Dedicated to the Accounting Profession
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.
Moving is tough. Moving across the country at the age of nine is tougher, but moving back again five years later as a teenager needing to fit in at a new school, well that’s got to be the toughest. Heather Reichert, FCPA, FCA was two months into grade 10 when she learned she was moving back to Winnipeg. Before she left, Reichert had got some advice from her volleyball team captain.
“She told me ‘Don’t be shy, go introduce yourself to everyone,’ I was shy, quiet and introverted at first,” Reichert said. “I had to force myself to go up to people and really get to know them.”
Reichert took this advice to heart and applied it to every aspect of her life, which has helped her experience so many different roles throughout her career.
In her first year of university, Reichert originally wanted to be a doctor.
“I was taking pre-med courses and then after exams were done at the end of the year I decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore,” Reichert said with a laugh.
Next, Reichert went down to the university and transferred into the then Commerce program.
“I was always good at math. I liked numbers. I actually kept track of where I spent my money throughout high school and university,” explained Reichert. “So, I took the accounting route as my major and the courses in university were really geared towards giving you maximum coverage towards attaining an accounting designation.”
After graduating, 22-year-old Reichert got her start with what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where she learned one of her most useful skills.
“PwC was really good experience. I am one of those types that really appreciates having the audit experience,” said Reichert. “It gave me insight into lots of businesses and how different accounting processes and organizations function.”
Reichert worked 10 years for PwC where she was involved with the auditing side of the firm. Some of her biggest clients included a large Winnipeg based real estate development corporation and an aeronautical transportation company.
By 1992, Reichert was ready for a fresh challenge and found it somewhere she had never considered before.
“I ended up getting a job as an Internal Auditor with the City of Winnipeg,” she explained. Reichert was most excited to learn how the City functioned.
“It gave me the ability to see the entire operation based on the different audits and work that I got to do. I came to understand how the City of Winnipeg is a multi-dimensional kind of organization,” said Reichert.
From there, the City of Winnipeg was amalgamating its departments and Reichert started working exclusively with the Water and Waste department.
“I went that direction because, unlike the other departments this had a revenue stream,” said Reichert. “So, it was more of a business then if you went into something like planning and development.”
In 1998, Reichert was approached with an opportunity to work with the newly forming Winnipeg Health Authority.
“I knew nothing about healthcare, I’d never been on a healthcare audit, but I was excited for the challenge,” Reichert said with a laugh. “As a designated accountant, I was confident in my abilities to know processes, systems and build relationships.”
Reichert was involved in creating and maintaining all the financial functions of the Winnipeg Health Authority. But, not long after, as governments sometimes do, the authority was restructured to include long term care and renamed the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
With all this change occurring, a colleague of Reicherts had become the Deputy Minister of Health. They were looking for qualified, experienced finance people to bring into the department. Reichert was then offered the position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance and was charged with managing the finances of the department, which she would do for the next six years.
Then in 2008, Premier Gary Doer appointed Reichert as Deputy Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy.
“It was a relatively small department and the main function was determining the funding for post-secondary institutions,” Reichert explained.
After four years in that role, Reichert was on the move again, this time with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Vice President of Finance. Her work there included financial policies, actuarial services, reserving practices, strategic planning, investments, reinsurance, purchasing, budgeting and financial reporting.
“I was really fortunate to get on with MPI. My whole career I’ve been taking on challenge after challenge, but I was always able to fall back on my skills as a CPA. I really feel that my CPA designation helped me understand different perspectives from many organizations and develop a healthy skepticism to ask questions and get a better understanding,” said Reichert.
Subsequently, Reichert retired in February of 2017, but she knew she wasn’t going to be done working for good.
“Even though I retired I still wanted to give back. During my time at PwC I volunteered for the legacy CA Institute and eventually chaired the Student Education committee. With the extra time I have now, I was able to commit as a member of the national CCG board which is a member of the Canadian Automobile Association. It’s been a lot of fun having the time and energy to give back to organizations I feel passionately about,” said Reichert.
Other community groups Reichert has been involved with include member of the Board of Governors for the University of Manitoba and Past-President and member of the University of Manitoba Alumni Association. She is a member of the Finance committee and Board of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation and Chair of the Finance and Administration Committee as well as member of the Board of Trustees of the United Way of Winnipeg.
Recently, Reichert took on the role of Chair of the CPA Manitoba Board of Directors.
“Ultimately, I wanted to give back to the profession that has given me so much. When I think back to all the successes I’ve had in my career, I know that many of those opportunities came from having the designation and the respect and reputation it has in the community. Part of what motivates me to work hard is to ensure those in their careers today, and the candidates studying to become CPAs, can have the same or greater opportunities that I did.”
As Chair, Reichert is getting ready to implement and continue the goals set out by the CPA Manitoba Board of Directors.
“There needs to be a continuation of engaging members, self regulation of our profession and making sure that the CPA designation is held in the highest regard,” said Reichert.
Looking back on her career, Reichert believes that becoming a CPA changed her life.
“I think being a CPA has got me in every door. I truly believe that any jobs that I applied for or many of the jobs I didn’t apply for, but people approached me and said ‘Are you interested?’ they wouldn’t have approached me if I didn’t have the designation,” said Reichert.