#FinInTech: Our Conversation with The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation

#FinInTech is Luminari’s initiative to introduce CPAs to the start-up world. 

Our most recent #FinInTech Speaker Series event featured the Honourable Navdeep Bains, CPA, CMA, who is currently Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Since his appointment in 2015, Minister Bains has overseen billions of dollars in initiatives promoting science, research, and other areas of growth. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:

  1. We need diversity of perspectives and ideas.

    [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We actually need people of different backgrounds, and I think accountants were understated. “[/perfectpullquote]

    In a world where we are competing with the United States, China, India, the EU, and other markets, Minister Bains sees Canada’s advantage as diversity of people and talent.

    “I travel the world, and I can tell you right now that we truly are the envy of the world when it comes to our diversity and multiculturalism.”

    Diversity includes culture, as well as profession and expertise. That means not just having all lawyers, or all designers, or all engineers in a room. Diversity is what will allow Canadian organizations to leverage many different perspectives and skillsets. To give an example, Canada is a leader in science and research: we have 0.5% of the world’s population, but 2% of the world’s publications. However, we are not as strong in commercialization, scaling companies, or managing intellectual property. These are some of the areas where Minister Bains plans to focus on in growing Canada’s economy on a global scale.

  2. Seek out mentors. You may be surprised at who will give you their time.

    [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”If there is one point I can underscore, it’s the importance of mentors.[/perfectpullquote]

    “Seek out people; you may be surprised. Even though they may be in positions that are 2 or 3 levels above you, if you make the point of seeking their advice—being respectful of their time and very thoughtful in your approach—they’d be more than willing to mentor you and guide you.”

    As an accountant entering politics, one of Minister Bains’ first mentors was the incumbent Prime Minister himself, Paul Martin. While that is definitely impressive, Minister Bains has also sought guidance from less senior mentors. For example, to improve his public speaking, Minister Bains turn to his friends.

    “I sought out friends who do media training to give me advice on what are some of the mistakes I’m making: How can I choose my words more carefully? How I can communicate complex issues in a manner that would resonate with Canadians?”

  3. You are more business-savvy than you think, and your CPA skillset is widely applicable.

    If you spend everyday around other accountants, it is easy to overlook how numerically talented you are compared to those with other specialties. In addition to numbers, you also have a general business sense that you might take for granted.

    When Navdeep Bains first became the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, he realized that many of his colleagues and predecessors did not have the comfortability with numbers that he had.

    “There were many occasions where members of parliament would say ‘take me through these supplementary estimates’, ‘what does this mean?’, ‘how do I interpret this?’…you’d be surprised. These are big numbers—if you’re comparing year over year, month versus month, how do you interpret that data and properly understand it in a way that helps you make better decisions?”

    [perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”We (CPAs) underestimate ourselves.”[/perfectpullquote]

    “That is why I encourage accountants to sometimes not follow traditional paths. The startup community that does so much in terms of creating jobs, generating wealth, solving some of the challenges we are dealing with, aren’t necessarily accountants. So how do accountants engage with that ecosystem?”

    “I meet many people in the startup community—very few accountants. [#FinInTech] is a great example of how you are taking CPAs into an area where it will really benefit us as a country, and benefits CPAs because it will open more doors for them as well.”

To hear more of the conversation, you can watch the full video above or on our Youtube channel.

Interested in a career in startups? Or maybe you’re just curious? Check out our #FinInTech initiative—where you can attend amazing events, learn to apply your CPA skillset, or be placed with a rapidly growing startup!


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