Wilmar Suan: Answering the Call to Serve



Spanning two nations, three career pivots, four board seats, and multiple start-ups, Wilmar Suan’s journey has been anything but boring. As one of seven sons in a devout Filipino family, he was supposed to find his calling as a Catholic priest, not a CPA. “I was the middle son, so I was expected to go to seminary – which I did – and then enter the priesthood – which I didn’t,” Wilmar says with a grin. Instead, he made a 180-degree turn and began pursuing a dual career as a CPA with a law degree. For years, he worked during the day, took classes at night, and studied from 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. – a pattern he would repeat after his wife’s job as a nurse brought them to the U.S. in 1995. “I had earned my CPA and was working as an accountant in the Philippines, but it would have taken me another eight years to become a lawyer here,” explains Wilmar. “So, I dropped out of law school and focused on recertifying my CPA license.” As it turned out, he would find numerous ways to serve his community as a CPA, a business owner, and a tireless volunteer.  

Fifteen successful years into his career as a controller, Wilmar found himself growing restless. “The work had become routine,” he recalls, “and I was starting to get bored.” The Great Recession put an end to this rare lull in his life. “In crisis, I always see the opportunity,” he notes. “Crisis is a new starting point for everybody.” In Wilmar’s case, that fresh outlook led him to reconsider the “security” of full-time employment. Companies were shedding workers around the globe and, as an immigrant, Wilmar felt particularly vulnerable. He chose to start over on his own terms – founding his own accounting practice, Suan and Company PC, and heading back to school for a master’s in taxation so he could better serve his clients. “I didn’t want to be a paper-pusher, filling out forms for them. I wanted to truly understand the nuances of their business and add value as a trusted advisor,” he explains.

Even as he set up his own firm (as well as three other companies), Wilmar ramped up his efforts to respond to the growing needs in his beloved Filipino community. He had always been an active volunteer, but now he began stepping into leadership roles: President of the Filipino American Community Council of Michigan (FILAMCCO), the umbrella organization of more than 50 Filipino groups; board member of FILAMCCO’s charitable foundation; board member and volunteer treasurer of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce; the only non-nurse board member of the Philippine Nurses Association Foundation; and board member of the Philippine American Medical Mission Foundation of America. These aren’t trophy titles to Wilmar. He personally helps organize medical trips of surgeons and nurses to rural Philippine communities; advocates for more inclusive medical research that includes minorities; coordinates COVID relief programs for expectant mothers and others; and provided meals to front-line workers during the height of the pandemic.

Wilmar credits the CPA profession for opening many of these philanthropic doors. “In some ways I’m riding on the coattails of our industry’s reputation,” he observes modestly. “We are a highly respected profession, and that trust resonates strongly in the Filipino community. I was raised to believe that we should never let an opportunity to do good pass us by. Being a CPA has made it possible for me to do more good than I had imagined possible.” It’s a two-way street for Wilmar, who also gives back to the profession he loves. He is currently a member of the MICPA Small Practitioners Task Force; the MICPA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force; and the Private Company Practice Section of the AICPA. “MICPA Connect is my go-to resource,” he says. “Everyone is so generous with their knowledge and quick to help. I’m proud to be part of my CPA community.” With all that he’s accomplished, there’s little doubt that the CPA community is proud to call Wilmar one of their own as well.


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