Indigenous CPA Driving Change and Financial Literacy

CPAs can be found in every industry, being experts at more than numbers – and they’re great with those, too.

Every month, CPA Manitoba spotlights the diverse and dedicated professionals that prove CPA is more than a designation. 

As an Ojibwe man, I’m elated to see CPA Manitoba is taking actionable steps to support Manitoba’s Indigenous people in areas such as financial literacy, self-sufficiency, and reconciliation. 

Looking back on his childhood growing up in Cooks Creek, Jordan Ulrich, CPA, CA pointed to two main convictions that shaped him as a person: his earnest passion for his Indigenous roots, and discovering that even from a young age, he was driven to make a difference.

These beliefs have characterized his life, his accomplishments, and his outstanding contributions to the profession, including his recent appointment to CPA Manitoba’s Indigenous Understanding Working Group – a team committed to understanding Indigenous Peoples’ history and culture, as well as focusing on initiatives that will drive collaboration and reconciliation within the profession. 

“I’m thankful to CPA Manitoba,” he notes, adding that the working group has an opportunity to leave a “long-lasting mark on our profession.” 

“As an Ojibwe man, I’m elated to see CPA Manitoba is taking actionable steps to support Manitoba’s Indigenous people in areas such as financial literacy, self-sufficiency, and reconciliation.” 

Being from the largest first nation in Manitoba – Peguis First Nation –Jordan has become an unrelenting champion for improving the financial awareness and independence of his people.

“Financial wellness is a lifelong journey, but I believe that we, as finance professionals, are in a privileged situation, possessing the knowledge and financial understanding required to help improve the financial capacity and resilience within Indigenous communities,” explains the Asper School of Business graduate, who went on to attain his Chartered Accountant designation in 2015.

As a member of the working group, Jordan draws on his Indigenous roots and more than 10 years of financial insight to instill a deeper understanding of how to deliver tailored financial education that incorporates key aspects of culture and worldviews, which according to Jordan is “critical in making financial literacy relevant and engaging for Indigenous communities”.

For Jordan, the goal is three-pronged: to help Indigenous people increase their financial skills, apply their knowledge, and prepare for the future; to get more Indigenous youth into the profession; and to engage and empower more non-Indigenous CPAs to seek change.

“I’ve always recognized the vast opportunities that come with the CPA designation,” says Jordan, who held several positions with smaller local firms, and worked his way up from Controller to Director of Finance with Peguis First Nation, before starting his own firm - Migizi Shepherd Chartered Professional Accountant Inc.

“I’ve had the chance to witness countless positive changes within the profession— increasing diversity being one that stands out. We have come a long way, but the profession still has a long way to go, and the CPA Manitoba Indigenous Understanding Working Group is another step in the right direction.”

But Jordan’s passion for making a difference extends beyond the profession. He’s also served as a member of Youth for Christ, where he coached and mentored inner city at-risk youth, and has committed countless hours to the broader community in his free time.  Today, he serves as a member and Treasurer of the Main Street Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Winnipeg’s most marginalized members of society.

“We can’t let those who are unable to make it themselves just fall through the cracks. We need to help all people reach their full potential,” he explains.

His steadfast determination to help others takes more than love, it takes incredible strength; strength to inspire, encourage and empower others to be more courageous in order to make progress and instill change.

“It is important that people of all walks of life have the opportunity to: build the relationships they need to say, ‘I am loved; the confidence to say, ‘I can succeed’; and the power to say, ‘I have a purpose’”.

While Jordan’s budding career is commendable, he attests that his most memorable achievement was one that didn’t stem from success, but from failure.

“The day I failed the UFE (Uniform Final Examination) was the day I learned the true meaning of discipline, hard work and the value of drawing on strength beyond yourself,” he says. “If you look back at those tough moments in your life, you realize they were often the key turning points to going to the next level.” 

Jordan never imagined the positive impact the accounting profession could have on his ability to pursue real economic change for his community.

“It’s funny”, he says with a smile. “As a strategic and big picture thinker, I didn’t want to just work with numbers. I imagined a career where I could be creative, motivating and turn ideas into action. Now, as a business owner dedicated to helping First Nations better their financial portfolios, I get to do exactly that.”

Throughout his career, Jordan has had the opportunity to work with many talented entrepreneurs, executives, and colleagues; hone his accounting, finance, tax, people, and client management skills; and learn a lot about business. The journey he says, “has been unexpected, but incredible”.

“The fun is in climbing the mountain. It's nice to get to the top. We spend five minutes at the top looking at the beautiful view, but the real fun is in the journey,” asserted Jordan. “If there was one message I could share with future CPAs, it’s this: ‘True and integrity-driven accounting is a high calling. Never forsake your values, welcome life’s challenges, and embrace the journey’”.

While Jordan aspires to hold an official leadership role within the First Nations, for now, he will continue to advocate and fight for a better future for the profession, his family, and his First Nation community. 

When asked about his personal goals, the avid traveler and father of three says, “I dream of the day when I can settle back in Cooks Creek and see firsthand Indigenous people of Canada achieve real economic change and financial independence.”