School for Shupe in the UK
by Marg Ommanney
One of the most interesting aspects of Bill Shupe is his deep affection for Saskatchewan. "I've been to many different places," Shupe says, "but I have this continual gravitational pull back to Saskatchewan. I've done a lot of business in the province and I enjoy doing business there. "There's a strong spiritual attachment to Saskatchewan that's never left me. And I don't want it to leave me." Shupe's base these days is England, where he's enrolled in a one-year Sloan Fellowship Master's program at the London Business School. The program, which is also offered at Stanford and MIT, is designed for management personnel, aged 35 to 45.
"It's a very interesting program," he says. "There are three main elements. There's obviously a core business curriculum that you'd get in any major business program. "But it's very practical in its orientation and, as you would expect, it's also very international."
There are 45 students in his class from all over the world, from countries such as Asia, Latin America and Europe. Only five are from the U.K., and Shupe is the sole Canadian. Shupe graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1980, with a BA in English literature tucked in his belt and a degree in law.
Although he articled with Balfour Moss in Regina and was admitted to the bar, he did not pursue his chosen profession further. Instead, he opted for high finance - the investment business. He joined Pemberton Houston Willoughby, a national investment firm with a dominant presence in Western Canada.
"I spent virtually all the '80s with them. I was in Regina and Calgary. Then, in the late '80s, I moved to Pemberton's head office in Vancouver.
"In Vancouver, I was vice-president of corporate and government finance. We did a lot of privatization and government bond offerings. I designed and managed most of the offerings." These offerings included the Sask Power Bond offers, the Power Plus Exchangeable Bond offerings, the privatization of B.C. Gas and Manitoba Hydro Bonds.
In the mid-'80s, from 1985 to 1987, Shupe was seconded to the Government of Saskatchewan for 18 months, as assistant deputy minister of finance.
One major project he oversaw was the establishment of the Investment Corporation of Saskatchewan, now called Greystone, which today manages more than five-billion dollars of investment funds such as public sector pensions.
In 1989, about two years after he settled back in Vancouver, Pemberton was bought out by RBC Dominion Securities. "I did the ironic thing. I moved back to Saskatchewan - to Saskatoon, actually. I set up my own firm called Shupe & Company.
"Some of the things I accomplished there included advising on the establishment of the Saskatchewan Community Bond program.
"Then, finally, I also advised Haro Financial Corporation and the Government of Saskatchewan on the Crown Life purchase and relocation to Regina."
One thing led to another, Shupe says, and he became president of Crown Life Investment Management. That firm manages about a billion dollars of pension and other institutional funds.
In 1995, Shupe decided he needed "to take some time out, a self-imposed sabbatical." He wanted to spend some time abroad and England beckoned.
His wife, Catherine Milligan, a U of S law classmate, joined him in London the beginning of March, with their two children: Brittany, 7; and Liam, 4. Shupe says he's enjoying London immensely and has no concrete future plans.
"My general intention is to return to Canada," he says, "but I don't know where. We do have a strong bias to Western Canada. "I'm definitely staying in the investment industry ... I just haven't finalized where I'm going to go." Shupe is proud of his U of S roots. Although some people he meets have never heard of his university, most are familiar with the province.
They all have a high regard for Canadian education, he says. If it's a Canadian university, it must be a good academic institution. That's taken for granted. While Shupe's next challenge may still be unclear, there's no doubt where he's drawn. "Saskatoon is actually one of my favourite little cities," he adds. "It's a jewel. "There's that gravitational pull there, which says a lot about Saskatchewan."