How a CPA makes sense of the world beyond dollars and cents
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With a father who taught at Simon Fraser University and a mother who works as a chartered professional accountant (CPA), Jocelyn Li is most certainly her parents’ daughter. Now working as both a CPA and a post-secondary instructor herself, Li is paying it forward in her roles with KPMG Canada and at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.
As a senior manager in KPMG’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability services practice, Li works with clients across sectors, including apparel, oil and gas, mining, and financial institutions, among others.
It’s through her training as a CPA that Li can dig into the minutiae of vast numbers and scenarios to make sense of it all to her clients.
“I would never say math is my passion, but what I enjoy as a CPA who works in ESG is taking numbers from really analytical and technical data and making it decision-useful and relevant to clients and other stakeholders,”
Li explains. “Everything we do is insight-driven.”
An acronym that was rarely used a decade ago, ESG is now central to businesses of all sizes and sectors.
The ABCs of ESG
A decidedly broad topic – as it’s intended to be – Li begins her ESG work with a client by asking two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you do?
From there, it’s about identifying how a company’s work impacts the world or vice versa, understanding risks and opportunities, setting and managing goals, developing initiatives and strategies to meet them, and communicating progress.
For example, an oil and gas company may need guidance managing climate change targets. On the other hand, a manufacturer might have metrics on health and safety targets, and a developer might focus on how many people it can house.
Li’s training as a CPA allows her to take these big-picture questions and distill the answers and recommendations so everyone, from the C-Suite executive to the frontline worker, understands the goals and how to get there.
“CPAs help make numbers understandable and relevant for decision making,” Li describes. “This also extends beyond financial numbers. For example, a CPA can take performance data, and make this information relevant to organizations internally as well as in their external reporting.”
From ESG to UBC
Photo credit: Bobo Zhao Photography
Li received her Bachelor of Commerce in accounting from UBC and has been back teaching at the Sauder School of Business since 2021.
The benefits here are two-fold: Li gets to give back to the current crop of up-and-coming accounting professionals while honing her abilities to convey timely information that can only come from someone currently employed in the industry.
“It’s a different type of challenge, but it’s important for me to be able to work with and learn from anyone, whether that’s a peer, a senior, or my students,” Li says. “Teaching is a way to keep myself grounded, to keep myself learning and to keep myself on my toes.”
The DNA of a CPA
Introvert or extrovert, it matters not – Li says there are jobs to be found for every personality type.
The importance of adaptability, however, trumps all in this profession, according to Li.
“You need to have a deep appreciation that in ESG, everyone is learning. There’s a chance that there could be better or other solutions,” she says.
“You can’t get hung up on having all the answers all the time because the reality is that things are always changing around us, and staying put isn’t an option.”
To learn more about becoming a CPA or how they can help take your business to the next level, visit “Your Journey to Becoming a CPA” on our site.
Originally posted by Business in Vancouver.