Roger Bissoondatt: Managing responsibly

CFO keeps financial tabs on Crown corporation with net revenues topping $1 billion

 Roger Bissoondatt, CFO, BC Liquor Distribution Branch | Photo: Rob Kruyt

As CFO of the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB), Roger Bissoondatt is responsible for the finances of a Crown corporation that contributes about $1 billion annually to the provincial government.

Under his supervision, the BCLDB achieved the net income target established by B.C.’s Finance Ministry, forecast at $1.1 billion for 2016-17, with Bissoondatt developing and presenting capital, revenue and expense budgets and operating plans to the provincial Treasury Board. Under his direction, the BCLDB has consistently exceeded revenue targets set by government, totalling $4.5 billion since 2012-13.

The BCLDB is the sole importer and wholesaler of beverage alcohol in B.C. It operates 198 government liquor stores, two distribution centres and a head office with about 4,000 full- and part-time employees. The corporation issues appointments and enters contracts for the operation of rural agency stores, and supplies product to more than 10,000 B.C. bars, restaurants and private retailers.

When it comes to liquor distribution and sales, Bissoondatt knows the business. He has been the BCLDB’s CFO for the past 18 years, was previously the organization’s chief auditor for about eight years, and filled in as interim general manager for eight months. As a youth in Trinidad, he helped at his family’s haberdashery where liquor was sold. Later, after his family relocated to Vancouver, he worked as a bartender and waiter to help pay for university while completing his bachelor of science degree at the University of British Columbia. While tending bar, he met a man who encouraged him to enter the field of finance.

“I was thinking about going into law, but I had a customer who frequented the bar and he suggested I look into accounting,” Bissoondatt said.

He followed the man’s advice and began taking accounting courses, eventually becoming a chartered accountant (CA), certified management accountant (CMA) and chartered financial planner.

Juggling school and work was challenging, but he was determined to succeed.

“A major milestone was when I got my CA and CMA, because they are professional designations,” he said. “It gave me a ticket to do something beyond an undergraduate degree, and it wasn’t easy getting there.”

He began his career as audit manager at what is now Grant Thornton, where he was encouraged by founding partner Peter Crawford and partner Bruce Milley, and later worked as internal auditor at Rivtow Straits Ltd. before joining the BCLDB.

A husband and father of two adult sons, Bissoondatt sits on the board of Financial Executives International and has led or been a committee member for every BCLDB or government liquor initiative over the past 15 years, chalking up numerous accomplishments along the way. He is known for consistently meeting and exceeding revenue targets, including driving a $151 million gain in fiscal 2015-16 and a projected gain of $67 million for fiscal 2016-17. He also maximized returns by identifying and working to fix inadequacies in liquor legislation and financial reporting, including driving an amendment to the Liquor Distribution Act after uncovering issues that had resulted in annual lost revenue of around $2 million.

In 2015, Bissoondatt spearheaded a separation of the BCLDB’s financial operations into two business units, retail and wholesale, to raise transparency and ensure financial efficiency. That same year, he also headed implementation of a new wholesale pricing model, overhauling the way liquor was sold to thousands of wholesale clients.

Leadership and mentorship are important to Bissoondatt, who is a four-time nominee for Canada’s CFO of the Year award. He encourages people to seek out formal and informal mentors to help bring out their best qualities.

“The one thing that really drives me is helping people succeed,” he said. “When I see somebody who wants to do something, it motivates me to try to help them. It’s not just help from a career point of view; it’s to help them in their own development.”

Bissoondatt, who lives in Vancouver, is also actively involved in his community. Since 1985, he has been a member of the Knights of Columbus. He was appointed district deputy of that organization after assisting his local council in developing and maintaining a stable financial environment over the past 30 years. He also previously introduced and implemented the Knights of Columbus youth program Free Throw Basketball Competition at Vancouver’s Sir James Douglas Elementary School, and has volunteered with the Burnaby Youth Secure Custody Centre for the past 32 years, as well as other organizations.

Blain Lawson, the BCLDB’s general manager and CEO, nominated Bissoondatt for the 2017 BC CFO Awards. Lawson said while the CFO has excellent technical skills, he nominated him mainly due to his outstanding leadership and mentorship skills.

“He has developed a really great team,” said Lawson, who has worked with Bissoondatt for four years. “We had quite a bit of change with our senior management team and Roger has been a great mentor.” 

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.