Female leaders in accounting: Cheryl Yaremko

CPA Cheryl Yaremko shares the career path she took to become a leader in the accounting field.

  • Title: Executive Vice President & CFO, BC Hydro, Vancouver
  • Number of company employees: Approx. 6,100
  • University: University of British Columbia, Bachelor of Commerce (Honours), Major in Finance
  • Designation year: 1994, Ernst & Young

A typical day for the vice president and CFO of BC Hydro involves a lot of meetings. “BC Hydro is very inclusive and complex, and it takes many of us working together to provide guidance to the business and make decisions,” says Cheryl Yaremko from her office on Dunsmuir Street in downtown Vancouver.

The most challenging aspect of it all for her is a balancing act. “There are many demands for funding and resources internally — we have significant capital investment requirements to meet both growth requirements and address aging infrastructure — and we have to balance how many projects we can actually deliver in a year and what is affordable for our ratepayers,” she says.

“We need to ensure that we are providing the best value for our ratepayers and consider the policies and requirements of our shareholders.”

These demands and responsibilities are a far cry from those as crew leader at McDonald’s, where the University of British Columbia grad started out as a teenager. Even then, she always went the extra mile.

In fact, she credits her career success with always wanting to do her “personal best” and to that end, learned as much as possible about her chosen profession early on. “As a result,” she says, “I had a very strong foundation as I worked my way through my career and was able to take advantage of opportunities as they came along.”

Those opportunities included getting experience in a variety of businesses. After four years at Ernst & Young, she left in 1995 and spent a couple of years as corporate controller at Western Star Trucks Holdings, a heavy-duty manufacturing trucking company, then two years as CFO at British Columbia Railway Company.

In January, 2006, she joined BC Hydro as chief accounting officer; five years later, she was VP and CFO.

“I can’t say that I aspired to work in any of these industries when I started out in my career, but they were all amazing experiences and I learned a lot from each one of them,” says the married mother of three young boys.

“Being a CPA is a great profession and there is no end to the opportunities or industries you can work in. Not only do you develop great finance skills, you also develop great leadership skills. Both are fully transferrable to any industry, so the opportunities of where you can go are endless.”

Now, with 200 staff members reporting to her, Yaremko most enjoys the challenge of working with “brilliant and talented people” and “being challenged in some way every day.”

After hours, in addition to spending time with her sons, Yaremko sits on several Boards: FEI (Financial Executives International) Canada Board, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC), and UBC Investment Management Trust (IMANT).

In 2013 her efforts and professional contributions were rewarded with the Peak Award for Excellence in the Public Sector from the Association of Women in Finance.

What’s in the future? “Hopefully still living in B.C. and working for a dynamic and challenging company,” she says.

Awards:

  • May 2013: AWF (Association of Women in Finance) Peak Award for Excellence in the Public Sector

Resume:

  • Dec. 2011 to present: Executive Vice President Finance & CFO, BC Hydro, Vancouver
  • Jan. 2006 — Dec. 2011: Chief Accounting Officer, BC Hydro, Vancouver
  • June 2001 — April 2003: CFO, British Columbia Railway Company, North Vancouver, B.C
  • Oct. 1996 — Feb. 1998: Corporate Controller, Western Star Trucks Holdings, Kelowna, B.C.
  • Sept. 1991 — Feb. 1995: Manager, Ernst & Young, Vancouver

Giving Back:

Boards of Directors

  • 2013 to present: FEI Canada Board (Financial Executives International)
  • 2012 to present: British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC)
  • 2009 to present: UBC Investment Management Trust (IMANT)
  • 2010 to 2012: Financial Executive International’s B.C. Chapter
  • 2009 to 2012: InTransit BC
  • 2002 to 2011: Ballet B.C.

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