Controller values accountability and workplace culture
Financial Literacy Month is the perfect time to highlight Decoda Literacy’s Controller, Fanny Romeyn.
Once an audit manager for a prestigious global financial firm, Fanny is one of Decoda’s original employees and her skills have helped keep BC’s provincial literacy organization and charitable foundation accountable since 2011.
“Every day, I am grateful for Fanny’s experience and commitment to Decoda’s value of accountability,” says Decoda’s executive director, Margaret Sutherland. “She upholds our responsibility to Decoda and to our clients and stakeholders and focusses on superior quality and excellence in all. And, the office is always a fun and lively place when Fanny is there!”
Fanny talks about her beginnings, why literacy and financial literacy are important to her, what it takes to be fiscally responsible, and the importance of a healthy work-life balance.
“I’ve been with Decoda since day one,” says Fanny. “As I learned more about the nonprofit and charity world, I grew a lot as a person. What we do at Decoda is important. I believe you have everything to gain if you have good literacy skills, and then you can continue to learn.”
Accounting in any language
Originally from Hong Kong, Fanny says her parents were not highly educated but valued education.
“In traditional Chinese culture, girls don’t need education. But my parents were quite Westernized. They believed girls should be educated.”
She pursued accounting because it is so transferrable – accounting is accounting in any language.
Big Four experience
Fanny achieved a BA Sc degree in Economics in London, majoring in Accounting and Finance, and then spent 15 years as an audit manager for Coopers & Lybrand, which later merged with Price Waterhouse to become PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) – one of the ‘Big Four’ global accounting firms.
She was good at her job but was ready for new challenges.
Decoda’s accountability: living within our means
In a small organization like Decoda, the controller is responsible for everything from preparing monthly financial statements, variance analysis and regulatory reports to annual budgets, forecasts and payroll. In addition, Fanny takes on human resources roles like benefits coordination, IT contracts and business licenses. Fanny knows how finance applies to Decoda’s two branches – the nonprofit organization Decoda Literacy Solutions and the registered charity Decoda Literacy Foundation. She manages all the incoming funds from grants and donors, and all the outgoing funds supporting 100 literacy outreach coordinators, IPALS and Fostering Literacy programs, Displaced Workers projects, CALP coordination, and The Westcoast Reader.
She uses the same financial literacy philosophies at work and in life:
“We all have to live within our means. Decoda is supported by taxpayers or donors, we have to be responsible because it’s not our money. I’m very careful with how we spend it.”
Information is power
In both literacy and financial literacy, Fanny says, “Information is power. I believe you would have a better life when you are more literate. With financial literacy, if you don’t have the right information, you can make bad decisions that affect your life and your family.”
Her number one financial tip is: “Don’t get into any credit card loan. That is the most expensive way of financing and will take you a very long time to repay the debt.”
Winning workplace culture
Beyond the work itself, the connection with staff is something she loves about Decoda.
“When I started working for Decoda, the culture and landscape were completely different from what I was used to.”
While the corporate giant PWC was dominated by men, Decoda is a small organization run by women.
“As women, I think we look at life differently and measure success differently. What’s really important? There is more work/life balance. We want more time to look after ourselves and our families.”
Family-friendly and fiscally responsible
Fanny says that Decoda is both family-friendly and fiscally responsible by offering flex hours and flex office policies – and in fact, almost half of Decoda’s staff work part-time.
“It’s really a win-win. We attract people who like the work – not just the money,” she says. “There is less stress. We all work together to make Decoda the best organization possible.”
For Fanny, the work/life balance meant being available for her daughters while they were growing up. Now that they are 18 and 21, Fanny puts her extra time into a part-time position with another nonprofit – Reconciliation Canada.
“I set out to help this organization,” she says. “There is so much I learned while working for Decoda that transfers well. I am rewarded more than I deserve with my personal journey to reconciliation, and the friendships that I have developed.”
Finance is like a puzzle
For Fanny, finance is like a puzzle, and everything is a problem to be solved.
“I like to keep my brain active. I like to solve problems. Sometimes I do 1000-piece puzzles – and I like British detective shows.”
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