For Amanda Hobson, the best part of being a CFO is working with talented people, while also leading and mentoring along the way.
The CFO and vice-president of finance and corporate services for the British Columbia Lottery Corp. (BCLC), Hobson joined the provincial Crown corporation as a finance director in 2013. Fifteen months later, she was promoted to her current position.
Born in Calgary and raised in Prince George, Hobson recently moved to Kamloops, where the BCLC’s head office is located, from North Vancouver with her husband and their two young children.
“Becoming CFO of BCLC is probably the most significant milestone for me so far because it meant taking over responsibility for two functions that I had no previous experience with, corporate services and procurement,” said Hobson, who is a member of the BC Council of CFOs and sits on the board of the Interprovincial Lottery Corp.
The 40-year-old University of Victoria bachelor of commerce graduate leads a team of more than 100 staff and is responsible for financial management of the corporation, which has two offices, 850 staff and more than $3 billion in annual revenue. One of her biggest accomplishments has been reinventing BCLC’s business planning and forecasting process, introducing tighter controls on costs and stronger forecasts. BCLC delivered $1.3 billion in net income to the provincial government in 2016.
Before joining BCLC, Hobson worked in public practice at Deloitte & Touche and held various positions in the energy sector for public and private companies. Passionate about math, she entered the field of finance years ago when the father of a student she tutored in high school was so impressed that he offered her a job. The man, Brent Campbell, was managing partner of Deloitte & Touche in Prince George.
“I initially turned him down because the idea of becoming an accountant did not appeal to me, and I was not interested in being an auditor,” she said.
But when it came time to get a co-op job in university, Hobson realized the opportunity would be valuable experience.
“One work term turned into three and then I decided to get my accounting designation.”
Later in her career, Hobson realized that she had developed an interest she loved even more than math.
“I have learned that I am most passionate about leadership,” she said. “I used to be a technical accountant, happiest toiling away in my cubicle, creating spreadsheets and accounting papers.”
The certified public accountant and chartered accountant was previously not interested in managing people, believing that it reduced her productivity. She soon realized she would rather spend her time leading, teaching and mentoring others. She has become known for her leadership qualities and her people-first philosophy.
“Not only can I be a thousand times more productive through the well-directed work of others, but I can also have more fun and feel more rewarded.”
Mentorship is important for anyone embarking on the CFO path, said Hobson, who advocates seeking mentors outside of finance as well.
“It is important to expand your horizons and challenge yourself to think differently and learn from other people’s experiences, especially within the business operations,” she said.
Hobson’s path to her CFO position has presented twists, turns, adventures and challenges along the way.
“The hardest challenges have been periods of long hours and a lack of work-life balance when I questioned my choice of career and the true meaning of life.”
The turning point came for her when she stepped out of a financial reporting role at BCLC and moved into areas of people management and leadership.
Hobson said she had both positive and negative influences along the way, but she learned equally from both. She said BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody and her husband have been her greatest supports.
“My boss has an uncanny ability to see the best in everyone, which teaches me to focus on and leverage people’s strengths and downplay their weaknesses,” she added.
The modern CFO has transformed from the traditional bean counter into more of a strategic business partner, making the position much more challenging, she said.
“I think one of the greatest challenges for CFOs today is making room in their day job to become that strategic partner. Getting the right people, processes and technology in place to ensure day-to-day operations are running smoothly allows the CFO to focus on what I consider to be the fun stuff: getting more involved in the business and strategic priorities.”
Susan Dolinski, BCLC’s vice-president of social responsibility and communications, who nominated Hobson for this year’s BC CFO Awards, has known the CFO for about 15 years as a friend and colleague. She said what makes Hobson stand out is her attention to people over process and numbers, and her ability to build positive relationships with stakeholders.
“[Hobson] wears her heart on her suit jacket sleeve,” said Dolinski. “She exemplifies and lives her passion for excellence at all times.” •
Join us June 1 when Business in Vancouver celebrates the 2017 BC CFO Awards at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For further information or to register for the event, visit the event's page at www.biv.com/cfo.