Influential Women in Business: Kate Furber

Mentor and motivator: A passion for accounting and ‘people development’ has helped the PwC audit and assurance group partner gain influence

PwC audit and assurance group partner Kate Furber gets "a lot of self-reward from helping other people achieve their goals" | Chung Chow

Being named one of Business in Vancouver’s 2019 Influential Women in Business came as a surprise to PwC Canada audit and assurance group partner Kate Furber, as she does not view her work through a gender lens.

“I really get a lot of self--reward from helping other people achieve their goals,” Furber told BIV. “That has nothing to do with being a man or a woman.”

The U.K. expatriate’s passion is accounting, and what she calls “people development.”

She has mentored about 10 women in PwC’s Women in Leadership program, mostly sequentially, during the past decade, and she formally coaches six PwC employees – both men and women.

PwC partner John Delucchi, who formerly coached Furber, said that a passion for helping others has been characteristic of Furber for many years.

“She is someone who is an unselfish leader and team player,” he said. “She is capable herself and does a great job leading teams. She motivates teams through inspiring them and setting goals and challenges, and supporting the teams. The thing that is unique about her is that she is very good at giving people the credit they deserve.”

Originally from Cornwall, England, Furber knew at a young age that she wanted to travel the world.

After high school, she took a “gap year” and set out to travel around Europe in 1989. She snagged a five-month internship position in Frankfurt, Germany, working for what was then Price Waterhouse – a fateful post, given that it helped provide the launching pad for a lifetime at the company that evolved to become PwC.

After earning a bachelor of arts at London’s Warwick University, Furber joined PwC’s London office, and she was coached to take projects that she said were outside her comfort zone.

One opportunity arose to do a six-month secondment at PwC’s office in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was an eye-opening time, she said, describing clients as “not as organized as counterparts in London.”

Just before the end of the century, another opportunity arose. This time she was persuaded to apply for an assurance manager job in Vancouver, which was expected to last 30 months.

Twenty years on, she reflected on her early memories of the city, and how much more entrepreneurial her clients were in Vancouver compared with ones she had worked with in London.

“The average size of client was smaller, but the role that you had in helping and advising was bigger, so I found it more fulfilling,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work with some great people internally and some great clients.”

A six-month stint in the early 2000s took her to Washington, D.C., where she became part of an eight-member cohort of employees in PwC’s Genesis Park, a global leadership development program. The program was new, and she was the first Canadian woman to be selected – an honour because the program accepts the top 2% to 5% of senior managers at PwC.

Her cohort’s accomplishment was developing PwC’s initial response to the U.S. government’s Sarbanes-Oxley Act 404, which had recently been enacted and was a piece of legislation that strengthened the independence and financial literacy of corporate boards.

“We weren’t responsible for the global firm’s response to [Sarbanes-Oxley Act] 404 by any means, but we contributed to it,” she said.

When Furber became a partner at PwC’s Vancouver office in 2007, there was only one other female assurance partner in the province, she said.

That number has risen to 10 out of approximately 25 assurance partners, she said, before adding that the firm now has a goal of having 50% of new partners be women.

Through it all, her passion for accounting has not waned.

“[It’s] interesting: neither of my children think it’s exciting,” she said. “They will come around.” •

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