A Life's Story
July 10, 2021
Hard work â by the numbers
Financial market regulation expert Lora-Lee Miller, 49, thrived in the investment industry
By: Joel SchlesingerÂ
As a child Lora-Lee Miller was often up at dawn, traversing a muddy barnyard in her typical attire — rubber boots and a long dress — to milk the cows on the family farm.
Later, she might be atop a tractor, hauling bales, only to help prepare dinner afterward for her dad, uncle, grandfather and others, who tended to the large dairy operation near Clavet, Sask.
To boot, Miller would take care of her younger brother, Dallas, while often doing homework for older brother Mark because he was busy doing farm work.
This was a typical day for Miller from age 10 onward until she moved to Winnipeg in her teens. In the Manitoba capital, she worked her way up through the investment industry to become one of Canada’s leading experts on financial market regulation.
Be it the muck of the farm or the boardroom table, Miller’s life was marked by one characteristic, older brother Mark Tisdall says: "She was a very incredibly hard worker."
That steadfast work ethic served Miller until her death in November at age 49, of pneumonia at St. Boniface Hospital, a complication of a months-long illness.
Reserved yet fiercely determined, Miller quietly rose to prominence in the financial industry over three decades, serving as chairwoman of the board and chief compliance officer of the Canadian affiliate of R.J. O’Brien & Associates LLC, the world’s largest commodity futures brokerage.
As well, she served in a volunteer role for several years with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), the nation’s regulator for stock, bonds and futures markets.
"She was very, very thorough and… smart as a whip," says colleague Keith Riddoch, president and chief executive officer of R.J. O’Brien in Canada.
The two worked together in the industry in Winnipeg prior to R.J. O’Brien launching its Canadian affiliate in 2011, which Miller was instrumental in getting operational.
"She is really the one who did the necessary research, filled out all the paperwork and submitted everything to the regulators," Riddoch says.
The launch went without a hitch, Riddoch notes, made all the more remarkable given Miller started in a clerical position in the 1990s with little industry experience. Yet, she had an aptitude for the business and quickly rose to leadership roles in compliance, charged with ensuring trading operations stayed onside of the rules.
Supporting her along the way was husband Jeff Miller, who found a match in the "goal-oriented, driven" woman he met in the early 1990s at Scandals, a now-defunct southside Winnipeg nightclub.
They hit it off — both ambitious and career-minded; over the years, he found success in construction, and she rose to prominence in the investment industry.
"In that mostly male world, she thrived — not to show people up, but to show that a woman could do it," he says.
Miller was well-suited to work as a regulator, equipped with the strength of character to stand up for what is right. It didn’t hurt that she had a great sense of humour, too.
"Compliance folks have this reputation for being stuffy," Riddoch says. "But she was the opposite: witty, and had no problem snapping back at the brokers."
At the same time, she was "approachable and down to earth."
Equally important, Miller had an unparallelled depth of knowledge of investment regulations, able to "recite IIROC rules off the top of her head — no problem," Riddoch says. "She was really a trail blazer."
In turn, her extensive experience made her "an excellent chair of our Manitoba district council," says Richard Korble, vice-president for Western Canada at IIROC.
"Someone with that knowledge of not only the rulebook but its practical application is really valuable, and she brought those two things together well."
Miller led an equally rich life outside work. The couple designed their dream home together along the river near Bridge Drive-In and travelled extensively, be it spending weekends at the Miller family cabin at Lake of the Woods, Ont., or globetrotting to Costa Rica and the Canary Islands.
"She always loved excursions," Jeff says, recalling one recent trip to an active volcano, an interest of his she was happy to indulge despite involving a 15-hour day.
No matter the task, Miller was all-in — whether it was showering nieces and nephews with gifts and love or putting her celebrated culinary skills to work, preparing dinner "for 40, even if it was a party of four," her husband recalls.
Miller also had a deep affection for animals; Marty, the family’s rescue cat, was equally fond of her. When Miller was convalescing last year, recovering from what had begun in May as an abdominal infection, Marty remained by her side.
Unfortunately, she never regained her health, eventually hospitalized when the infection spread to major organs.
"She just wanted to get better but she couldn’t, for whatever reason," Jeff says.
Her death — at the height of her career — was made all the more difficult by COVID-19 restrictions, limiting hospital visits and attendance at her funeral, Tisdall says.
Still, the older brother finds solace in a "heart-to-heart" they had poolside at her home last summer.
"She said: ‘I’ve had a fantastic career; my husband is my world, and I have had so much good fortune in my life that I could die tomorrow, and I would feel complete and very lucky.’"