Profiting from a U of L friendship

Sometimes the best-laid plans never see the light of day. Sometimes, they just need a little more time on the shelf.

Russ MacKay (BMgt '90) and Anil Tahiliani (BMgt '90), graduates of the University of Lethbridge's Bachelor of Management program, are now senior partners at McLean & Partners, one of Canada's most respected, high net worth private-client wealth management firms. But it was back in 1990 where a friendship and future working relationship was cemented while writing a business plan to open a convenience store in the yet-to-be-built Students Union Building at the U of L.

"The project-based group work in the Bachelor of Management program is what cemented the relationship, both personal and professional, between Anil and myself, and this is what brought us back together 10 years after grad," says MacKay, noting the plan they developed was never enacted. "Now look at us: we work 10 feet apart from one another."

The route the two took after graduating from the U of L was divergent at first but with their degrees intact, it provided each with a wealth of opportunity.

MacKay initially pursued a career in media, working his way to sales manager at two Lethbridge radios station while Tahiliani moved on to the Alberta Treasury Finance Department.

After four years in media, MacKay moved to Calgary, launching a new career with the investment firm Burns Fry. His career in the high net worth investment industry continued to the point where he became a founding partner of McLean & Partners Wealth Management.

Tahiliani took a decidedly different path. One year into his career with the provincial government, he took a brief eight-month leave of absence to complete an MBA, returning to the Alberta Treasury Investment Management Department.

When Tahiliani left in 1994, he was recognized as the youngest manager in their history. From there, he moved on to an analyst position with Bissett and Associates, before moving to Phoenix in 1997 as CFO for a nutritional health-care provider. After completing both a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and CIM (Canadian Investment Manager) designation, Tahiliani moved on to build his own company, a two-year old start-up ISP, which became a highly successful business before it was purchased by NetZero.

In 2000, Tahiliani returned to Canada and reunited with his former study partner, this time creating a business plan with real dollars at stake. Starting with $275 million in assets, he, MacKay and the firm put the plan to the test. It passed, as over the next eight years, McLean & Partners would grow into one of Calgary's most recognized investment practices, with over $1 billion in assets. It all started at the U of L.

"I liked the University of Lethbridge for the ability to make lifelong friends, such as Russ," Tahiliani says. "The liberal arts environment gave me a much more rounded education not typically found in the finance world. I now feel I have a more complete view of the world, and this greatly helps me working for a firm that specializes in global investing."


• Both MacKay and Tahiliani met their future wives on the U of L campus. MacKay married Karen McCune (BEd '87), while Tahiliani married Terry Bourassa (BEd '89)

• While in the media business, MacKay worked as sales manager at Monarch Broadcasting and Shaw Communications

• Tahiliani was brought into McLean & Partners in 2000 when the firm created a research department, and he was recruited as the Head of Research