Running for a reason
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.
"Maybe it was the future accountant in me, but I’ve kept records of every mile I’ve ever run since the day I started back in high school,” says Bradley Keefe, CPA, CA, Partner at Fort Group Chartered Professional Accountants, with a laugh. “I kept paper records at first and then started tracking my progress in an Excel spreadsheet. My first race was the Manitoba Marathon in June 1999. I’ll be at 57,000 miles on February 1, 2019.”
To put that in perspective, the drive between Vancouver, British Columbia and Halifax, Nova Scotia is about 3,604 miles. Keefe has run far enough to make that trip, on foot, nearly 16 times - with the paper trail to prove it.
Perhaps the easiest way to explain how Keefe accomplished such an amazing feat - both the record keeping and the actual running - is to start from the beginning.
“Maybe I was a little unusual, but I wanted to be an accountant since I was 10 years old. It’s the first job I remember wanting to do,” explains Keefe.
Growing up in St. Vital, Keefe attended Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, the first French Immersion high school in Western Canada.
“After graduating, I did consider some other career options and even applied to a few different schools, but it was accounting that I always kept coming back to.”
Keefe ended up at the University of Manitoba and set his sights on a Bachelor of Commerce degree with the intent of becoming a designated accountant. While there, he followed his other passion and got involved with the track and field team.
“The track and field coach was actually my high school gym teacher. I think he was a little surprised when I asked to participate, because I hadn’t been terribly athletic in high school and never played organized sports. Outside of running for fun, I didn’t train for the opportunity beforehand - I was a ‘walk on’ in the truest sense.”
But Keefe surprised himself, his coach and his new team.
“I participated in my first race and finished third on the team, competing against athletes from other universities. From that point on, I became a competitive track and field athlete in addition to studying to become a designated accountant.”
Keefe credits running for teaching him valuable life lessons, some of which have transferred over to his accounting career and opened doors for him along the way, too.
“I was lucky to land a great part-time job at the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) in 2002. They supported my studies and I stayed there after graduating from the University of Manitoba,” Keefe explains.
By 2006, he had completed his designation and was taking on greater challenges at the OAG. “I am so fortunate that I got to work there. I did all kinds of audit work over the years, including financial statements, value-for-money, forensic and other special audits.”
It was these experiences that helped solidify a career aspiration.
“What I learned is that working for the greater good is very important to me. I want to contribute and have a positive effect on society. Looking back, I’m very proud of my time there.”
Keefe would go on to work at the OAG for nearly 14 years and in 2009 was promoted to Audit Principal.
“It was a fantastic role. I got to lead the audit of the Summary Financial Statements of the Province of Manitoba. It is one of the largest audits in the province with billions in expenses and thousands of hours of audit time. I got to work with MLAs, key government officials and people who really cared about the public sector. I am really proud of what we accomplished and the team was fantastic.”
In 2016, Keefe was on a run with his training partner and good friend Brian Walker, CPA, CA (a Partner at Fort Group Chartered Professional Accountants), whom he had met on the university track team years before.
“He said that they had a growing firm, needed help with their auditing division and wanted to know if I would work for them. We ended up running quite far that day as I learned more. It was fitting that this opportunity came to me in a run. After a few weeks of contemplation, I decided it was a great opportunity and the challenge of trying something new would be rewarding,” says Keefe.
Keefe has been with Fort Group Chartered Professional Accountants for two years and was recently promoted to Partner.
“I specialize in auditing of all kinds in the non-profit, for-profit and public sector entities and offer other types of consulting services. I went from having one huge audit to leading dozens of smaller ones. I’m really looking forward to my future with Fort Group. I want to be a Partner who cares first about the people I work with, including my clients, doing really good work and worrying about the rest later.”
Throughout his career, Keefe has been actively involved in the profession. He was awarded an Early Achievement Award through the CPA Manitoba Member Recognition Program in 2016. For his dedication to candidates and students of the CPA Western School of Business (and legacy CA School of Business), he was presented with the Kouri Bezeren Heinrichs Outstanding Facilitator Award in 2017.
“I really enjoy helping people succeed and have been inspired by the people who taught me. CPAs do important work and I think sometimes that can be forgotten. I really believe in the CPA Professional Education Program and think its graduates are more prepared than ever to provide leadership in both accounting and business.”
One of the highlights of Keefe’s running career came in 2016 when he won the Manitoba Marathon. Although Keefe doesn’t run as competitively as he once did, he’s taken on a new challenge with the aim of giving back to the sport he loves.
"I recently joined the Manitoba Marathon Foundation Board. We have a goal of making the race twice as big as it is now. There's so much positive change going on and we've got a lot of exciting things in the works."
Keefe believes running is one of the reasons he’s been able to accomplish all that he has.
“Running has definitely made me more productive and has provided me with extra energy that I can use in my work as a CPA. It has taught me discipline, hard work and commitment - I feel like it’s given me two-fold back what I’ve put in. I encourage anyone who is curious to give it a try."
Runners who set a goal of finishing a race feel just as good about themselves whey they succeed as someone competitive who is looking to hit a certain time.
“If any of this resonates, why not try the Manitoba Marathon on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019? It’s in support of a great cause and it might just change your life, like it has mine.”
The Manitoba Marathon is the province’s premier running race. Since 1979, participants have raised money for Manitobans living with intellectual disabilities. For more information on how you can get involved, visit manitobamarathon.mb.ca.