2024 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

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

This award serves as validation of the efforts invested by those who have generously shared their time and wisdom with me, with my family standing at the forefront of that list.

Richard Olfert’s story is one of ambition, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. As a shining example of leadership within the accounting profession, he serves as an inspiration to his community, peers, and family.

His journey into the world of accounting was not merely a result of happenstance. It was inspired by a combination of familial influence and a genuine interest in math and business. 

Reflecting on his early motivations, Richard reminisces, “My father’s career as an accountant, evolving from an entry-level office messenger to a Senior VP of Finance, served as a catalyst of encouragement. The profession was very good to my father and our family.”

Witnessing his father’s satisfaction and the opportunities the profession afforded him instilled in Richard the belief that accounting held immense potential for fulfillment and personal growth.

After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1985, Richard received his professional accounting designation in 1988 and, through a series of mergers, became part of Deloitte shortly thereafter. Nearly four decades later, he has left an enduring mark on the profession and in his community.

From serving clients on audit engagements to assuming multifaceted leadership roles within Deloitte, Richard’s journey exemplifies the essence of thoughtful leadership, versatility, and adaptability.

Throughout his tenure with the firm, Richard played a pivotal role in handling significant client files, such as Manitoba Telecom Services’ IPO, privatization of the Canadian Wheat Board, and the receivership of the Crocus Investment Fund.

“Each transaction served as a testament to ingenuity because it required a shift in thinking by all involved,” he remarks, noting that witnessing individuals and groups navigate uncharted territories and employ innovative solutions to tackle complex issues, was a compelling and gratifying part of his role.
His involvement in transitions of leadership and ownership within private companies further underscored the significance of trust and confidence placed in him as Senior Advisory Partner.

“Being entrusted with such responsibilities, invited into private family places that I consider almost sacred, can be profoundly transformative,” Richard explains. “Assisting in navigating through these crucial moments, and witnessing the positive outcomes, is immensely rewarding.”

Over the course of his illustrious career, Richard’s leadership philosophy evolved, placing emphasis on collaboration, team empowerment, and collective success.

"Leadership is not about individual accolades; it's about fostering a collaborative environment where teams thrive and succeed collectively," notes Richard, who was admitted to partnership at Deloitte LLP Canada just a short seven years after becoming a member and served on both the Deloitte National Executive Committee and Deloitte Canada / Chile Board of Directors.

Transitioning from Deloitte in 2023 marked a new chapter in Richard's journey. Despite bidding farewell to his role as a partner, his passion for accounting and community engagement remains. 

"My objective is to continue contributing meaningfully while exploring new avenues. Whether serving as a board director or strategic advisor, my focus remains on navigating complex organizational challenges and leveraging strategic ground-breaking thinking to drive outcomes," he explains.

Reflecting on the pivotal moments that shaped his career, Richard highlighted his appointment as Chair of CPA Canada, which provided him with a platform to witness firsthand the exceptional calibre of professionals within the profession and the significant contributions they make. 

"Being the first Manitoban to assume the role of Chair of CPA Canada was a tremendous honour,” he exclaims.  The appointment was the culmination of his lifelong involvement in the profession, in which his most memorable experience was spearheading the transition of CPA education towards competency evaluation during his tenure as Chair of the Board of Evaluators at the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

“Shaping the landscape of competency evaluation for CPAs was an extraordinary journey that united top professionals within the field,” he says. “It was a testament to collective efforts and collaborative decision-making," 

For his many contributions to the profession, Richard was awarded the FCA designation in 2003. Humbled by this recognition, Richard carries his FCPA, FCA proudly in all communities.

Energized by challenges and driven by an authentic desire to help others, Richard’s lengthy history of service and accomplishments includes serving with the Winnipeg Airports Authority, University of Manitoba Board of Governors’ Finance & Infrastructure Committee, Tallgrass Employee-Owner Equity Fund, United Way Winnipeg, CentreVenture Development Corporation, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, and the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) Winnipeg Chapter, which he co-founded in 2012.

Looking ahead, Richard envisions a future brimming with opportunities for CPAs across diverse sectors but stresses the importance of greater diversity and inclusion within the profession. 

“Ensuring that the makeup of our profession reflects the makeup of our society is paramount in cultivating a sense of belonging and representation," he emphasizes. "It's fundamental to being a profession that anyone can see themselves pursuing."

When asked about his advice for students and early-career professionals, Richard offers sage wisdom. "Every CPA, whether in Manitoba or across the country, possesses the potential to lead a stellar career,” advises Richard, remarking that the CPA designation opens doors to a myriad of opportunities, many of which may not be apparent at the outset. 

“Numbers may be the foundation for accounting, but it’s not the only thing. There is so much more to it than that,” he affirms. “In a world where change is the only constant, understanding the essence of adaptability, and seizing opportunities becomes paramount. Be open to opportunities and take calculated risks!”

Reminiscing about his own career journey and its trajectory to the present moment, Richard notes that receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award holds personal significance for him. It serves as a validation of his career approach rooted in faith, humility, and gratitude towards the support of his family and mentors.

“While it's certainly gratifying to receive recognition, I recognize that it’s somewhat illusory. None of this would have been possible without the invaluable contributions of numerous individuals who have supported, taught, and guided me along the way,” he explains. “This award serves as validation of the efforts invested by those who have generously shared their time and wisdom with me, with my family standing at the forefront of that list.”

While his achievements have been truly outstanding, Richard is most proud of his wife and three children who have kept him grounded, brought much humour to his life, and have been a significant source of encouragement throughout his career.