If you’re interested in the resource sector in Canada, or several other countries for that matter, Greg McNab is your guy.
As Baker McKenzie’s new Global Head of Mining and partner in our Corporate & Securities Practice Group in Toronto, his experience covers a lot of ground.
“A good 50% of what I do now is either resource finance or general corporate work for resource companies, largely as a result of having focused on those spaces for the last 10 years,” Greg said. “And the work comes with employment issues, tax issues and so on. The other 50% is a combination of M&A and general corporate work, such as expansions.”
Ten years ago, our Securities Practice in Toronto was small. They wanted to expand their presence globally but needed just the right person to help. Fortunately, a mutual connection stepped in.
“A friend introduced me to Baker McKenzie’s securities practice leader at the time and said, ‘They’ve been looking for a year-and-a-half for a person who can do A, B and C…and you’re that person,'” Greg said. “I started here about two weeks later.”
Greg had been working on his own for about a year after several years with another leading Canadian firm. He brought a rare combination of industry experience, an entrepreneurial mindset and a personality that was both sharp and relatable, whether he was meeting clients in Toronto, or China.
“The Firm’s international reach was a major factor for me. At my first firm in Toronto it was exciting if you worked on something that went as far as Alberta. You thought, ‘Wow, I’m really stretching it,'” he said, laughing.
“With Baker McKenzie, I wouldn’t just be taking clients to the border and saying, ‘Call me when you’re back in Canada.’ I’d sort of hold their hand across other regions as well and I just thought that was the coolest thing.”
Another priority was to grow the Toronto office’s profile within the Firm itself.
“They wanted somebody who could visit our other offices and tell them what we’re doing in Toronto and to stop sending their securities work to other firms in Toronto, because we can do it,” Greg said. “And that was exciting.”
Born in Scotland, Greg moved with his family to Cambridge, Ontario when he was five years old and was introduced to Canada’s vast resource sector early on.
“My dad was an engineer in the steel business so I grew up with that being a big part of my life,” he said. “The steel business made good things happen at home.”
It was a sign of things to come. In high school, he worked at a steel mill in Hamilton which helped pay for his Engineering and Management degree from McMaster University. Then came law school, right? Well, not exactly.
“I was working as an engineer and was out with my brother who was an officer with the Ontario Provincial Police. His friend in recruiting said they’re looking for engineers to do accident reconstruction,” Greg said. “At first I thought, ‘Ah, that’s crazy,’ but the more I thought about it the more interesting it seemed. I figured I’d do that for a year or two and I ended up having a blast and doing it for seven years.”
When he eventually earned his law degree from the University of Windsor, familiar territory awaited. Greg was seconded at Stelco, a steel company back in Hamilton, and eventually went in-house with them.
“It was a dream job. I got to be a lawyer at a stage of my career when I finally felt like I knew a little about law and it was for a company where I knew a lot about the product,” he said. “I knew the business and the players because I’d been hearing about them for 30 years through my dad and then my own experiences.”
Those experiences, combined with his background as a mechanical engineer, helped Greg build trust with colleagues and clients around the world once he joined Baker McKenzie. This was especially so when earning business in markets such as China, Japan, Australia and Brazil; countries his group had targeted as parallels to Canada in the resource space and good matches for expanding the practice globally.
“I tell clients, ‘You don’t have to speak slower just because I’m in the room,'” he said, with a smirk.
Greg understands his clients’ industries, their businesses and can anticipate their concerns with proactive solutions. And now, leading our Global Mining Group, he’s excited with the team he has in place and where they’re headed.
“Our practice in Toronto is probably 80% bigger than it was when I joined 10 years ago,” he said. “So it’s pretty cool to have been part of the beginning and to now be able to see the growth and enjoy the credibility we’ve built as a group.”