CFOY winner Nathalie Bernier with President and CEO of CPA Canada, Joy Thomas at CFOY award show

Photography: CFO of the Year Award winner Nathalie Bernier, left, and CPA Canada president and CEO Joy Thomas at last night’s gala event. (FEI Photo)

Accounting| The Profession

CPA wins Canada’s CFO of the Year

Nathalie Bernier, the first woman in Canada to hold a managing partner role at a professional services firm, earns top honours

The first woman in Canada to hold a managing partner role at a professional services firm—Nathalie Bernier—was awarded Canada’s CFO of the Year™ Award last night at a gala event held at The Ritz Carlton in Toronto.

“I knew [being a CPA] was going to open doors—and it did,” Bernier, who has been the CFO and senior VP of strategic and business planning at PSP Investments since 2015, said after her win last night. “I’m very proud.”

CFOY winner Nathalie Bernier at CFOY award showNathalie Bernier was named CFO of the Year last night. (FEI Photo)

A CPA since 1988, Bernier has more than 30 years of experience in finance, 15 of which were held at Arthur Andersen—formerly one of the top five accounting firms—where she began her career.

“What the CPA program helped me with was [that it was] really the way I could achieve a great career in finance,” Bernier said. “Being a CPA definitely opened the door to being a CFO. And from there, I was able to [do] a lot more than finance: I was involved in strategy, in communication and public relations. So really, the designation helped me to have this great career, very diversified.”

“Being a CPA definitely opened the door to being a CFO”

This diversity and resilience is key to driving success, says Joy Thomas, president and CEO of CPA Canada. “Change is rapid in today’s ever-evolving economy; be it technological, societal, geopolitical or environmental. CFOs use resilient, adaptive and innovative mindsets to develop strategies that successfully navigate change and drive success,” she explains. “Congratulations to Nathalie and the other finalists as they each clearly demonstrate the value that the CFO role brings to their respective organizations.”

Beyond acquiring a managing partner role at KPMG’s Québec offices in 2006, Bernier has received numerous awards over the years including: the Leadership Award from the Association of Québec Women in Finance (AFFQ) in 2014, the Women of Distinction Award, Business and Professions category from the Women’s Y Foundation of Montreal in 2012, “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100” award in 2010, and Fellow of the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec in 2009.

Bernier says joining PSP when she did and transforming the organization is a career highlight. “We knew that to be successful, we needed to transform this organization and evolve it,” she says. “I felt that my skillset and my background is really what they needed.”

Sponsored by FEI Canada, PwC Canada and Robert Half, Canada’s CFO of the Year™ Award has been recognizing and honouring our country’s best in financial leadership since 2002. A winner is chosen by the selection committee—comprised of some of Canada’s top business professionals—which weighs a number of factors including vision, performance, innovation, and social responsibility.

The two other finalists honoured Thursday evening are CPA Russ Jones, recently retired Spotify CFO, and Carol Banducci, executive VP and CFO of IAMGOLD Corp.

In addition to the award, Bernier will receive $5,000 to contribute to a charity of her choice: United Way Centraide of Greater Montreal.

“What attracted me to [them] was one statistic I was told: one out of seven people in Montreal benefitted from an agency supported by Centraide,” says Bernier, who has been involved with the organization for the past seven years, and also serves as the chair of the board. “So I knew that we were changing lives and I knew that we were providing opportunities and breaking the cycle of poverty.

“It was very compelling to me—I could see the impact we were having in the community. For me that was very important.”