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Machine at General Fusion
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From Pivot Magazine

Be bold and embrace innovation, says Pamela Steer

As CPA Canada’s president and CEO points out, promoting leading-edge innovation in our industry will help in long-term growth and success

Greg Twinney standing in front of machines at General Fusion Greg Twinney, CEO of General Fusion, is one CPA who is leading the way to a sustainable future (Vishal Maraphon)

When I think of innovation and adapting to change, the first thing that comes to my mind is the amazing array of people in our profession who rose through the ranks in their careers and now run some of the more innovative and important companies in Canada.

It really speaks to the health and relevance of the profession—the power of the CPA—that our peers are the ones being tapped for these jobs, to lead the innovation necessary for businesses to grow and thrive.

In May I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ken Hartwick, FCPA, the CEO of Ontario Power Generation, and was floored by some of the initiatives that he is spearheading at that organization. Chief among them is the new small modular reactor program that is poised to make Ontario even more of an energy powerhouse than it already is. Leading-edge innovation like this on the horizon, and a CPA is leading the way—I couldn’t be more proud.

STATE OF FLUX

The profession itself is rapidly changing and it’s important that CPAs everywhere take this lesson to heart: Analyze and utilize new technologies to adapt to this ever-changing world—or be left behind. This includes innovative ways of making AI part of the process. This is exemplified by the recent news out of both KPMG and PwC.

  • KPMG in Canada announced a partnership with MindBridge in April that aims to bring AI into KPMG's global organization and digital audits around the world.
  • PwC plans to invest $1 billion in generative AI technology and work with Microsoft and ChatGPT-maker OpenAI to automate aspects of its tax, audit and consulting services.

Early adoption of innovative ideas such as AI is vital to the profession, especially considering the shift in the areas that we need to focus on as accounting—such as intangible assets. For a sector regularly associated with financial reports, it’s important to note that the most valuable currency in the world is data, and one of our most important competencies today is data governance. As CPAs, we’re trained to see the larger picture in the numbers and we must adapt to analyzing data in addition to dollars.

We have the public trust and professional discipline to make sense of the chaos, weave the story, report fully and accurately, and then make decisions. AI’s power to boost raw data analysis will be key to our role in synthesizing the data and providing the insights to what it all means.

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Beyond data, however, lies an even more important aspect of our profession’s evolution: Sustainability. In this sector, CPAs are also major innovators. Take Greg Twinney, our cover feature from the May/June edition, leading General Fusion to the decades-old dream of emission-free fusion energy—an absolute necessity to a sustainable future. This is a dream being sought after all over the world and here in Canada, a CPA is leading the initiative.

Beyond the innovation, however, lies the underpinning of the future of our very planet: sustainability standards. CPAs in Canada are instrumental in their development and we, in turn, will be part and parcel to integrating them into the entire financial system.

I want to take a moment to celebrate Randolph (Ran) Clerihue, FCPA, who recently turned 100. From serving as a flying officer in the Second World War to a long and storied career as a titan of the business world, Ran has always been a champion of the profession. I admire and applaud his dedication and decades of service to his community and this country. Congratulations, Ran!

The International Sustainability Standards Board and its office in Montreal, and the Canadian Sustainability Standards Board will be at the core of this initiative, highlighting Canadian accountants as champions for sustainability. Because of this, there has never been more demand for Canadian CPAs in today’s ever-changing world.

DINNER AND A SHOW

Up until now we’ve explored innovation and opportunity in the CPA sphere among energy companies and international standards—sectors that one might expect. But it does not end in the board room. Pivot’s National Magazine Award-nominated article The Show Must Go On highlighted a CPA at the helm of Cirque du Soleil. Stéphane Lefebvre’s innovative solutions proved invaluable to the company’s survival through some of its hardest times during the pandemic when everything was shut down.

And finally, one story that sticks with me is that of Gioia Usher, CPA and CEO of We’koqma’q First Nation in Cape Breton, who also leads fly-fishing tours for women and runs a jewellery company as well. Pivot’s story on her from 2022 was actually up for a National Magazine Award this year as well. Absolutely inspiring!

Big and small, business to entertainment, the opportunities are endless. This represents CPAs in a nutshell: A profession in the midst of change, leading with new innovations, where there are literally no limits.

Few professions can claim a complete lack of a ceiling, and I’m proud to be part of one that can.

FOCUS ON INNOVATION

Read about CPAs who are charting innovative paths to the future, and check out our Q+A with MaRS CFO Nicole Barry, who shares her views on where Canada stands on the world stage in terms of innovation.