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Passion came first, and a career followed

Malcolm Burrows, head of philanthropic advisory services at Scotia Private Client Group.

Malcolm Burrows

Malcolm Burrows is head of philanthropic advisory services at Scotia Private Client Group, which serves the affluent clients of Scotiabank. He has held the position for 7.5 years.

What's your background and education?

I have two degrees from the University of Toronto, a BA in English and a masters in drama. I have no banking background. I grew up working at charities for 14 years – the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and the University of Toronto.

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How did you get this job?

I was essentially recruited. The manager of Scotia Trust was a colleague that I'd known for many years who was approaching retirement and was looking for a successor.

What's the best part of your job?

All of it. There's so many different dimensions. Working exclusively with charitable individuals and charitable gifts is a rare pleasure. Working with individuals at their best to achieve, in many cases, their lifelong dreams of making a positive contribution to the world around them. As hokey as that sounds, it's extremely gratifying.

What part of your job do you dislike?

I haven't found one yet. Frankly, I view my role over the last 20 years as a bit of a calling.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

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My strengths are grounded in my humanities background. I'm deeply interested in people and ideas and actions, so there's this connection. What I acquired later on was technical skills in terms of figuring out the law, figuring out the tax issues.

My weakness is that I'm not a day-to-day line manager. I tend to be more outwardly oriented, community oriented, and focused on the ideas, the implementation, the planning side.

What was your best career move?

Mid-career, going to Scotia Private Client Group, in retrospect, was my best move just because I was a bit on the cusp of things. I was a bit of pioneer coming from the charitable sector. I had a lot of colleagues say, "What are you doing going to a bank? You'll lose your way. They're going to chew you up and spit you out."

They've actually been the best employer I've ever had. Because it's this large network of people with planning knowledge dealing with potentially philanthropic clients, I'm able to assist more people, plan larger gifts than I would at any charity in the country. So I had to leave the charitable sector to provide greater benefit to the charitable sector.

Are there any career moves you regret?

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In every case, it all sort of worked out for the best in terms of what I learned and how I was able to build upon it.

What's your next big job goal?

I'm going to continue to chase that horizon line in terms of philanthropy in Canada. At Scotia Private Client Group, there's a tremendous focus on client experience but also on innovation, so I've been supported to think up new ways to do things. That's very invigorating.

What's your best advice?

I've always been a mad, passionate enthusiast. I've always followed my values and my interests first and then tried to sort out the rest, so my career has been defined more by passion and curiosity than it has by good planning. I've found that has always served me exceptionally well.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Dianne Nice is the Careers & Workplace Web Editor.

If you know a Canadian executive with an interesting career, contact Globe Careers.

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