After receiving degrees in economics and finance, Doug Kosloski found himself at a crossroads: pursue finance via an MBA or a CFA, or pursue law. “I chose law,” Kosloski says, but his career path has led him to a position where he has had to master both. He’s the senior vice president and general counsel of Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (CIC), which may be the biggest company you’ve never heard of. Below, he explains where its vast wealth goes and how he helps oversee its risk management.
Advantage: Why might CIC not be a household name?
Doug Kosloski: Although CIC has been in business since 1947, it’s a holding company. Currently, it has eight major operating companies that have 11,000 employees and $13 billion in assets. Many are utilities, including SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy, and SaskWater. We also own SGI [an insurance company], STC [which operates transportation terminals], Sask Gaming [which operates Casino Regina and Casino Moose Jaw], and SOCO [a developer and operator of research parks at the province’s two universities].
How has the company changed over the years?
Our focus has become more contained. At one time, we held major industrial investments in fertilizer, pulp mills, and heavy-oil upgraders and had subsidiary operations in many parts of the world. But we’ve divested of those noncore assets and are focusing on our eight operating subsidiaries.
Graduates from the University of Regina with an economics degree
Graduates from the University of Saskatchewan with a finance degree
Completes law school and begins working at a law firm
Starts work at the Ministry of Environment
Joins CIC as legal counsel
Climbs to the position of general counsel and corporate secretary
Becomes VP of a division responsible for investment funds while still working as general counsel
Earns a senior VP title and still works as general counsel
How did you get into the business?
I studied finance and economics and then went to law school. After working in private practice for a few years, I drafted environmental legislation for the Ministry of Environment before beginning at CIC as legal counsel in 1998. At the time, there was an investigative inquiry into arbitrage activities at one of the company’s subsidiaries, so I worked on that in addition to doing regulatory, transactional, and corporate work.
What was a lesson you learned early on in your career?
Don’t be too quick to respond if you don’t know something. There’s an expectation that if you’re readily available, you’ll have a response readily available, but that’s not always the case, especially early in your career. Just say you don’t know, then go and find the answer. There’s nothing wrong with providing informed advice later.
How have your responsibilities changed over the years?
I was promoted to general counsel and corporate secretary in 1999, after which there were a few reorganizations, during which I ended up taking on additional business responsibilities. Today, I’m doing less legal work; I’m more responsible for broad human resource policy, executive-compensation structures, collective bargaining strategy, managing the governance practices in our subsidiaries, managing investment funds, and overseeing broad public policy initiatives like trade and environmental policies.
What do you consider your central role today?
I’ve worked for five CEOs, and direction has shifted in this organization over the years. Regardless of who’s in the CEO chair, my job is the same. Business is about taking risks. It’s my job to look at risks and take steps to mitigate them.
What’s been the key to your success?
Taking on new challenges. At one time, for example, I knew nothing about setting up an executive-compensation structure. Being eager to take on challenges is important to advancing your career. You have to be responsive to the company’s needs.
Can you tell me about one of the most notable projects you’ve worked on?
In July 2013, we sold 69 percent of one of our subsidiaries, Information Services Corporation, to the public in a successful initial public offering. The last time we did something like that was more than 25 years ago with the IPO for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, and it entailed a lot of work in a short amount of time.
What’s important for a general counsel?
Protecting yourself against isolation. As counsel, it’s easy to sit in your office, do your work, and not interact with anyone. My advice is to get involved in a professional organization and build a network, which gives you access to people all over the country and even the world. I also suggest getting involved in corporate projects that may not have a legal angle; that will get you known and allow you to advance into other areas.
The Bottom Line
Senior VP & general counsel
Years in the business
Where did you start your career?
At a private law firm
Describe yourself in three words
Pace-setting, creative, conscientious
Advice to those just starting in finance
Lead by example. Be a mentor by walking the walk.