When Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce needed to close a bond deal Wednesday, it turned to an unlikely source: Mark Wahlberg.
The Boston-born actor, producer, and former singer, now known for Ted, Boogie Nights and the forthcoming Broken City, took a turn on CIBC’s Toronto trading floor Wednesday as a celebrity broker for the bank’s annual Miracle Day charity drive. First on the agenda: CIBC needed to move some bonds. A broker for the bank handled logistics, and Mr. Wahlberg – who technically can’t trade in Ontario since he doesn’t hold a licence – got on the phone with the client to provide some extra convincing on the deal.
Commission from the trade went to charity, part of more than $4-million each year that CIBC raises for children’s groups across Canada from the event. Previous celebrity brokers have included musicians Geddy Lee of Rush and Alice Cooper.
After closing a handful of trades, Mr. Wahlberg spoke about his own approach as an investor (how not to end up as a broke celebrity), his own aspirations in the financial sector (teaching other celebrities not to waste their fortunes), and his strong opinions on the Canadian film industry (bring back those tax incentives).
What kind of investor are you, the conservative Warren Buffett-type, or do you like to take a bit of risk?
I’m fairly conservative. I work hard to make the money, so I wouldn’t be okay with somebody calling and telling me, ‘Oh, by the way, we lost $400,000 in this hedge fund’ and so on.
But as I learn more about the market I start to feel a little bit more comfortable. But it really depends.
You are now dabbling in financial services, with a firm for athletes and celebrities. What’s the strategy there?
We started a business called Real Partners because, if you look at most of the athletes, they’re bankrupt before they end up retiring. And they don’t really have people in their lives that tell them ‘No.’ And it’s really important to understand that guys get these cheques. And they just assume it’s going to last forever. But the longevity of athletes is, at the most, you play until you’re 40 in certain sports and after that there’s not really any income. So we’ve got to get these guys to think about that.
I learned the hard way: when I got my first cheque, I got a cheque for $100,000, I went to a Mercedes dealer and I bought a car, and I didn’t have money to register or insure it. And fortunately enough, my career continued to stay on the right path. But a lot of guys aren’t as fortunate. So we just want to make sure to help them make the right decisions, and have somebody in their life that can tell them what they can and can’t do, especially when it comes to their finances.
Banking isn’t too far from your roots. Is it true your mom used to work at a bank?
She did … in Boston. Now she just pulls from my account as regularly as she likes.
You’ve been vocal calling for more government support of the film industry in Canada. Why?
We are really trying to encourage the government to reinstate these tax incentives to bring film and cinema back to Canada. I’ve made four movies in Toronto and three in Vancouver. It’s the best working experience, some of the best crew, the best people I’ve ever worked with, and there’s just not enough film being made here.
We want to reopen Eastern Studios [in Toronto] and encourage people to come back here and make films. I made Fear and Shooter in Vancouver. I made The Big Hit, Corrupter, Max Payne [in Toronto]. It was some of the best work experiences that I’ve had. And it’s just a shame that films are going to other places. We want to really bring it back to Canada.
What sort of reception are you getting on the government front on that?
Mixed. But if we’ve got the right people in the right places, maybe we can make that happen, because Canada loves the arts. And they have the best film festival in the world. They need to have the best film production here. We need to encourage everybody to make that happen.