If there’s a cliché that an accountant is number-focused and prioritizes the bottom line above all else, then Len is the farthest from that.
After nearly five decades in the accounting profession, spanning industry, public accounting, government, and association management, Len has created a legacy to be proud of, capped by receiving the CPA Manitoba Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his enduring commitment to the profession and contributions to the community.
The way Len sees it, this is the proverbial cherry on top of the career that he worked so hard to build.
“To receive this recognition is deeply meaningful to me – both in recognition of my contributions and in further recognition of the legacies of those honoured before me,” says the founding father of the Certified General Accountants Association of Manitoba and its first Executive Director. “As I reflect on my career, and the important role CGA Manitoba has played in it, I am most fortunate in my choice of profession and the talented colleagues, graduates and fellow accountants I have met along the way.”
Looking at the body of work that Len humbly possesses, it’s easy to see why his name was chosen for the honour. His integrity, passion and innovative leadership led to CGA Manitoba becoming a highly respected and influential professional accounting body, both provincially and nationally.
Back in high school, working with numbers was the furthest thing from his mind. “I had no real idea of what I wanted to do,” he recalls, with a chuckle. “I worked for a year at Monarch Lumber, where I was exposed to all facets of the organization, mastered new skills and even finessed abilities that would later assist in my career. But I was still unsure of what I wanted to do so I took some aptitude tests.”
Interestingly, the tests suggested that Len explore the fields of sales and social work, but not accounting.
“It was my brother-in-law, who was a chartered accountant, that encouraged me to take an accounting course. The rest, as they say, is history.”
In 1970, Len earned his designation and was quickly recruited by Manitoba Finance to take a role in public service and after 15 years in government and public accounting, he accepted the position of Executive Director of CGA Manitoba.
It was at CGA Manitoba that Len discovered how much he enjoyed working at a place where the organization’s goals were driven by a deeper purpose – something Len has long appreciated. Over the course of his tenure with the organization, Len not only led a vibrant association of CGAs, but he also grew and shaped the entire accounting profession to attract the brightest minds. From the very first member to the over 3,000 members and countless other students following the merger with CPA, Len is the foundation upon which many accountants rest.
“It’s about passion,” he says. Len retired from CGA Manitoba in 2008 to spend more time with his family and at their DIY off-grid lake side cottage, which he describes as one of the “bigger” accomplishments of his life. “You need to be passionate about the work you do, the members, vision – and most importantly, the team.”
“We used the term CGA family because we created such strong connections and bonds with those we worked with and served. The people [are] what make things work,” he explains, noting that it was the incredible volunteers, staff, members and graduates that inspired him each and every day. Under his leadership, CGA Manitoba achieved 11 consecutive years with the fastest growth in new member admissions, recorded 35 years of consecutive annual surpluses, and improved the profession’s regulatory responsibilities.
His greatest achievement, however, was in 2001, after he filed a formal complaint against the Ontario government under the Agreement in Internal Trade legislation.
“This was a standing issue that I saw from day one as Executive Director,” asserts Len. “This initiative challenged the status quo so that the barriers to mobility could be lifted, the playing field could be leveled, and members could practice the profession across the country.”
Although resolution to this issue was achieved three years after Len’s retirement, it was his steadfast commitment and contributions that monumentally changed the profession for accountants from coast to coast.
Aside from working with CGA Manitoba for 35 years— Len’s curriculum vitae is packed full of honours. In 1981 he received the CGA Canada’s Fellowship (FCGA) honour for exceptional contributions to the profession. In 2009 he received the Pinnacle Career Achievement Award from CGA Manitoba for outstanding career achievement and on the 100th Anniversary of CGA Canada, was named as one of “100 CGA’s in 100 Years Who Made a Difference”, for a professional career described by CGA Canada Magazine as “exceptional by any measure.” The list goes on.
For Len, it’s not just about the work. Outside of his position, he’s worked extensively in many rewarding volunteer positions.
“Volunteerism is second nature for me,” adds Len, who also earned the CPA Manitoba Meritorious Service Award in 2016. “I was that geek that was on student council and Treasurer of our fraternity. I tutored students, volunteered on the CGA Board of Directors and eventually served as President.
I was driven to lend my experience and skills to instill change and help others because I believe building relationships with the members in the community builds trust in the individual and, by extension, the profession.”
He has served on several boards in the public and private sectors, including the Manitoba Association for Continuing Education, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Ducks Unlimited, Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE), where he received the prestigious CASEY award for his contributions to CSAE and association management.
Noteworthy in Len’s volunteer efforts was his involvement with The Associates, where he helped encourage CGA Manitoba to establish a $1 million commitment to funding Manitoba post-secondary education.
Despite his vast accomplishments within the profession, including his appointment to President of the international CGA Shared Services Facility Inc. and CGA Online Inc., which provided management information services to 7 Canadian provincial or territorial CGA bodies, 17 in the Caribbean as well as CGA members in China serving 10,000 members and students, Len says “more needs to be done to advance the field.”
“We need to do more to attract good people to the important work that we do,” he adds. “Accounting has grown over the decades but finding inspired and qualified people to fill the ranks is becoming a challenge. It is imperative that we show the value, impact, and opportunity that the profession holds.”
If there was one message Len could share for future CPAs, it’s this: “Trust and teamwork is fundamental. By prioritizing trust, you can build a diverse and inclusive team where everyone feels a sense of belonging and connection to the team. This is what success is truly about.”