by Patty Mah

From audit to asset management, alum Erica La adds ESG as a common denominator

Image of Erica LaErica La’s (MAcc ’10, CPA) career journey started quite traditionally from an accounting perspective. As an Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) student, La completed her co-op work terms and began her career after graduation with PwC. After exploring and taking on diverse roles within audit, La left PwC as a senior associate, to work for Borealis Infrastructure, now known as OMERS Infrastructure. La’s next career move brought her to RealStar, a past audit client from PwC, to take on a new opportunity in finance with their organization.

La attributes the people she works with and the supportive network within RealStar to creating an environment that has allowed her to grow and build a life-long career with RealStar. “My role as VP of ESG and Asset Management aren’t areas I studied in school,” notes La. “I’m grateful to have the opportunities to take on new challenges and to continue learning to stay on top of what’s important and to be part of the important decisions, processes, and journeys the organization is going through.”

Acknowledging the need for diverse expertise to be at the table La feels strongly that “there’s a lot of bridging that needs to happen within an organization where every decision maker needs to understand [Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)] concepts and be able to speak knowledgeably about these concepts.” To ensure that ESG factors are accounted for and for natural and social systems to be valued appropriately, La advises that “a finance professional and an engineer should have a common denominator of knowledge in ESG initiatives where they’ll be able to meet and create plans and solutions together.”

La commends the SAF for building and launching the Sustainability and Financial Management (SFM) program to equip future financial professionals with a foundation in accounting, finance, environment and sustainability. Eager to be hiring graduates with this common denominator of knowledge in addition to expertise in accounting and finance, La further indicates that “everything we talk about in ESG will eventually be reflected in your financial performance. Being able to digest and understand numbers and all the things that contribute to performance beyond the traditional metrics like happy employees and a healthy environment adds value for an organization.”

La is excited as Canada and the rest of the world journey together as ESG standards and reporting are being defined to measure important but non-traditional metrics that will eventually show up in every organization’s financial performance.

The School of Accounting and Finance caught up with La at the RealStar office in Toronto to learn more about her career journey before joining RealStar, the importance and impact of ESG reporting, and her advice for aspiring professionals aiming for executive level roles.