Alberta Order of Excellence member Eleanor Chiu

Eleanor Chiu FCPA, FCA, ICD.D

“The connection between ‘doing well’ and ‘doing good’ has helped shape Trico’s culture and purpose. We believe that we do well when we create value for our customers, and we do good when we build stronger, healthier, thriving communities.”

Eleanor Chiu of Calgary is committed to living by the ideal, Doing Well By Doing Good. Through her leadership and commitment to social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, she is helping map a future for Alberta where businesses help solve big social issues, while creating sustained value for business owners and the community alike. Eleanor’s personal and professional life is rooted in supporting her community.

Eleanor Pui-Fong Fok was born on January 21, 1963, in Hong Kong, the sixth of eight children. Her father Wing Chi Fok and mother Sau Kuen Lai were hard-working entrepreneurs who left mainland China for Hong Kong in the 1950s.

Though their means were humble, they were a loving, close-knit family who reached out to help others, taking in Chinese newcomers until they got on their feet. Eleanor grew up watching her mother send packages of food and clothing to family still on the mainland. Such kindness instilled a lifelong altruism in young Eleanor.

Active in her church, she sang and played the piano and organ for services. She also volunteered at the church summer camp. There, she met fellow volunteer Wayne Chiu and they were married three years later.

In 1982, Eleanor completed her first year of university in Hong Kong before she and Wayne emigrated to Canada. Upon arriving in Calgary, the young couple found their bearings thanks to the support of the Calgary Chinese United Church. Just as they had in Hong Kong, Eleanor and Wayne became involved in their new congregation.

Eleanor enrolled in Business at the University of Calgary, where success in accounting courses came easily to her. Despite the economic slump, she landed a job with Financial Trustco. They were looking for a teller for their Chinatown branch who spoke Cantonese, Mandarin and English – and Eleanor was fluent in all three. She graduated with her Bachelor of Commerce degree (B.Comm) in Finance in 1985 and continued to work full time at the bank.

With her new degree under her belt, Eleanor began volunteering as Treasurer of the Oi Kwan Foundation, a charitable organization formed by the Calgary Chinese United Church that builds assisted housing to care for community elders. Eleanor was grateful to help the church, just as it had helped when she and Wayne first arrived in Calgary.

Recognizing Eleanor’s aptitude, Financial Trustco offered her a position as an accounting clerk. Eleanor enjoyed the job so much that she returned to the University of Calgary, so she could become “the best accountant [she] could be.” After completing her B.Comm in Accounting in 1987, she joined KPMG Peat Marwick Calgary as an articling student, ultimately achieving her Chartered Accountant (CA) designation in 1990. A lifelong learner, Eleanor has also obtained her Real Estate Broker licence and her ICD.D designation granted by the Institute of Corporate Directors.

In 1990, Eleanor moved to the Nova Corporation, serving as a Senior Financial Specialist and ensuring her family’s financial stability, while Wayne built his homebuilding business – Trico Homes – from the ground up. As lead of Nova’s Corporate Financial Reporting team, she embraced learning about the business and governance processes of the large corporation. Meanwhile at Trico, Eleanor served as a jack of all trades, looking after human resources, payroll, IT and, of course, accounting. At home, she and Wayne welcomed their son Patrick to the family in 1991, followed by Leah and Elliot.

In 1998, Eleanor joined Wayne at Trico Homes full time as CFO and has been a driving force in their success ever since, growing the organization into the Trico Group of Companies and the Trico Charitable Foundation. She is a guiding light with her emphasis on strategy, operational excellence, superior workplace management, and an inclusive and socially responsible culture. Together, they have built Trico from a 15-person organization to one employing over 200 people, and one of the Top 5 residential homebuilders in Calgary.

Canada’s Best Managed Companies award, established in 1993, recognizes Trico as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies and has awarded that distinction since 2004 on a continuous basis. Trico has also been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Workplaces for Women and Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures™ for Mid-sized Employers. Eleanor is a driving force behind these recognitions. She works hard to foster an inclusive and socially responsible culture in all she does.

To Eleanor, business success means much more than a bank account balance. She believes wholeheartedly in social entrepreneurship, which she sees as an intersection of corporate social responsibility, philanthropic work and being in a business that provides something meaningful to people. Moreover, Eleanor believes the business and social aspects of society have a symbiotic relationship in which business can positively impact important social causes that, in turn, can benefit the business. An example of a social enterprise in action, Trico builds affordable housing for families and for seniors, and embraces mutually beneficial relationships with communities, such as the Chiniki First Nation.

In 2008, Eleanor and Wayne founded the Trico Charitable Foundation to fund and encourage social entrepreneurship and to give back to the community. Once again, Eleanor embraced the opportunity to learn as much as she could, networking with similar foundations in Eastern Canada, Scotland and around the world to glean and share ideas.

In 2012, Eleanor helped transform Trico Homes into a Certified Benefit Corporation™ (B Corp), one of only 2,000 B Corps in the world at that time, which reflects Trico’s highest standards when it comes to social and environmental performance and accountability. Awarded to the best of the best B Corps, Trico is a 2020 Best for the World honouree for achieving top scores in the Community category.

Eleanor is an exemplary community builder. She is one of the founding board members and financial supporters of Windmill Microlending (previously called Immigrant Access Fund), a charity that provides microloans to immigrants and refugees to obtain Canadian licensing or training in their fields. In 2019, the Centre for Newcomers in Calgary made a video featuring Eleanor’s success story to encourage new immigrants to pursue their dreams in Canada.

Giving freely of her time comes naturally to Eleanor, whether she’s mentoring entrepreneurs and university students, or serving on boards of diverse organizations, including Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, Leighton Foundation and the Calgary chapter of the International Women’s Forum Canada. She has served Mount Royal University with distinction in various roles: vice-chair of the University Foundation, member of the Board of Governors, and currently as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council.

Her current board service includes the Calgary YWCA; Calgary TELUS Community Board; University of Calgary’s Haskayne Capital Expansion Advisory Council; Sharc Energy Systems, a wastewater heat recovery company; and, a tech start-up with a homebuilder intelligence platform.

As philanthropists, Eleanor and Wayne have generously supported many Calgary institutions, fostering the growth of social enterprises and social entrepreneurism, including SAIT’s Founding Builders program, the Trico Changemakers Studio at Mount Royal University, Bow Valley College’s Venture Quest program, and Calgary Stampede youth programs. Most recently, they collaborated with the Haskayne School of Business to establish the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the University of Calgary.

Throughout her career, Eleanor has been honoured with numerous awards and recognitions. In 2018, she became a Fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants and, in 2021, she received the highest recognition given to an alumnus of the Haskayne School of Business, the Management Excellence Award. In 2022, Eleanor was named one of Calgary’s Influential Women in Business, and will receive the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal (Alberta).

Eleanor and Wayne have received many awards together. In 2014, Bow Valley College unveiled the Chiu School of Business to recognize the family for their contributions and support. In 2016, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education honoured them with a CASE Benefactor Award in recognition of their work to promote post-secondary education. The Chius were the first Canadians to receive this award in 13 years. In 2018, they received the Senior Executive of the Year Award from the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion. In 2022, they were inducted into the Southern Alberta Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.

Eleanor is proud of having successfully struck a balance between her fulfilling career and her role at home as a mother, daughter and wife. In 2022, she and Wayne are celebrating 30 years with Trico Homes and 40 years of marriage. They hope the legacy they leave their children will be the same legacy their parents gave them: an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to support their community.