Skip to main content
leadership: ira gluskin

Ira Gluskin

Managing other people's money is a job Ira Gluskin has enjoyed for the past 45 years.

"It's a great intellectual challenge," says Mr. Gluskin. "You're dealing with all facets of society - business, personal, international affairs, what affects markets and companies. It's also a competitive thing because you're making a bet on certain things and you're proved right or wrong sooner than later."

Mr. Gluskin is president and chief investment officer of Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc., the money management firm he co-founded with Gerald Sheff in 1984. The company employs more than 100 people and handles tens of millions of dollars in client portfolios for high-net-worth investors.

"Our conduct and behaviour has been pretty good for most of the 25 years," says Mr. Gluskin. "There are quite a few slimy people around who are very successful in life and nobody is putting them down and they're not going to jail. So you can get away with it - but it counts to me."

Mr. Gluskin picks companies in terms of what they say they're going to do and whether they meet those expectations. The firms that deliver are usually good ones. Those always falling short probably are not.

And he's always listening for double talk. "Usually there are some sets of facts that are arguably true," says Mr. Gluskin. "When the person doesn't want to deal with these facts, even when you prod them, I've learned that they're usually avoiding them."

He makes the same demands of his staff as he does of public companies, liking them "to be frank, to tell me what's going on and not go into double or triple talk." Mr. Gluskin no longer keeps the "massive" office of earlier days, preferring to work in a tiny, cluttered corner of an open room filled with cubicle workstations. He doesn't need an office, he says, because the firm has lots of meeting rooms and besides, he doesn't like talking on the phone, so he doesn't need a place for private conversation. (He has a phone but it doesn't ring in his corner.) He chooses to communicate mainly by e-mail and voice mail.

"The number of calls that really have to be listened to at that moment are very few," says Mr. Gluskin. "There are a lot of people who if they don't get you, will speak to 42 other people in the company. What's crucial is getting back to people who've gone out of their way to communicate with me. Clients and people in the firm are top priority."

Newspapers are a morning obsession. Rising at six, Mr. Gluskin spends about two and a half hours reading eight to 10 newspapers daily. He believes younger people don't read enough and finds that, mostly, they don't know that much.

"They're highly interested in specific topics whereas I don't really know what I'm interested in, some of the time, until I read about it," he says. "Generally, if I've read the papers, I know more than most people."

Recently, the firm's chief compliance officer guided him through the compliance course that everyone in the company is required to take.

"There's a whole set of rules, but there are a lot of subtleties," says Mr. Gluskin. "Are you allowed to take an apple from a broker? Could you take a drink? Could you take a lunch? Two lunches? If the child of a client calls, are you allowed to give them information? They cover everything.

"But we don't really need all these rules. The right thing is not that difficult to define. Most of the time, you know where it is."