If you scan Vancouver’s skyline, chances are you’ll spot a building designed by Westbank Corp. – it’s the company behind a number of innovative developments shaping the face of Vancouver, such as TELUS Gardens, the Shangri-La hotel, and looking ahead, Deloitte’s new downtown office. With over $25 billion of real estate projects constructed or currently under development, the company is known for buildings that incorporate cutting edge designs, world-class artwork, and green technologies.
Judy Leung, CPA, CA, Westbank’s CFO, is behind much of the company’s success – her responsibilities encompass providing financial leadership and overseeing organizational structure and human resources duties. Judy sat down with CPABC to discuss her career journey, and to share her insight on how a high level of commitment and a focus on the bigger picture is an important part of being a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).
Please give us a brief overview of your career path.
“I was 20 when I graduated from UBC Commerce Program with a major in accounting, and I started to earn my accounting designation right after that, so I’ve never had a break!”
Can you tell me a bit about your first role in finance? What excited you about the job? Were there any notable challenges?
“My first real job out of university was as an articling student at KPMG. I was excited just to be able to be part of a team and to be able to get exposure to a number of different companies. My first challenge was just learning to absorb the sheer amount of information being thrown my way and how to process it in any meaningful manner so that I could add value to the team.”
Why did you join Westbank?
“I was feeling that public accounting wasn’t for me after a while, so a friend of a friend asked me to come up to the office to “chat” and before I knew it, I was starting work shortly thereafter. I was in the real estate group at KPMG, so it made sense to jump fully into the real estate industry.”
You do all of the recruiting for Westbank. What do you look for in an employee? Conversely, what tells you that someone might not be a good fit?
“I would describe someone who is a good fit as an adaptable, hardworking, reliable, dedicated, humble, and proactive team player, who is not looking for titles or glory or next steps. Just someone who really enjoys doing more, and contributing to something bigger because it is part of their life values.
Someone who treats their job as a job and wants a roadmap or the next step on the ladder is not a good fit.”
What do people starting a career in accounting or finance need to know about this field to succeed?
“You have to really enjoy being a problem solver and a team player. There is no substitute for hard work and focus, and you have to jump in with both feet to be a part of solutions, so you need to enjoy the journey.”
If you were talking to a prospective CPA, what would you say about the designation?
“It is the best training ground to explore how businesses works, not just within one organization, but by being able to get into the guts of so many businesses when you article at an accounting firm. The articling programs also provide the best opportunities to learn from every angle because you work with so many people at all different levels.”
Looking back to the start of your career, what advice would you give your younger self?
“Get your travels done before you start work!”