Building bridges and financial capacity with Indigenous communities
Asper alum shares career success at MNP and reflects on IBEP community-building
“I think of myself as more of a bridge. My dad is First Nations—he lives in Peguis First Nation—and my mom is not Indigenous. I’ve been in that border, in that middle ground where I’m not fully one or the other, but that works as a strength for me.”
Like many young professionals, Carter Wilson [BComm(Hons)/18] knows that making connections is useful. As a manager of ease, Indigenous Services at MNP, however, Wilson understands that to build bridges between communities, creating trust is vital.
Wilson, a CPA and Asper Bachelor of Commerce and Indigenous Business Education Partners (IBEP) alum, advanced from a summer student to his current position at MNP. He and his team work with Indigenous communities, businesses, and organizations to promote financial capacity building.
“We help Indigenous organizations’ finance function function better,” says Wilson. “It might be that staff are feeling overwhelmed, and they need another staff member, or it can be advising on the structure of their finance department. They may come to us and say ‘something isn’t working. How do we fix it?’ And I’m usually part of the team that advises on how to fix it.”
Wilson explains that capacity building involves consulting with clients to determine their needs and a strategy. The goal is not simply to address those needs, but also to work with the client to implement systems that can help resolve future concerns as they arise.
“Our goal is to always work ourselves out of the picture,” he says. “True success for the client is having as many employment opportunities as they can have in their community so that their people get those skills, and they can run their Nation effectively for the betterment of their membership.”
While Wilson’s financial expertise and qualifications are necessary parts of this work, he finds that more of his day-to-day exchanges, in the office or with clients, are structured by communication and relationship-building skills.
“When I approach Indigenous communities, I don’t start with any business, I start by learning about them as a person. If they want to jump to it, great. But building trust is showing that you’re not just in it for transaction—you’re in it for them,” he says.
Wilson takes his time in these early interactions because creating trust and building financial capacity are processes not steps. He notes, “finance is an area where you slowly learn a lot and it’s not an instant. It’s a progression, a very slow progression; change is really hard.”
Along with his role at MNP, Wilson describes his experience working with Indigenous clients and explains how each interaction is unique. He shares insights about the complexity of Indigenous communities and reflects on how building trust is often impacted by the history of these communities. Trust and distrust have histories, and part of Wilson’s success in his role is his awareness of and willingness to continue learning these histories in consultation with the communities that sustain them.
Wilson credits his experience at UM for helping to develop these skills and for providing him with a sense of community. As a former president of the University of Manitoba Indigenous Commerce Students (UMICS) and an engaged member of IBEP, Wilson’s university career was structured by community involvement and support.
“IBEP was really one of the main reasons for my success,” he says. “A lot of it was the benefit of them creating a community for me, to help me with my worst days and empower me to do the things that they knew I was capable of.”
Zach Unrau [BComm(Hons)/17], Director of IBEP, explains how Wilson gives back to the IBEP community even today. “Even though Carter no longer lives in Winnipeg,” he says, “when he does visit, he makes time to meet with IBEP students and even organizes opportunities to have MNP come to discuss job opportunities.”
This engagement reflects Wilson’s vision of recruiting more Indigenous candidates at MNP. For Wilson, it seems, inclusion and reconciliation go beyond just presence, but must happen in conversation and relation:
“We also want to make sure they have a space to voice their opinions about changes that need to happen and recommendations that need to be made. Even if they stay for five years, build up their skills with MNP, and go to their home communities, they’ll have a great impact there too.”
Wilson is often highlighted for his impressive professional trajectory and the relative novelty of being an Indigenous CPA. He reflects on how he didn’t begin his BComm with this future in mind—he couldn’t have even dreamed it.
With the support and trust of his communities at UM, Wilson worked to bridge this gap, and he couldn’t have imagined the impact he is making today. He is aware, however, that he can’t do the work alone.
“I can only make a difference by influencing and working with other people, and I think that’s how you change the world.”
IBEP welcomes all First Nation, Inuit, and Metis students who intend to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) at the I.H. Asper School of Business regardless of faculty of registration. For more information, check out their webpage or drop by the IBEP student lounge on the third floor of the Drake Building.