The Thursday Q&A with Imran Syed
Imran Syed wanted to be a lawyer when he was younger. He wrote the LSATs and applied to law school, but didn’t get into the schools he wanted to go to. He chose to take a year off to repay his debt and wait until something better came along. In 1989, he worked in a few financial offices and liked it so much he stayed in the industry. Nine years later, he opened his own financial firm and has been running it ever since.
In his off-time, he plays tennis, works out, and hangs out on the water at his cottage. But he is happiest when he travels. He’s already been all over the world, but his list of places to see is never-ending. We caught him in Ottawa though — and he took some time to talk to Style intern Laura Green.
OCS: Who are your style icons?
IS: I kinda like the Mad Men era in terms of the way people dress. People took much more care with the way they dress; guys had fedoras on and took their hats off when they met ladies. It’s just more of a gentlemanly type era.
OCS: Mac or PC?
IS: I’m a PC guy for work, although I have an iPhone and an iPad.
OCS: Favourite websites and blogs?
IS: I read different blogs about different trends that are happening. Mostly because I evaluate investment options for clients, and I travel a lot, so I want to see what’s happening in different parts of the world in Europe and Africa, etc. I try to think about how that might impact our experiences here. I read a lot of travel blogs as well.
OCS: Best recent fashion find?
IS: I bought a Tom Ford blazer in Vancouver.
OCS: What was your biggest fashion faux-pas, where was it and when?
IS: Personalized (license) plates. When I first started being semi-successful in the finance industry, I bought a nice car and thought it would be cool to have personalized plates. When I look back, it was probably something I could have skipped. They said “Net Worth.”
OCS: What is a person, place or thing that makes you proud or happy to live in Ottawa?
IS: A lot of things make me happy to live in Ottawa. I think people take it for granted. I’ll be driving along the canal on the way to the market and I’ll see Parliament Hill, I’ll see the Chateau Laurier, and the canal’s in the background.
OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa?
IS: I like Beckta/Play, E18hteen/Sidedoor and Metropolitan/Empire Grill. For a “neighbourhood” place, I love Agave Grill on Wellington.
OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?
IS: The desk in my office. I bought it from the U.S. Embassy and it looked like crap, then we had it restored. The other piece of furniture I really like is our Thomasville dining room table. My wife, Paula, and I bought it years ago and then had to save up for matching chairs.
OCS: Favourite home accessory?
IS: We have a couple of nice Persian carpets. Paula and I have traveled through Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia and the carpets bring back great memories of those trips.
OCS: Qualities you admire in a person?
IS: Sense of humour, sincerity, the ability for people to laugh at themselves, and open-mindedness.
OCS: Fine dining or plain-old diners?
IS: Fine dining.
OCS: Who would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?
IS: I think I might invite Bill Clinton, just to hear some of his stories, and John McEnroe, Roger Bannister and Muhammad Ali.
OCS: Favourite food?
IS: Any Mediterranean type good. Mostly my mother’s food.
OCS: Wine, beer or both?
IS: I’m not a big drinker.
OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?
IS: I like when there’s interesting use of light. I like a Rembrandt picture, The Night Watch. You’ve got part of the picture in shadow, and the main characters in the light. I also like it where it’s not as obvious, where it’s kind of misty.
OCS: Who is your favourite designer?
OCS: What’s on your bedside table?
IS: I’m reading this great book called Thinking Fast and Slow (by Daniel Kahneman). It’s about how we make snap judgments of people, and how they are invariably wrong. I’ve got that, probably a glass of water and my iPhone.
OCS: Best book you read in the last year?
AM: The book I’m reading now is pretty good, and I read a good finance book called Boomerang (by Michael Lewis). I started reading a book called In the Garden of Beasts, which is just an awesome book about this American family that’s in Germany during the time when it’s occupied by the Nazis.
OCS: Most often played song on your iPod or mp3 player?
IS: I’ve been listening to Adele a lot. I really like her version of “Lovesong,” which is a remake of what The Cure did.
OCS: What is your guilty pleasure?
IS: Massages. There’s nothing guilty about it.
OCS: What is your favourite place to spend time?
OCS: Describe your perfect day off, (it can be anywhere in the world.)
IS: At the cottage in Sharbot Lake, on the boat with some friends. Dinner with a good group of friends.
OCS: What is your earliest memory?
IS: I grew up in a small town, and I think one of my earliest memories is being able to come home for lunch. It’s silly, but no one has time for lunch anymore.
OCS: What is your proudest moment?
IS: I think when my brother asked me to be his best man. Then my sister asked me to be her emcee at her wedding. I’m a decent public speaker.
OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?
IS: I think I would like the world to remember me as somebody who was willing to take chances, and somebody who’s trying to make a difference. I’ve always liked this quote that said “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” I think one of the best quotes my mother ever told me was “never argue with an idiot. Because somebody driving by might not be able to tell the difference.”
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