Gillian Kunza

Co-Founder & CEO, Designed Wealth Management

"Technology, risk management and the cultivation of new opportunities are critical areas for the CPA profession to meet head on. My experiences as a CEO and in other executive roles will be highly beneficial to Council as we pursue our best and brightest future possible in the profession."

Short Bio

I have a decade of senior leadership roles that have focused on risk management, strategic implementation, and talent development in the Canadian investment industry. My experiences have provided me with unique insights into governance and strategy in fast growing organizations in strongly regulated frameworks.

As co-founder, director, and CEO of a wealth management firm, I navigate the emergence of new technology in financial services and provide leadership across multiple partners. I advocate for the highest standards in governance and keep the importance of the publics best interest at the forefront of our initiatives.

Gillian Kunza's Detailed Bio

Voluntary work with CPA Ontario or other professional bodies:

I am a current member of the Ontario District Council and the Conduct, Compliance, and Legal Advisory Section Committee of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). I was a past member of the Client Focused Reforms working group of the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC) during 2019/2020.

I have been a CPA mentor since 2016.

Career achievements:

I am a strategic and creative professional with over ten years in management and executive level positions. I am seen as a charismatic leader who focuses on collaboration within my teams and seek to ensure that success encompasses measurements beyond the bottom line.

I am currently co-founder and serving as CEO and director of Designed Wealth Management, and a member of both the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (MFDA), where I work alongside Chartered Professional Accountants, Chartered Financial Analysts, Chartered Investment Managers and other industry professionals to help them find operational efficiencies and implement growth strategies for their wealth management practices. As part of my firm’s mandate, my team and I are modernizing the delivery of wealth management by focusing on key parameters in operations, finance and compliance, so that advisors can best serve their clients, while also contributing to the long-term value of their practice.

I also lead the firm’s integration of emerging technology by managing the balance between the regulatory framework in which financial services exist and the pace of innovation arising in the industry. Working alongside wealth technology firms, I provide guidance and input on the safeguards, workflows, and user experiences that are necessary to achieve the optimal technology solutions for providing financial services to the public. With a strong background in compliance, I also play a key role in the firm’s risk management and the creation and implementation of policies, procedures, and governance protocols for the firm.

Prior to my current role, I was Chief Compliance Officer of an investment dealer with $13 billion in assets under administration, serving over 250 advisors across Canada. I have also worked in public accounting with small and mid-sized companies to achieve short- and long-term desired financial results. Throughout my career I have established depth in achieving strategic process improvement and performance management.

Other professional accomplishments:

I graduated from Trent University in 2008 and am completing my EMBA at the Rotman School of Management (Class of 2024). I am also leading initiatives that promote women in the financial services industry who are seeking development and support in achieving ownership and decision-making control in their businesses.

I earned my six-sigma green belt in 2019.

Other voluntary service and recognition:

I served as a treasurer for Peterborough Theatre Guild, from 2018 to 2021. My creative inspirations are driven from my life-long involvement in the performing arts, specifically vocal performance and opera, where I have contributed to ensuring the arts thrive in amateur to professional settings. I have also been known to perform opera and other song repertoire at occasional business functions as a way to share the arts in my professional environments.

Candidate Statement

Why are you interested in joining Council?

My career has been significantly influenced by my CPA designation. Over time, I shifted gears and took my competencies into the investment industry, not just through accounting positions, but also in operational, compliance, and strategic positions. Accounting is a fundamental aspect of all businesses, community organizations and households—it is underlying in all aspects of our economy. The competencies and training gained under a CPA designation include strategic thinking, critical qualitative thinking and quantitative skills, and they result in truly well-rounded CPA Ontario members. It is because of the varied and in-depth positions in which we find CPA professionals that I am interested in joining the Council. The members are critical professionals across industries, roles, responsibilities and areas of influence and I am seeking to join the Council to be of service to that community. I want to participate in the governance and strategic direction of CPA Ontario and ensure our members continue to get a robust and thoughtful governance team to drive forward the mandates and reputation of CPA Ontario.

How do your experiences align with the following skills, attributes and experiences that have been prioritized for incoming members of Council? Please share two to three examples.

  • Board and Governance Experience
  • Business Acumen
  • Emerging Technology
  • Risk Management
  • Future of the Profession / Learning
  • ESG / DE&I

I am currently co-founder and director of a Canadian wealth management firm and have unique skills, experiences, and perspectives to share as a Council member. As examples, “business acumen,” “emerging technology,” and “risk management” are areas of strength.

I have served as an executive in the financial services and investment industry for 12 years. My experiences range from controllership responsibilities, human resource management, change management, and strategic planning. Having created a wealth management firm in 2020, during the pandemic, in a large, established industry, my business acumen was put to the test. There is significant regulatory framework involved, complex budgeting required, and the industry itself is facing pressures from the public to handle emerging concepts—cryptocurrencies, decentralized processing, fee reduction, etc. There is no shortage of business acumen needed, and I am grateful to bring that skill forward. CPA Ontario would also benefit from having insights into the overlapping themes found in the wealth management industry. Additionally, my entrepreneurial perspectives have also helped to develop my business acumen.

A prevalent theme in wealth management is “emerging technology.” I have worked with financial technology firms on how to integrate into the financials services market. The parameters in which technology and financial services interface is a layered, multifaceted undertaking. “Wealthtech” is an area I spend a considerable amount of time on, and I believe CPA Ontario would benefit greatly in having my experience at the table when discussing emerging technology.

My career has always had a “risk” focus. In wealth management, “risk” is viewed in a variety of ways. Client “risk tolerance” captures a range of details meant to establish the boundaries for which a wealth approach is suitable for them. From an operational perspective, risk is contemplated daily when designing procedures, working with vendors, and assessing overall exposure. From a compliance perspective, risk management is achieved by understanding not just the regulatory frameworks (e.g. securities laws, anti-money laundering rules), but also the ways in which both policies and procedures have to combine to prevent and detect deficiencies. Not to mention, assessing “materiality” on any of these areas far exceeds a simple mathematical calculation. My skills in risk management are founded on my CPA education, but my practical experience has resulted in a large, expanded understanding of the application of risk management that would be of great value to the CPA Ontario Council.

What is the greatest opportunity and challenge facing the accounting profession and CPA Ontario?

Although the pandemic continues to impact people and organizations, simultaneously, the world is moving forward in inventive ways. CPA Ontario has a strong reputation. It is an integral part of multiple industries and is an educational resource for people—from those starting their financial literacy journey, to those seeking highly specialized expertise. As businesses, professionals and students seek to rebuild after the pandemic, I see an opportunity for CPA Ontario to dominate in their leadership and service to the public at large. As technology changes how people transact, CPA Ontario will be there with guidance. As new businesses start to thrive, CPA Ontario will be their resource to sustain and capitalize on their success. As students seek to build careers in financial fields, CPA Ontario will be there to highlight the many paths they can take and facilitate mentorship for their success.

Accounting has such a grand scope of influence, which allows for plenty of opportunity. However, the challenge is to ensure that each initiative to achieve that mandate does not dilute, conflict or otherwise reverse leadership progress, but rather support and build on the momentum around it.