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Just don't call Brian Felesky a rainmaker Add to ...

It felt good for Mr. Felesky to join a global banking organization whose latest annual report devoted 30 pages to corporate social responsibility, and which shared the Feleskys' commitment to youth and education.

His vast oil patch relationships are a big drawing card for the investment bank, but Mr. Felesky bristles when he is called a rainmaker. "I think the word rainmaker is so pejorative," he says. Rather, he sees himself as someone with knowledge and substance who can assist clients through the entire banking relationship.

Whereas, in the case of a rainmaker, "You get clients in the door, and you're like that waiter - you're off."

Our waiter is, in fact, very attentive as Mr. Felesky orders the chilled seafood salad - a choice that would be appreciated by his daughter, a dietitian. In his new healthier lifestyle, he is determined to avoid meat as much as possible, drinks lots of water, and has been spending more time meditating.

Mr. Greenberg, who has joined us and ordered the halibut, explains that successful lawyers like Mr. Felesky are masters at managing relationships. "And Brian has all this great experience on boards, in how organizations think and solve problems."

From its Toronto base, Credit Suisse had done well in its Canadian deal book, using its global network to reach investors worldwide. But Mr. Greenberg says the new Calgary office reflects how the business world has shifted.

"With globalization of the economy, the rise of the BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India and China]and growing commodities demand, it is incredible to see the amount of traffic in this town that is not just inter-Canada but connects to the rest of the world.

"I make more trips to Asia than to Houston, and I have no need to be in Toronto or New York, unless I have a client who is visiting investors."

But should I, as a Torontonian, be worried about how this shift affects property values in Canada's largest city, I ask? "Think of it as a balancing thing and it is good for the country," Mr. Felesky says.

In a speech to open the new Calgary office, Mr. Felesky pointed out that "on its own, Western Canada could already claim G20 status."

A prominent Calgary Tory, he would like to see more political rebalancing in Canada to mirror economic and business changes. He feels the recent federal election victory by a Conservative Party with a Calgary leader does not reflect any momentous change.

In the future, he hopes to see the West organize as a political movement, and sees promise in the trade and economic pact that broke down barriers between British Columbia and Alberta, and is now extended to Saskatchewan. "As long as we are fractionalized, it is going to be too easy to take us for granted."

It's nice to see investment banks come west, but he has a bigger game in mind. In conversations with top energy managers in Calgary, he hears them say they would shift considerable business to any chartered bank that moves its head office to their city.

"They say, 'We will choose them over any other national bank if they are here.' That would give [the bank]a huge leg up." He acknowledges that substantial banking operations would inevitably stay in Toronto, but "I am talking only about the head office."

As a Western business leader, Mr. Felesky would love to see all that happen, but he has other priorities now. The stroke was a reality check on solidifying his values and relationships as he moves into another older, perhaps wiser, phase of life.

"I see it as a bit of a blessing," he says. "It means getting ready for moving day so that you're prepared when that day comes."

Brian Felesky's CV


Born: Nov. 28, 1943

Bachelor of Arts, University of Alberta, 1965

Bachelor of Laws, University of Alberta, 1968

The flying Feleskys

Wife Stephanie is director of Canexus Ltd. and many non-profit boards

Son Adam founded Horizons group of exchange-traded funds in Toronto

Daughter Samara is a well-known Calgary dietitian

Son Wade is managing director, investment banking for GMP Securities, Calgary.

Career highlights:

Called to the Alberta bar in 1969

Founded Felesky Flynn LLP with four other lawyers in 1978

Helped build today's firm of almost 40 practitioners


Has sat on public-interest boards, such as University of Calgary; Canadian Tax Foundation; Public Policy Forum, and Calgary Stampede Foundation

Veteran corporate director - until recently, on boards of Suncor and Precision Drilling

Appointed Queen's Counsel, 1987

Member of Order of Canada

Good works:

Founding member of Awali, an Alberta fundraising initiative that works with Aga Khan Foundation on teacher development in East Africa.

Co-chair of HomeFront, a Calgary organization dedicated to reducing domestic violence

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