Jim Gilliland says his past as a student at UBC helps inform his current role leading the school’s Faculty Advisory Board.
When the UBC Sauder School of Business went looking for a new chair for its Faculty Advisory Board, it set its sights on securing a business leader with a comprehensive understanding of the school and international experience to match its global aspirations. It found its ideal candidate in Jim Gilliland, head of fixed income, President and CEO at Vancouver-based Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Ltd., one of Canada’s largest employee-owned investment management firms with over $17 billion in assets.
Gilliland had already proven himself a tremendous asset to UBC Sauder before accepting the role in fall, serving as one of its advisory board’s 33 members. A UBC alumnus, he graduated just over 20 years ago with a bachelor of commerce and has been an active member of the school’s community ever since investing his time and generous support.
“It’s always helpful for people on the board to have experience in the school,” says Robert Helsley, UBC Sauder Dean and Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy. “It’s not required, but it can help create a closer connection and identification with our mission.”
After graduating from UBC in 1993, Gilliland started his career at HSBC asset management/M.K. Wong & Associates in Vancouver. He later went on to work at Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco and obtained his master's degree in financial engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.
Gilliland says it wasn’t until he left British Columbia to work and study in the U.S. that he appreciated the “high degree of respect for Canadian schools,” and UBC Sauder specifically.
“When I would mention to people that I went to the school, inevitably they would know of someone who went there or worked with them,” Gilliland recalls.
“It helped me value even more what I was able to obtain at UBC Sauder. If I didn’t have that opportunity, I wouldn’t have felt as much pride and motivation to get back to it.”
Gilliland says being an alumnus also helps to inform his role as chair.
“Any time you’re dealing with questions related to the school it’s always through the lens of being educated there,” he says.
His role includes working with the board’s other high-level executives to advise the dean, management and faculty on strategies and programs for the school. The board offers its real-world expertise and serves as a critical sounding board in the development of new ideas and initiatives that support the school’s strategy.
Gilliland says the board also works to help build the school’s relationships and networks, including with the local, national and international business community and other stakeholders at home and around the world.
Leith Wheeler is a long-time supporter of the school, with Murray Leith Sr. (BCom 1963) playing an important role as one of three UBC Sauder graduates who founded the UBC Portfolio Management Foundation program. More recently, the partners at Leith Wheeler donated $200,000 towards increasing student access to Bloomberg terminals for applied study of the financial markets.
Gilliland believes it’s important for students to have access to cutting-edge technology, including tools he and his team use in their jobs every day.
“The more access you can provide students, the better prepared they are for the workforce,” Gilliland says, adding that it’s a way his company can give back to the school where many of them were educated.
Dean Helsley describes Gilliland as a “successful, thoughtful and strategic business leader” with strong communication skills, all of which make him well positioned for the job as chair.
“We’re grateful for his willingness to serve the university in this way, and the support he and his colleagues have given UBC.”