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Choice is good, boring is better when it comes to investments, panel hears at ASC Connect 2021

Variety may be the spice of life for today’s investor, but sometimes it’s meat and potatoes that you crave when it comes to your money.

ASC Connect 2021
ASC Connect 2021 included a panel conversation on advancing the fund management sector. - Photo courtesy Alberta Securities Commission
ASC Connect 2021 included a panel conversation on advancing the fund management sector. - Photo courtesy Alberta Securities Commission

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Variety may be the spice of life for today’s investor, but sometimes it’s meat and potatoes that you crave when it comes to your money. Business leaders, venture capitalists and regulators at ASC Connect 2021 heard this message loud and clear.

An investment’s sniff test for renowned industry expert, Darcy Hulston, is, well, grandma.

“Is this an investment solution that I could put my grandmother in and actually have a turkey dinner with her, with pride?” said Hulston, president and CEO of Canoe Financial. “So, you won’t see us launching a Bitcoin or European-denominated, covered call product,” he said.

Hulston made the remarks during a fireside chat with Stan Magidson, Chair and CEO of the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), and Craig Senyk, President & Vice Chair of Mawer Investment Management, at the annual ASC Connect conference. This year, ASC Connect focused on trends and opportunities affecting Alberta’s capital market. More than 600 attendees participated in the virtual event, including c-suite executives, advisors and industry experts.

A key architect of Canoe’s business plan and strategy, Hulston said he thinks it’s healthy for capital markets to challenge convention and “boring,” and that some investors have different risk appetites than his.

At a time when investors are chasing “new and cool,” Craig Senyk, president and vice chair of Mawer Investment Strategy, stands firm behind his company’s tagline: Be boring, make money.

“If you have a doctor doing heart surgery on you, you want the doctor not to be having fun,” said Senyk. “You want that to be boring. Flying planes should be boring, at least commercial ones,” he joked.

“And we think investing should be one of those things that is boring as well. Ultimately, we are fiduciaries, we shouldn’t be having fun and it shouldn’t be exciting in terms of managing our clients’ money.”

Senyk and Hulston spoke at the end of a half-day forum where the conversation focused on opportunities arising from the shift to democratization underway in our capital markets, aided by the proliferation of fintech companies and robo wealth management services.

Senyk, however, cautioned that history has a habit of repeating itself.

“As long as I’ve been in this industry there’s always some fad or something cool to chase. We all kind of remember the technology bubble in the late 90s. And [Mawer was] somewhat ostracized in the industry because we weren’t chasing tech in the late ’90s.” 

Disclosure becomes ever more important when the product gets riskier, added Hulston, pointing to the Canoe Global Private Equity Fund that launched last Spring.

“My concern with that product is that, back to that end investor — I want to make sure they understand exactly what they’re buying,” he said of the fund, available to accredited investors who meet required investment minimums.

Canoe added a layer of disclosure for the product that Hulston says goes “above and beyond” what’s required by regulation. 

Other key takeaways:

  • Disruption is good, provided it drives costs down and gives investors more choice.
  • DIY investors were told to keep tax planning and diversification in mind in any investment strategy. These pay huge dividends when things go sideways or in down markets.
  • Robots and artificial intelligence likely can’t help much with things like estate and will planning.

“As you graduate through life, you accumulate more wealth,” said Hulston. “I think advice matters. Good advice is critical,” he said, pointing to his own personal team of investment professionals who have given him peace of mind. “I know, if I pass, my wife and kids are in good shape. And I just really struggle to understand how that’s going to work with a robot.”

To watch this session, or any of the other panel discussions, ASC Connect 2021 is available for playback at the ASC website.

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) is the regulatory agency responsible for administering the province's securities laws. It is entrusted to foster a fair and efficient capital market in Alberta and to protect investors. As a member of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the ASC works to improve, coordinate and harmonize the regulation of Canada's capital markets.

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