Leith Wheeler Announces New President and CEO

Jim Gilliland, Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Ltd.

Jim Gilliland, who was nine years old when investment firm Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Ltd. was founded in 1982 by Murray Leith and Bill Wheeler, becomes only the firm’s third CEO

Jim Gilliland has taken the reins as president and CEO of Vancouver investment firm Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Ltd., effective today. He replaces David Schaffner, who is leaving the firm after fifteen years. Leith Wheeler, founded in 1982 by Murray Leith and Bill Wheeler, has 59 employees, 55 in Vancouver and four in Calgary, and manages $13.3 billion on behalf of its clients. Gilliland, 40, is only the third CEO in the firm’s 30-year history.

The new president and CEO took a few minutes out of his busy day to talk with BCBusiness about his new position.
What responsibilities does the new title add to your daily role?
Part of our culture is based around team management; when we manage portfolios it’s on a team basis, and when we’re managing our business we also do it from a team perspective. All business decisions get made by our management committee. I’ve been a member of that management committee for the last several years, so I don’t anticipate a dramatic increase in terms of day-to-day involvement.
But surely your daily role changes somewhat, now that you have a new title on your business card.
One key aspect of the CEO is leading our strategic planning discussions and stock allocation decisions. As part of our annual review we spend one or two days sorting through where we want to position the firm and how we want to appropriately spread the ownership among our various employees. I’ve been part of those discussions over the last three or four years but will play a more active role leading the discussions for the business heads for the various units.
What are the top priorities you bring to the position?
We’re entering our fourth decade and I’m only the third CEO for the firm. So when I look at the value that we’ve created, it’s around long-term value investing, independence, and putting our clients first. So an absolutely key priority is making sure that culture, which was established by Murray Leith and Bill Wheeler over thirty years ago, is fostered.
You’re a local boy, a UBC grad. Is that right?
I graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Commerce in finance in the early ’90s and started with M.K. Wong and Associates, formed by Milton Wong. I worked with Milton for three years and then was involved with the sale of the firm to HSBC Asset Management. I continued on for five years with HSBC Asset Management and finished up as their chief strategist for HSBC Asset Management Canada here in Vancouver.
You left Vancouver for San Francisco, where you completed a graduate degree at U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business before spending seven years at Barclay’s Global Investors in San Francisco. When you left Vancouver was it with the intention of returning some day?
I think everyone who has grown up or gone to school in Vancouver has a strong affinity for the city. When we originally headed down there, it probably wasn’t on the highest priority list, but as we started a family and looked at the type of place that we wanted to raise our family and the type of place where I wanted to pursue my career, it really drew us back to the place we started.