Like many who enter the Marketplaces Industry, Lesley Gibson had no idea when she started that her career would lead to a top position at one of Canada’s largest retail REITs.
And on Dec. 8, the senior vice president and CFO of CT REIT became chair of ICSC Foundation Canada. She served as vice chair for 2022 and has sat on the ICSC Foundation Canada board since 2016. Hines Securities director John Morrison has served as chair since then.
“ICSC Foundation Canada is really quite a new organization, and I had the fortune of working with John on his team for a good number of years,” said Gibson. “Before the pandemic, we had some good momentum, and then everything paused for a while. And really the wheels of everything are reengaging right now, and I want to continue that momentum and solidify what the Foundation could be for many years to come.”
Gibson has been involved with ICSC since 2003. “Whether it was attending events or helping with mentorship or various other activities, the ICSC has a pretty robust presence here in Canada,” she said.
“I fell into [the industry] really,” said Gibson. “If you had asked me at university what was real estate about, I would not have had a great appreciation.” She remembers always having a head for numbers. Soon after graduating from Huron University with a degree in economics, she started her financial accounting career in KPMG’s real estate and mining group. “That seems to have worked out for me,” she noted.
Gibson spent eight-and-a-half years at KPMG, working in Toronto and London, Ontario, during a time when she came to appreciate the Marketplaces Industry. “One of my first clients was Cadillac Fairview, and I think I spent half my time in a boardroom looking into [CF’s] Toronto Eaton Centre and probably could have visually spent my paycheck before the stores had opened,” she said.
Gibson then moved into the sector full-time. She spent seven years doing financial reporting for Primaris and Oxford. She moved to Choice Properties for three years as a vice president of finance and became chief accounting officer. Then, the CFO role at CT REIT became available and she joined the firm four years ago. CT REIT’s portfolio includes more than 325 properties across Canada totaling 26 million square feet of gross leasable area, primarily retail centers.
In her role as chair for ICSC Foundation Canada, Gibson hopes to increase the visibility of the industry in an effort to develop talent and thus maximize the industry’s potential. “I don’t want people stumbling on this,” said Gibson. “I want them to know that it is a desired place that people want to come and make a career.
We are not just looking for graduates coming out of business school. We are definitely looking for people from all kinds of different areas: entrepreneurs, marketers, people who work in textiles and logistics. There are so many different avenues that you can bring different skills into the area. We want to continue to get the message out there that this is a vibrant industry and one that is, quite frankly, growing.”
By Ben Johnson
Contributor, Commerce + Communities Today