Female leaders in accounting: Loren Francis

CPA Loren Francis discusses her career path as a female leader in the accounting field.

  • Title: Stewardship Counsellor & Principal, Highview Financial Group
  • Number of company employees: 14
  • University: University of Toronto
  • Designation year: 1992; Coopers & Lybrand (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  • Fellowship awarded: 2011

On a fine spring day, Loren Francis scaled walls, crawled under barbed wire, trekked through water and climbed over mud hills to complete a gruelling 11-mile obstacle course at Mt. St. Louis, near Barrie, Ontario. As a Tough Mudder, the 48 year old married mother of three teens trains hard with a 15-member team, including her husband, for one of the most challenging — and fun — marathons on the planet. The Tough Mudders event demands extraordinary strength, stamina and character with a sense of humour thrown in.

“It was a crazy challenge,” says the stewardship counsellor & principal of Highview Financial Group. “Our team was amazing, helping each other to the very end with all of us linking arms to run through the 10,000 volt electrical wires!”

The biggest obstacles Francis has taken on during her career was jumping from investment banking to wealth management at CIBC in 2002, then leaving the salaried position with all the benefits of a big bank for a commissioned sales position. In 2005, she joined Cumberland Private Wealth Management in Toronto’s tiny Yorkville area where she worked until 2009, when she chose to move to Barometer, an active tactical investment manager. In 2016, Loren joined Highview Financial Group as the philosophy of goals-based needs assessment, transparency, and stewardship is integral to her beliefs for managing client investment assets.

She credits mentors, an extensive network and a determination to reach goals she set for helping to fast track her into a major leadership role early in her career. Having moved to CIBC World Markets Investment Banking in 1993 after obtaining her designation at Coopers & Lybrand, she was given the mandate to create the investment banking CIBC World Markets Retail Group in 1997. “We created a specialized focus in retailing and started an annual retail conference and a quarterly retail report as it pertained to investment banking,” she says. They grew the franchise and won several mandates in investment banking equity, debt, and merger and acquisition deals.

In 2000, Francis also stepped up to the front lines at Sheena’s Place, a non-profit organization in Toronto that supports those affected by eating disorders. She has co-chaired its annual fundraising Fireball Gala, sat on the Board for seven years, and was a member of the Fundraising and Investment Committees.

At Highview, one of her most challenging roles is getting clients to understand and assess their financial risk tolerance, and meet expectations such as their retirement living standards. “It’s an ongoing process that needs revisiting often,” she says. “The most enjoyable part is working with really interesting families and utilizing all aspects of my skill set in capital markets, wealth management, tax planning, succession planning and continually educating our clients and their children.”

“Check your ego at the door,” she advises young women embarking on their careers. “Be inquisitive, ask questions and listen to the answers. Understand the needs of your clients.” She also suggests determining solutions instead of fielding complaints, learning from criticism instead of being intimidated by it, keeping an open mind — don’t be too judgmental or opinionated, and always go the extra mile.

Francis figures she has another 15 to 20 career years ahead of her and plans to continue enjoying her work and clients at Highview. More volunteering is in the cards when her home life isn’t so busy, and there’s travel and arts in the future. “My husband and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, and we look forward to travelling more of the world when our children are in university. And I want to spend more time in the arts.”

Resume

  • 1989 — 1993: Coopers & Lybrand, Toronto
  • 1993 — 2002: CIBC World Markets Investment Banking, Toronto
  • 2001 — 2005: CIBC Private Wealth Management, Toronto
  • 2005 — 2009: Cumberland Private Wealth Management, Toronto
  • 2009 — 2016: Barometer Capital Management, Toronto
  • 2016 — Present: Highview Financial Group, Oakville

Giving back

  • 2007 — Present: Oakville Hospital Foundation Board, and Finance, Risk, Audit and Investment Committee
  • 2013 — Present: Oakville Community Foundation Investment Committee
  • 2002 — 2009: Board member, Sheena’s Place; currently on Finance and Investment Committee
  • Trainer, Oakville Hornets Hockey Association
  • Past Member, Partners In Art
  • Speaker for CPA Ontario events

Highlights

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