Director, Financial Services

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THE ORGANIZATION

Athabasca University was North America’s first online university. Its open and flexible environment is built on leveraging technology to enable learning. Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University, is dedicated to the removal of barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study and to increasing equality of educational opportunity for adult learners worldwide.  As Canada’s only digital learning university, created by Alberta innovators, Athabasca University’s classrooms, collaboration spaces, and student hubs are not bricks and mortar, but Cloud & Code.

Like the river with which it shares a name and a surging spirit, Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University erodes obstacles. It dismantles the barrier between the student and their ambition — their best future. Some of Canada’s finest professors and leaders choose Athabasca University for the same reason students’ study with them. Athabasca is for the leader who wants to build their community without leaving it. It is for the learner who could study on any campus or maybe already does but craves flexibility and control of their time.

Athabasca University provides learning for life. Through the achievements of its students, faculty and staff, AU stands out as a provider of high quality post-secondary education.

  • AU serves over 40,000 students (over 7,800 full-load equivalents).
  • AU offers over 850 courses in more than 55 undergraduate and graduate programs in a range of arts, science and professional disciplines.
  • AU has a $160 million annual operating budget.
  • AU employs over 1,000 faculty and staff members on four Alberta, Canada, campuses located in Athabasca, St. Albert, Edmonton and Calgary.
  • AU maintains over 350 collaborative agreements with other Canadian and international post-secondary institutions, with professional associations and employer groups and with First Nations institutions and communities.

AU ‘s IMAGINE Strategic Plan

Athabasca University’s 5-year strategic plan “Imagine” is in year two of operation. It is focused around 4 key strategic themes and 5 key values at their foundation:

Moving Beyond Place: Transforming communities through belonging and relationships.

Moving Beyond Open: Bridging open and inclusion.

Moving Beyond the Now: Supporting transformative and incremental change through agility and adaptability.

Moving Beyond the Norm: Adopting innovative ideas, taking calculated risks.

AU’s “I-Care” Values

Integrity:  We are guided by ethics, honesty, and fairness in all our actions, engendering trust within our University community.

Community:  We are one University. We achieve more together. We embrace collaboration and connectivity among our diverse individual community members and teams.

Adaptability: We are flexible.  We respond to the changing needs of our University and its learners with courage and continuous improvement.

Respect:  We foster respect by contributing to an environment in which every individual is valued.

Excellence:  We ask bold questions, provoke new ways of thinking, and focus on those things at which we can excel to enhance the quality of all that we do.

For further information on Athabasca University, please visit their website at www.athabascau.ca.

THE OPPORTUNITY

Reporting to the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO, the Director, Financial Services is a member of the Senior Financial and Administration Management Team with responsibility for effective leadership and management of all Financial Services functions in the areas of financial planning, resource allocation, operations, reporting and financial systems management. The incumbent also provides critical financial advice and information including interpretation of generally accepted accounting principles to the University Community including the executives, management, employees and students.  In addition to leading the daily operation of the Financial Services Department, the incumbent is responsible for leading the development, implementation, and monitoring of effective and efficient financial policies and procedures in alignment with applicable regulations, legislation, public-sector accounting standards, best practices and industry trends.  The incumbent is instrumental in the development of financial plans and financial strategies that support the University’s strategic goals and mandate.  The incumbent may serve in the capacity of Acting Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO as required, in the absence of the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO. 

Currently, Finance and Administration is embarking on a review of its services and structure. The incumbent would be part of this review, and changes to the role may ensue.  Some areas under consideration are business analytics; financial modelling and other decision support tools; and strategic procurement.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Strategic Leadership (30%)

