How Lisa Dorian turned her passion into a profession

Women

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CFI

Lisa Dorian noticed that finance training courses were only available to those who already worked in financial services, and even then, in classroom-based programs people tend only to retain 10% of what they learned. So she transformed her passion for teaching to close that gap.

“How could we help people who want to be analysts improve their chance of recruitment? How could we help analysts who were recruited improve their on-the-job skills and be more productive? How could we provide training that could be accessed at anytime, anywhere, and at a pace that allowed users to learn at their own speed?” asks Lisa Dorian, Managing Director & Chief Risk Officer for Corporate Finance Institute (CFI). “A little bit more on accessibility.”

Founded in 2016, Vancouver, British Columbia based CFI is a leading global provider of online financial analyst courses. CFI’s mission is to help anyone, from any country or background, become a world-class financial analyst. They strive to empower individuals worldwide through world-class education that will help them lead successful careers and fulfilling lives, by ensuring that anyone with access to the internet and the motivation to learn can advance their career with CFI’s online courses. They also provide classroom-based training for their corporate clients.

"When you’re a pioneer, it means that you’re blazing your own trail and finding your way. Do something poorly and you won’t have a product to sell. Do something well, and others will try to copy your business model and capitalize on your success."

CFI puts their students first, acting as their compass while developing new training solutions, providing customer support, and upgrading educational materials. In addition, they support their online courses with other resources such as eBooks, templates, and a knowledge library with thousands of searchable articles on all topics related to corporate finance and financial modelling. They have even compiled job descriptions that someone new to finance can read through to understand what roles and responsibilities financial analysts can fill. Essentially, the company picks up where the business school leaves off to teach students on-the-job aspects of corporate finance, commercial, corporate and investment banking, corporate development, treasury, and FP&A. In 2019, CFI’s programs and certifications were delivered to over 280,000 individuals at top universities, investment banks, accounting firms, and operating companies around the world. Furthermore, CFI is committed to supporting the academic pursuits from low to modest-income families who demonstrate the need for financial assistance. The company provides annual scholarships to those students who demonstrate strong academic achievement, a passion for finance, and a commitment to improving the lives of others. And finally, for every course and product they sell, CFI donates 1% of the profit to charities that support global education.

Gaining recognition in a market that is flooded with accessible online training opportunities, initially was no small task. “The challenge was to create something no one else was doing. When you’re a pioneer, it means that you’re blazing your own trail and finding your way. Do something poorly and you won’t have a product to sell. Do something well, and others will try to copy your business model and capitalize on your success,” shares Lisa. “This is something we are seeing and are addressing on a regular basis. Although mimicry is the finest form of flattery, we want to ensure we remain at the top of our industry and protect our brand while doing so.” All along the company has differentiated itself from the sea of similar service providers by focussing on the unique value they offer. “We knew we were offering something different. We were offering something of value – high-quality online training delivered by very experienced Wall Street training professionals with a specific path that learners could follow. It wasn’t a shotgun approach, but rather laser-focused on financial analysts and the skills and resources they need,” says Lisa. “We are filling the gap between the theory of what the business schools teach, and the practical technical skills that are expected of financial analysts. We ensure all our courses are part of a specific path – and that means not overwhelming our students with too many choices to try to find their own way. We help guide them – not only through the offering of online courses but also through the other resources we provide.”

Lisa Dorian, Managing Director & Chief Risk Officer, Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)
Lisa Dorian, Managing Director & Chief Risk Officer, Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)

Lisa’s typical days are filled with either delivering classroom-based training sessions or developing a new course, talking with her team, writing business proposals, corresponding with clients, or attending meetings. “No one day is like the other and it seems like just when I’m about to get caught up, something new comes across my desk,” smiles Lisa. “There’s never a dull moment – and it’s why I love what I do.” In order to gain some balance, she makes working out a priority. In the mornings, she can often be found either riding her bike or hopping on an elliptical and doing some core strength training. She used to be an elite level cyclist and her love of riding has not diminished. “When I retired from competitive road racing, I switched things up and competed in duathlon for a time. My hardest race was in Zofingen, Switzerland, where I raced the World Duathlon Long Distance Championships, also referred to as Powerman. What Ironman is to triathletes, Powerman is to duathletes,” explains Lisa. “Nowadays, I run and ride my bike purely for pleasure. There’s nothing better than getting out on the weekend for a 100k ride with a group of friends.

Lisa is a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CA) and a U.S. Certified Public Accountant. Before moving from Canada to New York in 2018, Lisa was chair of the national board of Financial Executives International Canada and continues to be involved with the organization in the US. Being part of the volunteer leadership, establishing a sponsorship program and speaker program at the chapter level, chairing one of the national conferences, leading all of the chapter leaders at the national board level and then leading the organization as chair, is an experience that she will always cherish. She shares, “It taught me a lot that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned in my day-to-day business life, especially from a governance and oversight perspective. I’ve also made lifelong friends with other senior financial executives and the FEI network is very strong. It offers the opportunity to consult with and learn from each other on a regular basis.” In addition to her professional designations, she is also a Certified Internal Auditor, a Certified Risk Management Assurance Professional and is accredited by the Institute of Internal Auditors to conduct quality assessments/validations. Lisa also just became a CBCA™, which is the new banking and credit analyst certification CFI launched in December under her guidance. She is currently a graduate student at Fordham University School of Law and will graduate at the end of the year with a Master’s of Legal Studies, Corporate Compliance – a subject that she is very passionate about. Being a part-time student, Lisa mentions how much she enjoys reading as a keen learner and bibliophile. “However, it means that I have less time to read books simply for the pleasure of it. I have filled that by listening to audiobooks, and that is usually what is on my playlist when riding the subway or when I’m at the gym,” says Lisa. “I read/listen to everything from autobiographical stories to murder mysteries and historical fiction, and also to unique genres – think self-help in the form of fantasy fiction. If you’ve ever read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho you’ll understand.” Lisa has a family full of strong women and women leaders whom she looks up to like her role models. “This may sound cliché, but the truth is that my mother has in many ways, been my number one role model. She was and continues to be a strong woman who has always demonstrated that honesty, integrity and hard work are the key ingredients to accomplishing whatever you set out to do,” shares Lisa. “It was because of her, and my aunts, that I didn’t ever see gender as an issue in my career. It wasn’t until much later that I saw gender inequality, but never felt as though I had experienced it.” Asked if there was one person with whom she would love to sit down, Lisa names Queen Elizabeth II as her top choice. She says, “I think she has largely been ignored, aside from the avid royal watchers and monarchists who are generally more interested in the Royal Family than in her capacity as Queen. But I think she has a lot to teach about leadership. About how to keep a level head and advise with grace and dignity. About how to influence while remaining, or at least appearing to be, objective. She is more of a leader than many give her credit for and I wonder, if she had been king instead of queen, would she have been looked upon differently and given more credence as a leader versus a figurehead?”

Lisa also shared her best advice for young professionals looking to build their own careers. “Don’t hesitate!”, asserts Lisa. “One of the most noticeable differences I see between women and men is that when there are leadership opportunities, women are more likely to wait until they feel they are “more ready” to take on that new responsibility. The problem is, when they wait, they run a very real risk of being passed over for similar opportunities in the future. Move out of your comfort zone. If you are qualified, you will get the position, end of story. Don’t doubt your abilities or your readiness – every new position has a learning curve attached to it. Embrace the discomfort and go for it!”

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