A lucky jump into Up Up and Away Investment Management International
It is so remarkably interesting just how much fate and luck play a part in landing a new job. Sure, you follow all the same old advice as to networking, resumé writing and how to conduct yourself at an interview. But you know, sometimes it is just a question of being at the right place at the right time.
My contract with the insurance regulator was winding down so I was delighted to receive a call from my old colleague at CRAP, Sally Self. She was now a lawyer at the Canadian subsidiary of Up Up and Away Investment Management International which was owned and headquartered in New York. She was handling both compliance and legal affairs for Up Up and Away in Canada while Tim Beavis and Anne Kolodny both lawyers for Up Up and Away in New York, were handling the negotiation of Canadian contracts.
I was no stranger to Up Up and Away. In fact, I had persuaded Sally to apply for the job she landed at Up Up and Away in Toronto. I thought now she might have wanted to return the favour. Not only did I know Beavis and Kolodny but I had negotiated contracts with them as well as Beatrice Tuff (to whom Beavis and Kolodny reported to), also in New York, who was a bit of a scattered and eccentric lawyer. Kolodny was a friend to me. She was older than me and exceedingly practical and knowledgeable with a cutting sense of humour. I really enjoyed dealing with her. Beavis was also a great person to negotiate with. Now Beatrice Tuff was another thing altogether! When I was with CRAP I had said no to one of her proposed business relationships in Canada which involved CRAP contracting with Up Up and Away’s Canadian clients and then completely delegating all of CRAP’s responsibilities back to Up Up and Away in Canada as CRAP’s agent. The reason was that Up Up and Away did not yet have the necessary license to carry on the business proposed but CRAP did. I had a bad gut feel about the legitimacy of such a transaction as you should not do something indirectly that you were prohibited from doing directly. We tried all sorts of work-arounds but none were acceptable to Tuff and myself and the deal died. Although I had made a decision that was supported by CRAP management, I had made an enemy of Tuff at Up Up and Away in New York.
Up Up and Away required a Toronto based lawyer to negotiate Canadian client contracts. Beavis had pissed off a powerful Canadian based largecorp most likely because he was swamped negotiating far bigger deals in New York and could not devote time to a Canadian “small potato” deals. Also, Canadian clients were voicing their dissatisfaction with how long contracts were taking to get negotiated. Furthermore, some were surprised how Up Up and Away was having contracts negotiated out of New York rather than Toronto. This Yankee imperialism was perceived as a bit anti-Canadian by the Canadian marketplace and whispered a lack of commitment to the Canadian marketplace.
Up Up and Away needed to act quickly so to placate Tuff I was offered a 3 month contract instead of a full-time position. A “try-out”. Years later I was to find out I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire however the fire was a rather a long way from being lit.
In many respects there was not much of a difference from working at Up Up and Away than working at CRAP. Both businesses were heavily regulated and both were in the financial services industry. Both had an annoying Human Resources Department and both had a greedy Senior Management Team.
I was so happy to be earning a decent paycheque I just hoped I could sweep all the annoying corporate bullshit out of the way. Boy, talk about being delusional.
So, my new job made me a contract employee in the Up Up and Away Toronto Legal Department
Up Up and Away was a monstrous largecorp that dwarfed the size and market power of CRAP. One thing I didn’t miss was the plethora of small fry clients CRAP had. They were not very profitable. They were demanding as all clients have a right to be but they just ate up massive amounts of time. Up Up and Away had the biggest and best clients very much like the ones Felicity Poker had serviced when she had been with her law firm Ooze & Ooze.
Up Up and Away’s clients may have been powerful but I can’t say I had any problems in dealing with their lawyers and business teams. Law can be a bit of a compromise game. There are certain points you can give on some you couldn’t. Those lawyers could have been pushy, aggressive and obnoxious but when they heard I had been an American and attended the Ivy League equivalent McGill University it almost seemed as if I was one of them. York University and University of Toronto were unheard of in the United States. McGill was up there with Harvard and Yale. Did they know the phrase, “Pick up a fork and you can go to York?” Even the graduates from York University’s faculty of law never ever say they received a law degree from York University but rather from “Osgoode Hall” which was the building in York University where the law faculty was located. It was if they were ashamed of any association with York University. To make a long story short whilst I suffered prejudice in Toronto for not graduating from a local university American and European lawyers immediately doffed their hat in respect of my education.
As a last comment I will say Penton Academy and the McGill Faculty of Law were not the nicest places in the academic world but unlike other law faculties and secondary schools in Canada they certainly did not suffer from mark inflation.
Up Up and Away was almost burnt out of business decades ago in the United States due to poor compliance and regulatory mistakes it made that took it close to bankruptcy. It smartened up mighty quick and created a bureaucracy that was designed not to repeat that mistake.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
CRAP was willing to do business with just about anyone. Sort of like a smell test made them happy. Up Up and Away had a rigorous client review process that took weeks to analyze each client to ensure it was reputable, solvent and legitimate. They had a “New Business Review Committee” with representatives from client servicing, risk and compliance, legal and two senior executives with Up Up and Away in New York that had to “sign off” on each deal. It was cumbersome and slow but at least it prevented doing business with bad apples. Over time it choked itself to death.
Another significant difference was that Up Up and Away had a contractual policy which set down certain terms and conditions that could not be agreed to in any contract such as not receiving an indemnification from a client in a client contract. Now one could bypass all or part of this contractual policy by obtaining “senior management approval” which meant a Senior Management Approval Memo (SMAM) had to be written and approved justifying why Up Up and Away could bypass the relevant provision of the contractual policy. The required approval had to be received from a plethora of members of the SMT both in Toronto and New York.
Unfortunately, I had to write countless of these memos. My drafting style was short and sweet but Sally Self was a CYA specialist and rewrote and over-edited to the point of being ridiculous. It was not uncommon for me to rewrite the SMAM memo 15 times. Self had an ability to make one feel like an idiot. Great leadership qualities.
The contractual policy was somewhat of a joke because every SMAM I wrote was approved. Big clients have clout.
I should say I did manage to move into a full-time position with Up Up and Away as a Vice President of Legal Affairs. CRAP employees always used to joke about Up Up and Away as they said everyone was a Vice President there. That wasn’t far from the truth however I am sure it was said with some amount of jealousy because at CRAP being a Vice President meant a company car, club memberships, exotic management trips and an opportunity to get your hands in the cookie jar of executive compensation. Nowhere near the looting levels of the SMT but a far cry from the stock purchase plan offered to the regular office tower employees and the rather paltry pension plan they were given.
A Vice-President at Up UP and Away in Canada had free parking, a car allowance and a token incentive payment plan. At least it was a step up from being a contract employee.
The crowning glory was that my former Up Up and Away enemy Beatrice Tuff had come full circle and said I was the best legal hire Up Up and Away Legal had ever made!