2020 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. 

It’s an honour beyond words to be selected as the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. To be chosen amongst so many deserving candidates is completely overwhelming. When I heard the news, to be honest I was flabbergasted. So many others could have been chosen. I’m totally humbled and thankful.

When his phone rang, Vince Warden, FCPA, FCMA thought he was going to be receiving news about someone joining a board of directors he sits on. Instead, he was informed he had been selected by his peers to be the recipient of the province’s highest professional accounting honour, the CPA Manitoba Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Lifetime Achievement is bestowed to one member annually who has brought honour to the profession by distinction in service to the profession, career or community. Although Vince was an obvious choice to his peers and colleagues, the news completely surprised him.

“It’s an honour beyond words to be selected as the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. To be chosen amongst so many deserving candidates is completely overwhelming. When I heard the news, to be honest I was flabbergasted. So many others could have been chosen. I’m totally humbled and thankful,” Vince says.

Warden’s story is so much more than his outstanding career that spans over 40 years with Manitoba Hydro.

“I was the third of seven kids,” Warden explains. “My parents ran some hotels and restaurants across rural Manitoba and Saskatchewan, so it was a good thing there was always a lot of us kids around to help. As a child in that environment, we moved around quite a bit.”

To look after the business, the Warden family lived in many small prairie towns including Elkhorn, Virden, Roblin, Broadview, and Esterhazy.

“I worked along with my brothers and sisters in the restaurants and went into the business myself when I graduated high school, operating an establishment in Wolseley, Saskatchewan,” he recalls.

It was ultimately the experience of running a business that nudged him into the world of accounting. “I realized if I wanted to be successful over the long haul, I needed to get finance experience. At the same time, I remember the auditors would come around and I was really impressed with their level of business knowledge,” Vince explains. “I sort of put two and two together and began looking around for a program that would be right for me.”

He found the Registered Industrial Accountants (RIA) program and at the age of 20, enrolled and moved to Winnipeg to pursue his education.

“I ended up finding a place to stay and shared room and board with some really nice people. That was certainly an exciting point in my life,” he remembers.

As he became immersed in the program, he quickly realized he really enjoyed accounting and made the right choice – although at this point, he still had every intention of being an entrepreneur.

But two things happened that would forever alter Warden’s career. “I really got along well with my instructor in the program,” he explains. “Our personalities just clicked. He was also working as a Manager at Manitoba Hydro at that time and before I had even completed the program, he asked if I wanted to join the organization. I figured it would be a great way to earn some extra money and continue learning the ropes.”

Those set of circumstances would launch Warden’s 40-year career at the crown corporation which would see him climb the ladder from a clerical position in 1967 to Senior Vice-President, Finance & Administration and Chief Financial Officer by 2009.

“I found the energy business to be completely fascinating in way I never really thought possible. When I started it was safe to say I had no intention of staying at Manitoba Hydro over the long term, but one job led to another, and before I knew it four decades had gone by,” Warden said with a laugh. “The business and people are what kept me there, without a doubt. It’s ever changing and there was always something going on. I loved every minute of it.”

One of Warden’s most memorable moments came in early 1999 when he was charged with negotiating the acquisition of Centra Gas Manitoba, which was owned by Westcoast Energy based out of Vancouver.

“It was almost unheard of for a crown corporation to acquire a company of that size. I remember going back and forth from Manitoba to B.C. a whole bunch of times to lead that process. It was really an exciting time and something we really wanted to succeed because we knew it would be a great deal for Manitobans,” he explained.

Once the deal was complete, he went on to play a leading role in integrating the two companies.

“We wanted employees to be able to work on electric and gas at the same time with fully integrated customer service. We were able to do that, and at the time, Manitoba Hydro was the largest integrated electrical and natural gas company in Canada. It’s always been something I’ve been very proud of,” says Warden.

All told, Warden held 13 different positions at Manitoba Hydro with more than 20 years of experience in senior leadership roles. “There are so many memories and great experiences I had over my career but what really stands out – and what ultimately kept me going— was the relationships I formed with so many incredible people. Looking back, that’s what I cherish the most.”

Throughout his working days, Warden served on many work-related boards and committees for an array of entities including the Canadian Gas Association, Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation Board, Wuskwatim General Partnership and others. While those experiences were certainly rewarding, he always wanted to give back to the community more directly.

Warden retired from Manitoba Hydro in 2013 which allowed him to become involved with some causes that have always been important to him. He’s the current Chair of the Main Street Project – a charity that has served the needs of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable since 1972. Working under a Housing First philosophy, the organization helps transition individuals experiencing homelessness towards stable, permanent housing.

“I also chair the Audit and Finance Committee of Cancer Care Manitoba. In both roles I am so impressed with the great people who contribute their time to these initiatives. Everyone truly wants to see our community be as healthy and successful as possible and it’s truly energizing to be part of that. I also feel very humbled that I can play a small role in helping provide direction for these great causes,” Warden says.

Although the annual Member Recognition Gala has been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, Warden took a moment to share his thoughts on the upcoming event.

“I am looking forward to sharing a special night with my family who has been so supportive over my entire career. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without them. I’m also excited to see friends and colleagues that I haven’t seen for several years. It will be nice when we can come together as a profession again and celebrate the successes and positive change that all the award winners and FCPAs have brought about. Our profession has a lot to be proud of.”

The Member Recognition Gala at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has been re-scheduled for May 13, 2021 to recognize the 2020 and 2021 recipients. The 2020 recipients will continue to be featured on the Winnipeg Free Press homepage this fall.