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Thinking Outside the Box

For Ruben Ortiz, CPA, CMA, being creative and a strategic thinker is all in a day’s work 

Think an accounting designation is only applicable to a career in public practice? Think again. For Ruben Ortiz, director in the corporate finance division at BMO, becoming a chartered professional accountant opened doors to a creative career in corporate finance—and a new life in Canada. Here, he talks about how a career in accounting is so much more than debits, credits and taxes.
How did you get your start in the finance industry?  
I’m originally from Mexico, and moved to Canada nine years ago with my wife. I got my bachelor’s degree in finance in Mexico, and worked for Scotiabank. So when we moved to Canada, I got into banking all over again, but I had to start from scratch. In Mexico, I had a job similar to what I have right now—I was an account manager in commercial banking. But when I moved to Canada, they told me, “OK, you have good experience, you have good education, but you don’t have a proven track record in Canada.” I said, “OK. I don’t mind starting from the bottom. The only thing I need is opportunity. Give me a shot and leave the rest to me.” So, in the end I started all over again as a teller. 
What attracted you to banking in the first place?
Ever since I was young, even in high school, I was already into business. I started working in retail stores and I always related to inventory control and increasing revenue and sales. So I decided to go into finance because it talks more about strategy, rather than just accounting principles. It’s using accounting and finance knowledge to build strategies. That’s why I like it—you can apply it everywhere. 
What is one thing about your job that may surprise people?
One of the things that I really like about my job is the ability to be creative, which is not something that always comes to mind when you think of an accountant. When people think of accounting, it’s more like a boxed-in way of thinking. There are certain rules that you have to follow in terms of credits and debits and taxation. The law is the law. But the work I do right now is very creative. 
How are you able to incorporate creativity into the work?
My clients are car dealerships, so I finance inventory and real estate. When clients come to me and say they’re thinking of buying this other dealership or doing an acquisition, I start thinking about how I’m going to structure the financing for that. I need to create a financial structure that makes sense for them and makes sense to the bank. There’s no cookie-cutter approach. 
What would you say to people who are considering becoming a CPA? 
I would say it’s a pretty interesting designation. It’s a designation that covers a lot of different areas of a business, such as marketing, logistics, finance, and of course, accounting. But the main umbrella that covers everything, that puts everything together, is a consistent strategy. And that’s where the training puts a lot of emphasis: to make sure that everybody in each of the different departments—marketing, finance, distribution, sales—is walking in the same direction. 


Photo by Adam Blasberg