Stacey Hoisak on the Journey from GC to CEO of CoinsquareFeb 22, 2021
Stacey Hoisak is an experienced corporate and securities lawyer with over 20 years of experience, both in private practice and in-house. Hoisak is the CEO, General Counsel, CPO and a Director of Coinsquare, a leading cryptocurrency exchange. Having grown up on the East Coast, Hoisak attended the University of New Brunswick for both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Law degree, and later received her Masters in Securities Law from Osgoode Hall. In her spare time,Hoisak enjoys watching her kids play competitive hockey and baseball, as well as playing hockey herself, golfing, travelling and getting out to hear as much live music as possible.
Counselwell: Describe your background and how you arrived at Coinsquare as its GC.
Hoisak: I came to Toronto to start my legal career as a summer student with Stikeman Elliott. It was a huge change for me, having grown up in small towns across Canada, mainly on the East Coast; but I loved it immediately. I came back the next year, to the same firm, to do my articling stint, and then stayed on for another 8 years. During that time I had my two children, and after my second I decided I wanted to aim for some better work/life balance, so I moved in-house. I started as legal counsel for a start-up called Alpha ATS, which was an amazing place to learn the tools needed to be both a business partner and legal advisor. Alpha ended up growing into Alpha Exchange, a competitor to the TSX, and eventually was acquired and integrated into the TSX family. From there, I spent several great years as General Counsel – first at a private equity firm, and then at a digital health marketing firm. About a year and a half ago, I decided I wanted to get back into the entrepreneurial start-up aspect of being in-house counsel, and use my years of experience to be a trusted advisor to a fast-paced, growing company – and Coinsquare and I discovered each other.
Counselwell: The Association of Corporate Counsel released a report recently suggesting a trend of GCs becoming CEOs. Describe the journey of becoming the Interim CEO of Coinsquare. Which qualities or skills do GCs have that make them viable candidates for the CEO position?
Hoisak: My journey to the CEO role was a bit of an odd one. I had only been at Coinsquare for about 6 months when we had executive leadership changes necessitated by some regulatory issues that had occurred prior to my joining the company. Our CEO and our President both had to step down, and I was named Interim CEO. We were really struggling at the time to stay afloat and keep the business alive, so the first 6-8 weeks of my tenure was very stressful – my learning curve was actually completely vertical! Luckily I was surrounded by an amazing, resilient team who really pulled together to get us through those difficult times, and we have emerged stronger and better than ever. I think that the qualities that make GCs good CEO candidates are the ability to see the big picture, and to analyze and manage risk while pushing forward with the overall strategy of the company. As General Counsel, you are the trusted advisor to the CEO and the senior leaders; it is imperative that you have full organizational visibility in order to properly assess both risk and strategic opportunities. Those same abilities carry over into the role of CEO.
Counselwell: What advice do you have for those in-house counsel who are interested in pivoting to a business role within their organization?
Hoisak: Actually, I would give this advice whether you want to pivot to a business role or simply excel in your legal role in your organization – either way, you have to learn and understand the needs of the business. Remember that the employees of the company are your clients. Learn to expand your views, broaden your sightlines past the strictly legal analysis and incorporate business strategy into your work. Take the time to talk to the business leaders across the entire organization, because that is the only way to truly gain an understanding of how your role - whether legal or business or both – fits into and can benefit the organization.
Counselwell: Mogo recently purchased approximately 20% of Coinsquare (congrats!). What was it like working on the deal as CEO and lawyer?
Hoisak: Busy! It was probably the most fast-paced transaction I’ve ever been a part of. Coinsquare is fortunate to have an excellent set of legal advisors, both internal and external, and they managed the lion’s share of the work on the legal side. It was very interesting, though, to be involved in the deal as both a lawyer and as CEO; the two roles complement each other, as you use your legal skills to negotiate and analyze risk, and your skills as a business leader to manage and collaborate with a view to the ensuring the interests of the company and its shareholders are being protected.