  • With input from the Executive Group and in consultation with the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO, the Director develops effective financial planning and financial management strategies for the University that are in alignment with the University’s strategic goals and mandate, including strategic sourcing capabilities, financial systems and services, and operational efficiencies.
  • Leads the development and execution of the Department’s operational business plan, ensuring objectives align with the University’s overall goals and mandate, critical success factors, and that performance metrics are implemented to assess its effectiveness.
  • Provides strategic leadership in the execution of the Department’s’ strategic direction and operations in the areas of financial planning, budgeting, financial reporting and financial operations.
  • Provides advice to the Executive Group, the Deans and the Directors in relation to the development and operationalization of initiatives that support the University’s financial sustainability, effectiveness, and operational efficiency.
  • Provides early warning signals and advice to the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO on finance-related risks, and develops appropriate risk mitigation strategies.
  • Ensures continual review, research, development, and implementation of new and emerging trends and legislative requirements related to financial management including: planning, strategies, operations, and financial and management reporting.
  • Oversees the research of best practices in financial planning and advises the Executive Group, informing their decisions regarding planning, development, and implementation of a financial oversight and stewardship strategy for long term sustainability.
  • Balances potentially conflicting needs of multiple stakeholders when making recommendations.

Management (20%)

  • Provides effective financial stewardship for the University.
  • Effectively manages Financial Services programs and operations at all levels, and ensures services are provided in a positive, proactive, effective and timely manner.
  • Responsible for the management of the University’s financial systems and information, and ensures proper internal controls and processes are in place to safeguard information and University assets.
  • Monitors and ensures compliance of all institutional and Financial Services related policies, procedures, processes and related internal controls.
  • Facilitates the resolution of complex or sensitive financial and reporting issues.
  • Ensures effective communication within Financial Services units, as well as between Financial Services and key stakeholder groups and divisions that Financial Services works with on a regular basis.
  • Works collaboratively with other University divisions in particular Procurement and Contract Services, Human Resources, Information Technology Services, Facilities Services, to ensure financial systems, services and related information is managed and maintained effectively.
  • Actively participates in applicable University committees and groups.  Attends applicable or required Standing Committee meetings of the Board of Governors.
  • Manages special assignments and projects, as well as amassing recommendations related to opportunities to implement changes to systems, services, procedures, and processes under management by Financial Services.

Financial Planning & Budgeting (15%)

  • Together with the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO and the Provost, lead and works collaboratively with stakeholders, including the AU executives, in relation to the development and implementation of multi-year financial plans, budgeting and forecasting for all financial, capital and human resources of the University.
  • Oversees the coordination and formulation of annual operating and capital budgets, the multi-year operating plan and the annual Summary Capital and ICT Infrastructure Plan.
  • Leads the development of effective budget development and planning strategies, budget forecasts, and variance and trend analysis.
  • Provides the AU executives and upper management with timely advice and information to help resolve important financial matters or to mitigate risks.
  • Enhances financial oversight, fiscal prudence and systemic business planning by providing accurate, timely and timely financial information and analytical services.

Operations (15%)

  • Oversees all accounting functions of the University, ensuring that financial transactions are carried out in a timely and efficient manner, financial records are reliable, accurate, and secure and that data integrity is maintained.
  • Ensures appropriate financial policies, procedures, and internal controls exist, remain up-to-date, and are operating effectively.
  • Oversees all University banking and cash management.
  • As a key financial signing officer, exercises authority and responsibility for the approval of disbursements pursuant to the University’s banking resolutions. 

Financial Reporting (15%)

  • Liaises with stakeholders to identify their information needs and ensures that financial management reports fulfill these requirements and are complete and accurate.
  • Provides the necessary financial information to facilitate strategic managerial decision-making.
  • Oversees the preparation of annual financial statements and preparing for and facilitating the year-end audit under tight timelines. Maintains strong relationships with the external auditors to ensure operational effectiveness and positive audit-management relations. Ensures year-end audits are coordinated effectively and that all issues raised by the auditors are appropriately responded to in an effective and timely manner.
  • Attends all formal meetings with the External Auditors.
  • Advises the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO of any concerns or complications that may arise or be identified in internal and external audits.
  • Ensures preparation of timely and accurate financial statements/reports, including reports through the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO to the Board of Governors and its Standing Committees, and answers information requests/enquiries as required.
  • Monitors financial reporting obligations and ensures that reporting deadlines are met.
  • Ensures compliance with financial accounting standards, reporting and filing requirements, statutory legislation, and related business practices.

Risk Management (5%)

  • Is integrally involved in the ongoing identification and rating of financial risks, develops mitigation strategies, monitors these risks, and executes tactics and alerts the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Services and the Vice President, Finance and Administration & CFO when new risks emerge or the status of a known risk changes.

