The most rewarding part of my career is that it’s not one I could have imagined, until it happened,” said Tom Bryk, an esteemed fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Manitoba (2004), who holds the Institute of Corporate Directors’ ICD.D designation. “Anyone who thinks they are going to be a chartered professional accountant and knows their path over 30 years, will be surprised by the incredible opportunities this profession affords.”
Drawn to the profession at an early age, Tom credits his success to his upbringing.
“The foundation my parents laid is what motivated me to work hard, strive for excellence, and aspire for success,” he noted. And he has achieved that success, with a compelling record of accomplishments in his career, the community, and the profession.
After earning a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Manitoba, Tom spent his formative years at Price Waterhouse – now PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“It was a tremendous start to my career,” added Tom, whose passion for numbers began while bookkeeping for his father’s small real estate business as a teenager. “I learned from professionals throughout the organization and worked with diverse businesses, from a variety of industries.”
His interests eventually steered Tom towards the financial services industry.
No matter the challenge, Tom remained undaunted: having served as Chief Executive Officer of Carpathia Credit Union for nine years, Tom ascended within the industry to hold the prestigious position of President and CEO at Cambrian Credit Union – one of the largest credit unions serving the Winnipeg and Selkirk marketplaces.
During his 21-year tenure with the organization, Tom shaped the success of Cambrian, helping to grow its assets from $400 million to over $4 billion and building its members’ capital from $22 million to $300 million.
“As CEO, I was committed to setting the tone for Cambrian’s culture, being sure to remain steadfast in my commitment to create value for their 60,000+ members and the financial performance required to sustain this value into the future,” he said.
A passionate advocate of the credit union system, and a true representative of the co-operative spirit, Tom’s vision, strategic mindset and performance focus led Cambrian to prominence, by developing a reputation for quality products and service, innovation, and consistent financial performance.
More than that, in partnership with the board, Tom led Cambrian’s accreditation to the Imagine Canada standard of donating no less than 1% of its pre-tax profits to local agencies and charities.
Before retiring in 2020, Tom’s responsibilities included overseeing operations, financial and human resource management, and sustaining the organization and taking it into the future.
While Tom’s storied career with Cambrian is commendable, he attests that his most memorable achievement was one of courage.
“Three years into a very successful strategic plan we realized as good as our success was, we didn’t believe the model could address future challenges,” he explained. “As a leadership team, we not only realized an opportunity for growth, but took the necessary action to change our strategic direction mid-way through its implementation, to better serve the community and have greater impact. It was a profound and audacious moment.”
Tom has played a substantial role in the reputational growth of the profession throughout his career, acknowledging that the CPA designation was instrumental in opening doors.
Now, he seeks to inspire future generations of CPAs to think differently on how they use their knowledge and expertise to create innovative solutions to revolutionize the industry and solve big problems.
“Economies are changing. How people do business is changing. Methods of how people communicate and exchange ideas are changing. These factors are transforming the industry and the marketplace sees the value brought by our profession,” he noted, adding that “our field is already very much on the road to adapting to this new world, but also needs to explore other ways it can broaden the value we bring to business.”
Although Tom’s career accolades are notable, his 30+ years of volunteerism speaks loudest about his character. His volunteerism is woven into the fabric of Manitoba, having served for years on several boards, including the Manitoba Blue Cross, United Way Winnipeg, Institute of Corporate Directors’ Manitoba Chapter, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Winnipeg Airports Authority, Mount Carmel Clinic, Winnipeg Phoenix FC and Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, to name a few.
Staying true to his belief of paying it forward, Tom has committed countless hours to the broader community in his free time; helping to lead fundraising efforts for initiatives like the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, and supporting the building of a new international airport terminal.
“Commitment to community started very early in my life, through the example of my parents,” he shared. “I guess it still resonates with me—I have been blessed in my career, my mentors, and my success, so it seems only right to give back where I can.”
Of note among Tom’s lengthy history of service, was his appointment to Honorary Colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“It was a truly humbling and unforgettable experience to meet and connect with those who serve our country every day,” said the father of two, grandfather and avid base guitar player. “I was meant to be a mentor, but I got more out of the experience than intended – comradery, leadership and appreciation.”
Today, Tom serves as Chair on The Winnipeg Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is deemed the first community foundation in Canada and one of the first in the world.
Asked what he would change in hindsight, he thoughtfully responded, “I would not change a thing; my experiences stand out as Forrest Gump moments – simply being there at the right time. But they have made me who I am. This path has allowed me to amass the experience and knowledge to add value to the business and the communities in which I serve.”
If there was one message Tom could share for future CPAs, it’s this: “The world of accounting is diverse and your career as a CPA can be rewarding when you find what keeps you connected. Don’t limit yourself and figure out your passion.”
A poised professional, celebrated community-leader, and a trailblazer in the industry, Tom leads by example and personifies the characteristics best associated with the designation.