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Crowe BGK in-person meetings contribute to a team-oriented environment.Provided

When Michael Ugolini was first brought on as an intern at Montréal-based accounting firm Crowe BGK LLP five years ago, he found himself having conversations with his colleagues that transcended the accounting industry.

“I enjoy accounting but I could practise it anywhere,” says Ugolini, who is now an audit manager for the firm.

“Five years later, I’m still at Crowe because of the people.” The five-year path from intern to audit manager was made possible by both the structured support provided by Crowe and the informal, interpersonal connections the tight-knit workplace helps to foster.

During the intern period, Crowe provides a flexible schedule that includes paid study days as well as financial support for accounting students pursuing their chartered professional accountant (CPA) certification and taking the common final examination (CFE), including CFE coaching and an exam-passing bonus.

For a student just beginning their career, the exam reimbursement and bonus – on top of the study time while working for the firm during the day and taking classes in the evenings – made a significant impact.

“I was still starting out and I had only been working for about a year at that point,” says Ugolini. “The fact that the firm reimbursed the CFE was a huge weight off my chest.”

Ugolini has continued to advance his career through additional courses supported by the firm. It’s something he has always felt comfortable asking for, thanks to the approachable nature of the workplace.

“I’ve always felt valued here and at any point in time if I voiced an interest in learning a new skill, there was never a moment of hesitation,” says Ugolini. “It’s as simple as informally having a conversation and saying, ‘I love what I’m doing but I would like to be stronger in this particular field.’”

The response from the firm, which makes developing strong, well-rounded individuals a priority, has always been: “How do we get you that knowledge? What do you need from us?” he says.

Supporting employee growth is considered paramount by Crowe and just one of the ways that the firm ensures staff are well taken care of. It provides a host of employee benefits including an annual wellness reimbursement, maternity leave top-up and reduced summer hours.

At the end of the day, however, great benefits are a fundamental requirement and treating employees well is a “baseline,” explains chief operating officer Ingrid Jensen.

“Perks and benefits are important to get people in the door but that’s not what’s going to keep them,” she explains. “You can have all those things and the workplace can still be a toxic environment.”

The difference boils down to the people and the experience, she says.

“It’s everything from the atmosphere when you come into the office to the collaboration that we try to create within the team,” says Jensen. “There are no walls, no sense of hierarchy – you get to see the human side of people.”

That approachability is part of why Jensen got on board with Crowe 13 years ago. Though she didn’t have an accounting background, she was excited by the firm’s positive attitude and the potential to evolve at Crowe.

“They were open to ideas,” she says.

Her instincts were correct and Jensen – who was brought on as marketing director and grew into COO – is proof of the possibility for growth at Crowe.

Over the years, Jensen has always been propelled by the feeling of mutual respect in the workplace and a willingness to try new things.

“That’s what has kept me driving and thriving,” she says. “There has been a constant evolution that keeps things exciting.”

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