FIRST YEAR – MEASURES OF SUCCESS

  • Must be able to assess and analyze opportunity; envision and create change and execute on it;
  • Create a team culture that reflects the elements of performance excellence, including focus on service; accountability; streamlined processes; performance management and data-driven decision-making;
  • Develop and implement an accountability framework that reflects the needs of Athabasca University and supports the Imagine strategic plan while maintaining appropriate internal financial controls; and
  • Build trust with senior leadership, the Board and its Committees, through accurate and timely reporting; attention to detail; and the provision of credible strategic advice and input while operating in a fast paced and dynamic environment.

THE INDIVIDUAL

Given the pivotal role this individual will be expected to play in achieving the strategic and operational objectives of the Director, Financial Services, and in supporting the success of the organization, it is essential that the successful candidate possess the following education, qualifications & experience, and skills & abilities:

Education:

  • Post secondary under-graduate degree in management, business administration, accounting or a related field;
  • Master’s degree in business administration (MBA) an asset;
  • Certified Professional Accounting (CPA) designation is a must.

Qualifications & Experience

  • A minimum of 10 years experience in a related financial role with a minimum of 5 years at a senior management level;
  • Experience in a public company and/or within a post – secondary institution environment is preferred;
  • Experience leading within a unionized and semi-virtual environment would be preferred;
  • Knowledge of financial services practices in all areas is required, with the proven ability to apply that knowledge to meet the needs and challenges of the University. 
  • Strong business acumen with demonstrated experience in technical financial concepts and principles, financial planning, budgeting and analysis, best practice financial processes and financial information systems, financial and managerial accounting, and financial reporting is required.
  • Change management experience is essential. 
  • Experience in successfully driving transformation and change considered an asset.
  • Experience with Integrated Resource Planning, varying resource allocation methodologies and activity-based costing an asset.

Skills & Abilities

Visionary:  Understands and interprets financial trends and addresses issues and challenges with clarity, energy and confidence.  Has the ability to adapt to new and changing situations through the adoption of “best practices”.

Professional:  Acts as both a leader and an integral member of several teams.  Possesses high ethical standards, maintains trustworthy relationships including an honest, open, and consistent approach to working with colleagues, staff members, Executives, student representatives and external stakeholders.

Leadership:  Acts as a leader, coach, mentor and positive role model with the ability to initiate, influence, motivate and delegate.  Builds trust through demonstrated objectivity and consistency.  Gains commitment of staff through a high standard of integrity.

Service Orientated: Exhibits an engaging personal style that builds a service-orientated, value-added financial management culture. Understands the structure and influences in non-profit, in particularly public sector organizations.

Pragmatic Decision Maker: Recognizes priorities and changing approaches.  Shows common sense and intuitive judgment.  Able to make, implement and act upon operational decisions and follow through on outcomes.  A proven professional judgment skill set is essential along with established problem solving skills and strong analytical abilities.

Organized:  Demonstrates solid time management abilities to manage multiple priorities and meet tight deadlines that come with various competing demands and a high volume of work.

Communications: Exhibits strong written, verbal presentation, facilitation and negotiation skills and is an active listener. Excellent interpersonal skills are required to exercise tact and diplomacy regarding sensitive and confidential issues.

Systems Aptitude: Excellent knowledge of financial information systems, budget-forecast software, e-commerce, word processing, spreadsheet, and database computer programs, as well as information technology in general

Compensation

An excellent compensation package awaits the successful candidate.

Location

The successful candidate may reside in Edmonton, Calgary or Athabasca recognizing that the financial team are in Athabasca and travel will be a requirement.

How to Apply

For the opportunity to join Athabasca University in the role of the Director, Financial Services, please email your resume to tdavis@profoundtalent.com, referencing Position ID # APGV-838080.

Should you have an inquiry regarding this position, please contact Terri Davis at 587-200-0114 ext. 101.   For further information on ProFound Talent Inc. please visit the following:

Website: www.profoundtalent.com

You Tube Username: ProFound Talent Inc.

Podcasts on iTunes: ProFound Talks with Terri

* We thank all applicants for your submissions; however, only candidates being considered for this role will be contacted. *