A divergent path that has made all the difference

By Richard Asinof
Contributing Writer
Lynda Gilbert had no clue that she had been nominated for Providence Business News’ Rising Star award for chief financial officers, so when she learned that she had won, it stunned her. More

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A divergent path that has made all the difference

A CAREER REBOOT: After a successful accounting career, CareLink CFO Lynda Gilbert has turned her attention – and talent – to the nonprofit world, with outstanding results.
By Richard Asinof
Contributing Writer
Posted 4/8/13

Lynda Gilbert had no clue that she had been nominated for Providence Business News’ Rising Star award for chief financial officers, so when she learned that she had won, it stunned her.

Gilbert has been the vice president of finance at CareLink for less than two years. The nonprofit organization, which includes its subsidiaries, Pace Organization of Rhode Island and LeadingAge RI, had a total of 170 employees and combined revenue of about $19.5 million in 2012.

CareLink provides key strategic business activities and management services to its partner organizations. Pace is a care model that enables eligible seniors to remain in their communities rather than be placed in long-term-care facilities. In turn, LeadingAge RI represents long-term-care providers in Rhode Island, including nonprofit nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and senior-housing providers, as well as adult day health centers.

What Gilbert brings to CareLink is high-level finance skills and accounting savvy learned from two decades working as a CPA with an accounting firm.

“I spent 20 years in public accounting, in audit work, switching from client to client, performing year-end audits,” Gilbert said. “CareLink, Pace and LeadingAge RI [were] a great fit for me,” she continued, explaining her decision as a 40-something to move into the nonprofit world. “I love the organization’s mission, caring for the elderly. I can take the skills I learned in public accounting and apply them to this organization, strengthening its internal-controls procedures and policies.”

Within days of her arrival, Gilbert was notified that Banco Santander S.A. (parent of Sovereign Bank N.A.) was shedding its nonprofit portfolio and that CareLink and its subsidiaries would need to seek a new banking partner.

Despite the recession and the difficult credit situation that existed in 2011, Gilbert used her financial acumen to research, interview and secure a new banking partner within two months.

“I hold Lynda in high regard as a CFO,” said Rob Leach, vice president and senior relationship manager at Webster Bank, Carelink’s current banking partner. “She’s very thorough, detail oriented and proactive in her dealings with us. She knows what the bank needs, anticipates it, and comes to meetings with it in hand – even before we ask,” Leach said.

Leach also praised Gilbert’s ability to open a new line of communications with the bank. “After looking at the cash-flow process at CareLink, she saw that it could be streamlined to improve efficiency, reached out to us to confirm her assumptions and subsequently worked with us to implement changes in cash management,” Leach said. “She’s thoughtful, professional, takes initiative and is a real pleasure to work with.”

In her role at CareLink, Gilbert has sought to redefine her position to be able to provide management with financial reporting and analysis in real time, giving the organization the ability to be more nimble in the rapidly changing world of health care. As a result, CareLink has the capability to identify and respond to community needs, patient satisfaction and outcomes – a key asset for a health care organization in an era when the future of health care is tied to analytics.

One example of how Gilbert took existing policies and practices and raised them up to a more sophisticated and disciplined level concerns Pace, which is both an insurance company as well as being a provider of care. In her work, Gilbert made sure that Pace’s contracting terms and conditions were value-based, quality-driven and consistent with market trends.

She also assumed oversight for the implementation of a new electronic payroll system, reducing the time spent by managers tracking down time sheets and correcting mistakes. In addition, staff members now are able to track their own use of vacation and personal time, encouraging them to be self-sufficient in managing their own accrued benefits.

For Gilbert, her engagement with CareLink and departure from the hustle and bustle of the accounting world, brings with it a sense of finding a space where she is comfortable.

“I wanted to find a permanent home, and I found a place where I want to be,” Gilbert said. “I don’t see any career moves after this. I plan on staying here long term.”

Her job, she continued, puts her on the cutting edge of changing models of health care delivery. “My parents are aging, the whole world is aging; I have an uncle who has Alzheimer’s,” Gilbert said. “There are big changes coming in the health care world. Our mission is to make sure that our elderly are properly taken care of, and I want to do what I can to help.”

For Gilbert, the challenge of helping serve the community through her new professional route has extended to her community involvement. She serves as co-chair of the nonprofit Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants and is board treasurer of CityArts for Youth.

Barbara Wong, executive director of CityArts, described Gilbert as one of her organization’s finest champions. “Her commitment to serve our community ensures that some of our most challenged youth, who could not afford otherwise, have open access to CityArts’ amazing arts programs as a creative launching pad for growth, development and expression,” Wong said.

Wong also praised Gilbert for providing the financial leadership and acumen in helping CityArts emerge as a more well-known and well-defined community youth arts center.

“Lynda [created] a new foundation for CityArts’ financial systems as we grew from a grassroots organization to being an established community youth arts center that now serves more than 1,500 urban youth in Providence and Central Falls,” leading to financial and program growth, she said.

Gilbert, a resident of Cumberland and a graduate of Rhode Island College, worked her way up as an accountant to become a partner at CCR LLP, before joining CareLink. •

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