2023 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

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. 

I am deeply honoured and truly humbled to be included among those amazing and distinguished members who have received the CPA Manitoba Lifetime Achievement Award. Above all else, I owe this award to those who have trusted me to handle matters that, in many cases, dictated their futures.

When it came to learning the value of hard work and dedication, Paul Wright got an early start. 

Born in Souris, Manitoba, Paul came from modest roots. After losing his mother as a toddler, Paul was raised by his father and paternal grandmother. 

“I didn’t have a typical childhood or some of the advantages other kids had,” he explains, recognizing how fortunate he was to have people looking out for his best interests. “I was very grateful for family and friends who guided me through such a challenging period. Their kindness and generosity are attributes I strove to pay forward throughout my career.” 

At the young age of 13, Paul took odd jobs in Souris including working as a mechanic’s assistant and at the local pool hall. It was his perseverance and exceptional work ethic that set him down the road to secure a job at Souris Creamery, where the seeds of his prolific career would take root.

“I was performing all sorts of tasks, which included some bookkeeping,” says the astute and esteemed accountant, who earned his designation in 1967. “The manager of Souris Creamery, Ivan Kaufmann, noticed my proficiency with numbers and suggested that I pursue a career as an accountant.” 

It was the decision to pursue his CA designation that brought him to Winnipeg, where he stayed with his aunt and uncle for six years. “I came to Winnipeg early in the morning on a transport truck and walked the streets looking for an articling position with no credentials and only the clothes on my back,” he says, with a chuckle. 

“I received rejection after rejection because I did not have a Grade 12 French mark, but near the last kick of the can you could say, I went to the firm William M. Hurley and Company where I was interviewed by Walter Warms. He hired me under one condition – I had to pass the Grade 12 exam and if I failed, I would have to work anyway. The rest as you would say, is history!”

Paul credits Walter with playing an immense role in his life, both professionally and personally.

“Other than my wife and family, Walter has to be among the most important influences in my life,” adds Paul, who married his wife Margaret in 1969. “Nearly every pivotal moment in my career was influenced in some part by Walter. And, although we didn’t always see eye to eye, it was our ability to come out on the other side that allowed us to forge such a strong connection.”

Although a general practitioner, it was at Thorne Gunn that Paul became enamoured with taxation – a specialization that would follow him throughout his career. After ascending through the ranks from Staff Accountant to Tax Manager, Paul was approached by Walter once again; this time with an exceptional opportunity – born was Warms Rogers Wright. They merged with Coopers & Lybrand in 1990, which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Over the course of his tenure as Partner with PwC, Paul worked tirelessly as a trusted advisor to hundreds of medium-sized businesses throughout the community. Among clients, which in many cases are relationships that have lasted decades, Paul has cultivated a stellar reputation for sound advice.
“Each experience gave me a new lens through which to view the value of my contributions,” notes Paul, who retired as Partner from the firm in 2005, but stayed on as a consultant until 2021, and now works with clients independently. “I found helping individuals and businesses with tax planning and organizing their finances very satisfying.” 

For Paul, it was about more than just the numbers. It was the manner in which he conducts himself where his reputation truly shines.

“His trademark is his relationship-based approach to his practice,” says Margaret, his wife of more than 50 years. “He not only guides individuals and enterprises but remains deeply interested in their families, their life journey and accomplishments.”

Looking back over his six decades of practice, Paul says one of his most memorable experiences was becoming executor of one of his client’s estates at the mere age of 31, an experience he says, “played a significant role in his career”. It was a relationship he maintained for over 50 years and is a testament to his profound character.

“This was the first of several executorships I took on throughout my career,” he adds in a humble and soft voice, explaining that he really didn’t know what he was committing to when he agreed to be executor. “I became a stable force in their lives, not only financially, but also in providing support to help fulfill their needs. These appointments evolve into endearing familial relationships and have become something I truly cherish doing.”

Best known for his deep commitment to philanthropy, Paul encourages people to lead with generosity and support their community. In this, he is a particularly effective role model, alongside his wife, Margaret. Together, they were the face of the ‘Endow Manitoba’ campaign for three years, which is a giving challenge for more than 50 community foundations. Paul has also played a significant role in contributing to other organizations, including the Winnipeg Foundation and Health Sciences Centre.

“Margaret and I have small-town prairie roots,” explains Paul, who throughout his illustrious career mentored dozens of young accountants in the process of completing their studies. “Volunteerism serves as an opportunity to lend my experience and skills to help others become vibrant members of society. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to call Manitoba home and volunteerism is a key pillar in our province’s rich history and future.”

He has served on several boards in the public and private sectors, including the ICAM Foundation, Lions Learning Centre, Versatech Charitable Foundation, Riverview Health Centre Foundation, and SJR School and Foundation. He was also a member of The Asper School of Business Associates for 20 years.

Despite his vast accomplishments as a professional, Paul never saw himself as an example for others to follow.

“I am deeply honoured and truly humbled to be included among those amazing and distinguished members who have received the CPA Manitoba Lifetime Achievement Award,” he says. “Above all else, I owe this award to those who have trusted me to handle matters that, in many cases, dictated their futures.”

Paul takes the recognition in stride, preferring to keep the attention on a community that has given him so much.

This award comes on the heels of another prestigious accolade. In 1999, he was awarded the Fellow Chartered Accountant designation – one that holds significant meaning, as he was nominated by his peers. 

Whether it’s through mentoring, his executorships, or volunteering, Paul hopes that his work behind the scenes will inspire others and provide positive reinforcement to the world around him.

Among his many achievements, which include his vast coin collection, his greatest legacy is his role as husband, father of three, and grandfather to five incredible grandchildren. 

“It may sound eccentric, but there have been many people and signs that have led me to where I am today. From Walter Warms to the recurring letter ‘M’ and number ‘13’ – I was in school for 13 years, we opened Warms Rogers Wright on the 13th floor of the Richardson building, and purchased a cottage at Falcon Lake, which happened to be lot 13, block 13,” he explains. “Each instance has had some bearing on my life. If there’s one piece of advice I can offer to future CPAs, it’s to follow the signs.”