Michael Runia has decided to shake things up by leaving his job as vice-chair of Deloitte Canada to become a partner and the chief investment officer at Ottawa-based Nautical Lands Group.
In no way should the coronavirus pandemic take the credit for the career move, but it did play a role in fast-tracking the process. Runia was contemplating a change, anyway, before COVID-19 arrived in Canada.
“I was trying to think about where to go next with my career,” said Runia, 52, in an interview. “Then, COVID hit and it just accelerated that decision. I knew I absolutely wanted to do something different and I started to think about what that would look like.”
Runia didn’t have to wait long for the stars to align.
Developer Kirk Hoppner, founder and CEO of Nautical Lands Group, and his business partner Kevin Pidgeon, president and chief operating officer of the company, were eager to have Runia join them. They recognized that Runia’s 18 years’ experience at Deloitte garnered the kind of relationships, skills and expertise they needed to branch out nationally and add new properties to their portfolio.
Nautical Lands Group builds retirement communities and is expanding its adult lifestyle concept, known as the Wellings, for adults in the 55-plus age bracket. In Ottawa, it has 185 luxury apartments within a clubhouse atmosphere in the west-end suburb of Stittsville. The Wellings are specifically designed to create a social environment and promote health and wellness.
The full-scale developer has set its sights on Alberta and has already broken ground on its next project, the Wellings of Calgary, a high-rise seniors residence near Calgary Olympic Park.
“I’m excited about being an entrepreneur, being an owner, being a partner in a business that’s growing,” said Runia. “I welcome the new challenge. I needed a change and this was the right opportunity, the right fit for me.”
Runia, who grew up in the nation's capital and studied business at the University of Ottawa, began his career as an accountant before being promoted to a series of leadership and management roles at Deloitte, one of Canada's leading professional service firms.
Runia went from being managing partner of Deloitte Ottawa to managing partner in Ontario, to managing partner of Deloitte Private to vice-chair of Deloitte Canada, where he was responsible for working with key clients and managing relationships with C-suite executives. Over the years, he served “hundreds if not thousands of clients” and developed business relationships on an international level.
“Deloitte (is) an amazing firm,” said Runia. “I’ve had leadership roles here in Ottawa, across the country, globally. It’s been a great experience.”
Nautical Lands Group considers itself “blessed” to have Runia onboard, said Pidgeon in a phone interview.
“From a finance perspective, Mike is such a wizard. He’s a very analytical guy; he has the capacity to see things at 50,000 feet.”
Pidgeon worked closely with Runia during the high-profile sale in June 2013 of Ottawa sports retailer Tommy & Lefebvre to Sporting Life owner Fairfax Financial Holdings. Pidgeon was company president of Tommy & Lefebvre at the time and Runia, while representing Deloitte, was “an integral part” of making that deal happen, said Pidgeon.
“I’ve known Mike for many, many years and had tremendous guidance from him on a financial basis, so this was a real win for us to get him to join us as both a partner and our chief investment officer.”
Runia says he’s looking forward to having the opportunity now to sit on corporate boards. He also continues to be “100 per cent committed” to his role as board chair of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. He’s working with community leader Roger Greenberg, executive chair of Minto Group and of OSEG, to raise $400 million as part of the community’s share of the hospital project to build a brand new Civic Campus.
Runia, who’s an avid cyclist and downhill skier, is married to Suzanne Shillington and is father to Evan, 16, and Tyler, 19. Their eldest son is studying commerce at Dalhousie University and appears to be following in his dad’s footsteps; he just started as a co-op student in the Halifax office of Deloitte.
Back to the role that the pandemic has played in all of this. Most noticeably, it put a pause on business trips for Runia.
“I started to realize I don’t need to travel the world to be happy; I’m happy to be in Ottawa,” he said. “I think COVID has helped many of us reassess what’s important, what you need to focus on.
“It has allowed me to make this decision easier.”