge and skillset that I had developed over the past decade. To my delight, I found that the students were receptive, very inquisitive and extremely motivated by what I had to say—totally awesome. The experience was so rewarding that I have already signed up to present another session.”

Advice for other CPAs: “For anyone interested in making a difference, I highly recommend the CPA Canada Financial Literacy program—which, thus far, has been extremely rewarding for me from both a career perspective and, more importantly, on a personal level.”

Bryan Sommer, CPA, CA, CFP, CIM 

Bryan SommerWhy I Volunteer: “Growing up, I always had a passion for financial literacy—my father was a financial planner for over 30 years. Being a recent father myself, I look at what kids need to be successful today and see a huge gap in their knowledge.” 

Advice for other CPAs: “Get involved now. If I were to wait until my retirement to volunteer and give back, I would have missed out on the opportunity to live with purpose and feel fulfilled now.”

John Kitcher, CPA, CA, CFA 

John KitcherWhy I Volunteer: “The main reason I started volunteering with the CPA Canada Financial Literacy program was because I saw this as a great opportunity to give back and make a difference in people’s lives. There is a significant gap in financial literacy in this country and this program provides me with an opportunity to reduce this gap. I believe that by taking part in this program, I am able to make a meaningful difference in the financial lives of the attendees or at least awaken their curiosity to learn more about the topics being presented.” 

Advice for other CPAs: “As a CPA, you have an abundance of knowledge that you can share with people to help make a difference. Here are some of my top tips for potential volunteers: know the audience you are presenting to, review the material in advance, and focus on areas of high interest to the group. Select two or three presentations that you are comfortable with. It gets easier each time around!”

Pat Kenney, CPA, CA 

Pat KenneyWhy I Volunteer: “We are in a unique position to advance the broad societal good of financially informed citizens. On a personal level, the program has improved my public speaking, better connected me with local community and even helped keep certain technical knowledge sharp.”

Advice for other CPAs: “Make time to get involved and step out of your comfort zone. Nudging yourself toward uncomfortable yet positive situations is the best way to get ahead—both personally and professionally.”

Shubhneet Lotay, CPA, CMA & Coleen Benesocky, CPA, CGA

Shubneet Lotay and Coleen BenesockyWhy We Volunteer:  “What drives me is the satisfaction of seeing the ‘Aha!’ expression on faces in the audience when they understand a topic I am explaining,” says Shubhneet Lotay.

Adds Coleen Benesocky: “What drives me are the happy participants, the feeling of success and accomplishment, along with the satisfaction of helping someone to a better financial future, something that I have been interested in for a while.”

Advice for other CPAs: “To those doing presentations for the first time, we recommend building your confidence from knowing and believing in the material, and practice, practice, practice! Being able to make a positive contribution in the academic or personal life of someone is incredible.”

Leigh Sindlinger, CPA, CGA

Leigh SindlingerWhy I Volunteer: “I’ve always liked the idea of helping other people understand and manage their finances as it seems to be such a difficult thing for so many people in this age of consumerism. CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy is a perfect opportunity to do that as part of a national program. I particularly like working with school groups because of their enthusiasm.”

Advice for other CPAs: “It’s a great feeling to know you’ve helped someone understand what comes quite naturally to those of us with an aptitude for numbers. Being part of the program has been beneficial to the recipients of the workshops, but it’s also helped me showcase my employer (who contributes to the program by supporting my role in it), as well as giving back to my community and the CPA profession.”

Martin Paradis, CPA, CMA

Martin ParadisWhy I Volunteer: “Being the world’s most nervous presenter during my high school years, it is something that I never thought I could do. Despite my prior experience, I decided to jump in head first, and take the challenge to present a financial literacy session. Two years and nine presentations later, I have discovered a new facet to my passion.” 

Advice for other CPAs: “I must say that it has been an incredible experience to help those who are interested, and I cannot say how enjoyable and pleasing the opportunity has been. It has made my work so much more rewarding, interesting and pleasant. I get as much out of it as I can possible ever give.”

Teri Bell, CPA, CMA, CFE

Terri BellWhy I Volunteer: “I have always wanted to volunteer, but somehow the demands of motherhood, a career in the federal government and continuing with my education have gotten in the way of pursuing that goal. My son set a good example for me—he had practically completed his 40 hours of required volunteer time by the end of his first year in high school. I knew I needed to step up!”

Advice for other CPAs: “The best advice I received was to get involved with something I felt passionate about.”

Brian Ludwig, CPA, CMA, AMP, CFP, P.Ag. 

Brian LudwigWhy I Volunteer: “From my early days as an educator and a consultant, I have always had a passion for teaching and helping others learn. In recent years, I have not had the opportunity to do this as much, due to the larger emphasis on my accounting practice. When the CPA Canada Financial Literacy opportunity came up, I saw this as an opportunity to deliver training again.” 

Advice for other CPAs: “Become a volunteer now! You don’t have to commit a lot of time to be a session presenter. Even if you just do one or two sessions on a topic that you are comfortable with (CPA Canada Financial Literacy has a diverse range of topics available), you can share your expertise with many people who are eager to learn. The program, through its diverse and experienced CPA membership, provides a unique opportunity for unbiased financial literacy training.”