Gwen Gareau – The even-keeled adventurer
A CPA for nearly 20 years, Gwen Gareau’s business acumen and work ethic formed at an early age, first on the family farm, and then in high school when she got involved with Junior Achievement, an organization that supports budding entrepreneurs.
In her twenties she moved to Toronto from Saskatchewan, where she was raised. After she graduated from Ryerson University with a business degree in accounting and obtained her CPA with PwC, she gained management and finance experience through progressive roles at public mining companies.
In 2013, she and her husband decided to seize the moment and take a travel sabbatical. They set sail for the Eastern Caribbean on a voyage that was supposed to last a year or two but grew into a three-year adventure!
“Preparing for this trip was a major task to manage,” she says. “Embarking on this adventure when I did, at that stage of my career, showed me how willing I was to take risks. I also learned the importance of keeping your cool. When the engine overheats and the boat may catch on fire, or you have to ride out a bad storm, you gain a new perspective on your worries … and you learn how to problem-solve on the spot to stay safe!”
Back on dry land in Canada, she left life at sea behind to resume her career. Appointed Chief Financial Officer and then President of iA Auto Finance, she quickly immersed herself in her new field. “Stepping into leadership in the midst of the pandemic with so much uncertainty and learning to operate in the new virtual world, keeping the business going in the right direction, was quite a challenge,” she recalls.
Inspired to get involved in initiatives like the Women’s Network employee resource group, she found that iA Financial Group was the perfect fit for her. “Joining iA Financial Group was a very positive development. It feels right to be on the managing team of a company that is caring and proud.”
In October 2021, another door opened for Gwen when she was appointed as the Senior Vice-President of iA Dealer Services. “Switching from the auto finance to the Dealer Services business was a big challenge, even though they are both in the auto industry. They are very different businesses with different challenges, but it comes down to the teams and relationships.”
Leading teams in Brossard, Oakville and Vancouver in iA’s work from anywhere environment has been very positive, and Gwen enjoys the remote work options iA adopted several years ago which have become firmly rooted since the pandemic.
As for what lies ahead for Dealer Services, there’s no shortage of ambitious plans. “The automotive industry is in transition,” she points out, “with digital retailing, electrification, autonomous vehicles, and so on. We will make sure that we are ready to take on the challenge!”
While Gwen still thoroughly enjoys travel, especially to tropical locations to get a break from Canadian winters, she is excited about the future at iA. “I look forward to tackling the future with the Dealer Services team. There are so many opportunities. I know we can count on our extraordinary team to dive right in together!”