Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
Marcus Benally is an Audit Manager with REDW’s Audit & Assurance practice. Since joining REDW in 2015, Marcus has gained significant experience working on numerous financial statement audit engagements and single audits of federal programs for governmental and healthcare clients. An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, he is also a key member of the firm’s National Tribal Practice Team. He holds a B.A. degree in Accounting from New Mexico State University and a Master of Business Administration from Gonzaga University.
Q: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING AS A PROFESSION?
I’ve had an interest in accounting since age 14. In high school, I took three years of accounting with my teacher, Mrs. Chavez, who encouraged me to pursue the profession and understand the importance of accounting as it relates to a business or organization.
“Similar to oral traditions of Native culture, to me, accounting tells a story about the business. In order to be a successful business person, you have to interpret and understand what the financial information is saying.”
Accounting enables the users of the financial statements to interpret and assess the performance of the business or organization. I personally find it fascinating to interpret this information for businesses to help them succeed.
Q: HOW DO YOU WANT TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY THAT YOU CAME FROM?
I want to give back to my community by providing educational financial literacy opportunities. My primary focus is to help the younger generation— I think we need more educational opportunities to help them succeed in their earlier stages of life. With these opportunities, the next generation can benefit by developing the skills and knowledge needed to establish a firm foundation for their relationship with money.
“Coming from a Native household, financial prosperity isn’t the primary goal in life. We are taught to be rich in our culture, language and family, and can often view financial prosperity as taboo—as Westernization colonization has not aligned with our traditional values.”
However, by giving the younger generation a foundation on financial literacy, we enable them to apply these skills for their more commonplace needs, including balancing a budget, buying a home, understanding debt, and ensuring income for retirement.
Q: AS AN EMERGING LEADER AT REDW, WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE?
My vision for the firm is to continue recruiting more Native Americans and helping them attain the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. I also want to help the firm pursue more partnerships with organizations that provide financial literacy to underprivileged communities and with those that provide professional development for student organizations wanting to purse an accounting and finance career.
Q: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY TO OTHER NATIVE AMERICANS INTERESTED IN THIS FIELD, ESPECIALLY OUR YOUNGER INDIVIDUALS?
When I was trying to figure out my career path, I remember so many people encouraging me to pursue paths in S.T.E.M. or Law, but never heard anyone mention—nor did I actually see—other accounting and finance professionals that looked like me.
“I would like these younger individuals to know that there are other Native Americans who have taken this path and found success.”
Throughout my career, I have found numerous ways to contribute back to Indian Country and make an impact by helping Tribes and their organizations make financial decisions that should result in a self-sustaining economic development for future generations.
Hear more from Marcus in REDW’s roundtable interview hosted by Notah Begay III, Indigenous Stories that Shape Our Practice»