Aritzia CFO shares insight about accounting and his career

There’s more to accounting than just crunching numbers, says Aritzia CFO Warren Beach, who shares insight about his career and the unified CPA designation

Warren Beach

By Renu Singh-Joseph

Following a career path that he wasn’t initially sure of turned out to be the best decision Warren Beach made, resulting in a successful, versatile and enriching career. Now chief financial officer of Aritzia, Beach has had an extensive career as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), in which he has led financial teams and worked for multiple, diverse industries.

“It’s a funny story – when I first started the [accounting] program, I actually wasn’t completely convinced that I wanted to do the program,” says Beach. “I did it from the perspective that it would be a really solid base for business.”

Family and friends helped assure him that accounting could provide invaluable insight into business, plus skills that could be harnessed in a range of industries and roles.

“The training you go through to become a CPA is very rigorous and is well designed to give people who obtain the designation a solid platform in which they can work and add a tremendous amount of value to a business.”

Indeed, over the last two decades Beach has included on his resumé roles at Sierra Systems Group and TimberWest Forest Corp. Beach joined Aritzia in 2013. “It’s a business founded, grown and based in Vancouver. Not a lot of businesses are still based here in town, and Aritzia is a growing business with a great path ahead of it.” 

In his role as Aritzia’s CFO, Beach says his accounting background provides “the opportunity to help build and be a part of a world-class finance team that supports Aritzia’s successful expansion.” From a single store in Vancouver in the early 1980’s, Aritzia has grown to more than 65 locations throughout North America.

“Part of the training you go through to become a CPA gives you a lot of clarity around how to build a solid foundation to support the growth of a business. The education that you have had, and the experiences with other businesses, allows you the ability to provide value in terms of building that solid platform for growth at Aritzia or other businesses growing fast."

“It’s like building an apartment building or a house. The more aggressively you build the house and the more stairs you add to the house, it adds significance and you really want to make sure that you build a solid foundation to support that growth. The [accounting] program that you go through, certainly in my life, has been very instrumental to building that foundation.”

In 2012, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada introduced a framework for uniting the Canadian accounting profession. Instead of multiple designations, there would be one designation – CPA.

“It’s an important step because our profession is all about credibility and public trust,” says Beach. “I think having three different designations in Canada was a source of confusion for people that are not in the profession. Moreover, having one central regulated governing body can provide more clarity about our profession, what we do and what we offer to the business community. I believe that’s a good thing.”

Whether you’re a university student or a corporate executive, Beach says, pursuing a CPA is a rewarding and enriching decision. Your knowledge and skill set are comprehensive, allowing you to fill a number of roles within an organization, from treasury and accounting to financial planning and analysis, he says.

Beach says he went into the profession thinking he wouldn’t be an accountant for the long haul, but he realized during the program that accountants do more than crunch numbers.

The CPA designation “really gives you ‘street cred’ so you can actually go out and hit the ground running in terms of getting into a business and starting a career,” says Beach. “The CPA for me has been very good. I was surprised at the number and breadth of opportunities that were open to me once I got my CPA – a lot wider and deeper than I had anticipated.”