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Keeping With Good Company

Surrounding yourself with the right advisors
Surrounding yourself with the right advisors

For a company to reach its greatest potential, it needs strong interpersonal relationships with other like-minded industry leaders, allowing both companies to rise above the competition. One such valued partner for Canada ICI is Roger Swainson, the leader of Brownlee LLP’s business practice. “Dale Klein and I go back into the 80s, when Dale was with his previous company, Metropolitan Trust,” Roger recalls. “Dale and I met up in Toronto, and Dale advised me that he was leaving Metropolitan Trust to go off on his own. The next day, I incorporated the company that became Canada ICI. That was in January of 1993. I’ve been there since the beginning.”

The relationship between Dale and Roger has always been a “mutual growth experience,” based on 30+ years of listening and understanding. “One of the things that both Dale and I have is we’re both very curious. We both want to understand deals,” Roger says. “From the very beginning, I wanted to understand his part of the deal, and he wanted to understand what I was doing. Eventually, after years of working together, we’d get to the point where he and I would look at a deal and come to the same conclusion. We understood the priorities from all angles, for everyone involved.” It was this ‘sharing of mind’ that helped both businesses achieve positive outcomes, for each other and for clients.

Some brokers in the commercial mortgage industry wait until the deal is fully formed before engaging counsel, but Dale saw this as an opportunity to set Canada ICI apart from its competitors. “Dale recognized that the right lawyer who thought like he did could actually add value to a deal from day one,” Roger explains. “You involve your partners from the beginning and get advice on how to perfect your security on a transaction. So, from day one, Dale would involve me in structuring transactions from the inception of an opportunity. It’s what made us successful.”

Today, Roger advises on nearly all of the commitment letters drawn up by Canada ICI’s AMG group.

“It’s become a natural part of how we work,” he says. “25 years later, I think the rest of the industry is just starting to catch up to that, to actually sitting down and having a partnership with your advisors.”

While he and Dale developed their business relationship, Roger says they eventually brought their respective companies into the fold. “Both our respective teams are very integrated with one another, and always taking advantages of opportunities to learn from one another through joint lunch and learn seminars” he says. “It goes back to Dale and I learning from each other as to what our challenges were. We expanded that partnership to others in our organizations.” It’s at these lunch and learn meetings that ICI team members stay current on “where the market is transitioning from a legal perspective,” while Brownlee’s lawyers get a “boots on the ground” perspective on the commercial real estate market.”

The reason this arrangement is so beneficial for both parties comes down to a similarity of culture between Brownlee and ICI, beginning with what Roger refers to as “recognizing excellence.” As he explains it, both companies “generate a pool of skill and experience that stand out amongst our peers,” allowing them to build a consistent culture across generations. “We really stress to our younger people coming up that first and foremost, their skill set, their experience, and the work they produce has to be excellent,” Roger says. “Once they get there, everything else will follow from that.”

When he thinks about what the relationship between Canada ICI and Brownlee LLP will look like in the future, Roger prefers to keep it simple. “Looking forward is just a continuation of what we’ve started,” he says, before adding one last detail: “The key to me is to never be complacent.”