Student Showcase: Ian Robertson

Ian Robertson profile

When he’s not actively working as the CEO of the multibillion dollar corporation he founded almost 30 years ago, Ian Robertson can often be found flying a plane, or attending a class or lecture, looking for novel ways to challenge his brain and kick start his creativity. “I think the educational process keeps the neurons firing,” Robertson says. “I honestly believe the brain is like a muscle. Stop learning and it starts to atrophy.” If you want proof that Robertson actually lives that conviction, look no further than his string of postgraduate degrees and designations, which include an MBA, a CFA, and most recently, a  Global Professional Masters of Law from UofT.

“Why the GPLLM? As I looked at the knowledge set that I use every day in my career, clearly I’m involved with lots of things legal,” he says. “Particularly given Algonquin’s business outside of Canada. When I looked at the syllabus for the program it sounded consistent with the challenges I have every day.”

Those challenges often involve issues related to public financing, mergers and acquisitions and international trade relations, especially with a majority of Algonquin’s holdings scattered across the United States. Access to the brightest legal experts around is no substitute for the confidence he’s gained from earning the degree, he says. An informed and educated leader makes smarter and better business decisions.

 “I want to be an engaged participant in all of the discussions and decisions I make,” he says. “I believe in challenging people, challenging a discussion, understanding the issues they are bringing to my attention. At the end of the day, most decisions in life are factored on art not on science. So you have to be able to evaluate and prioritize.”

Robertson places such a priority on continuing education, he encourages all of his employees to pursue it  with financial support from the company. The subject of the course work hardly matters, as long as in some way it stretches their minds. Algonquin’s treasurer enrolled in the GPLLM after seeking Robertson’s advice.

But back to that plane. Robertson actually pilots the company’s corporate jet. He also happens to be a flight test examiner and check pilot for Transport Canada. That should reassure his colleagues, he says, as he flies them from place to place. He adds, with a chuckle, “I guess it’s always good to have something to fall back on in case the other thing doesn’t work out.”