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Olympian Bruny Surin takes a conservative approach to investing. (Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)
Olympian Bruny Surin takes a conservative approach to investing. (Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail)

RRSP Season

For medalist Bruny Surin, steady wins the financial race Add to ...

Bruny Surin ran his last step as an international sprinting star for Canada 13 years ago. But the lessons the Montreal-based Olympian learned while becoming one of Canada’s fastest men – he matched Donovan Bailey’s 9.84-second national record for the 100 metres at 32 – have kept him among the top former athletes in the financial world.

He’s conservative, not showy – fitting for a man who ran the third leg of Canada’s gold-medal relay squad in Atlanta. The Quiet Lion – the title of his biography – was the setup man for Mr. Bailey’s glory, but victory wouldn’t have been possible without Mr. Surin’s workmanlike run around the bend.

The president and chief executive officer of his own group of companies, including Sprint Management, now uses what he learned to maintain a stable of more than 20 athletes. Services include the handling of endorsements, postcareer counselling and financial planning. He also runs a charitable foundation, has a clothing line and invests.

As the season for registered retirement savings plans draws to a close, he cautiously ponders the mercurial real estate market but puts his money instead into funds and bonds, and puts away money for his daughters with wife Bianelle Legros Surin – professional tennis player Kim, who is a freshman at the University of Arkansas, and up-and-coming sprinter-hurdler Katherine.

“Although he’s a sprinter, we like to manage like it’s a marathon – for the long run,” said Benoit Primeau, actuary and portfolio manager of the National Bank’s wealth management team, who has been managing Mr. Surin’s money for about 10 years.

Mr. Surin said, “Being prepared for the future is something that I believe strongly in, whether it was planning my competition schedule or my family’s future. You’ve got to be ready for the road and challenges ahead, as it’s hard to predict any outcome. Better to be safe than sorry.”

Mr. Primeau says he has built Mr. Surin’s portfolio “basically using ETFs [exchange traded funds], and we complete that with individual government bonds or corporate bonds. It’s like a passive investment strategy.

“He doesn’t hold much individual stocks. We prefer to go with ETFs.”

Mr. Surin also acquired some property in Florida after the big real estate correction in the United States, said Kris Mychasiw, managing partner of Sprint Management. “That one qualifies in our mind as an investment and as an asset that could be sold later for a profit.”

He holds no investment in his birthplace of Haiti, “but with the recent promotions of the new president, Haiti is an area that Bruny will be looking to get involved with in some way or another once the market stabilizes,” Mr. Mychasiw said.

Mr. Surin also maximizes his contributions to both his RRSP and tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Mychasiw said.

“One thing which he believes truly is to plan for his children,” Mr. Primeau said. “He has invested a bunch of money in a fund for the girls, through an education savings plan [RESP].”

Mr. Surin, who immigrated to Canada with his grandparents when he was 7, is revered in Montreal for his exploits on the track. The son of a mechanic and a seamstress, the long jumper-turned-sprinter accumulated seven Canadian championships, two world indoor 60-metre titles, the Olympic relay gold and two silver medals in the world championship 100 metres. He also ran Canadian record times at 60 metres (6.45 seconds) and 100 metres (9.84).

“I had a dream, a goal to be the best. I believed that if I prepared and worked hard, I could do it,” he said of his 18 years in track and field.

His Bruny Surin Foundation, which he started with his wife, educates and motivates children on the positive aspects of a healthy lifestyle via sport and education. Last year, the foundation’s gala raised $100,000, Mr. Mychasiw said.

Mr. Surin is still in demand as a motivational speaker, and he says he isn’t too old to learn. He signed up as a student at the L’École d’entrepreneurship de Beauce, in Saint-Georges, Que., in March of 2012. He tells young people his story – the sad one of being turned down for his first try at the national team, and of the work ethic he used to change minds.

“Dreams can happen, but you have to believe in yourself and do the preparation,” said Mr. Surin, who knew late in his career that he would have to make a transition from athlete to the business world.

“There wasn’t an abrupt end. I planned for it. … My parents told me in life there’d be people who discourage you, but you can achieve the things you want. Before getting my medals, I trained for years to achieve that. It [wasn’t] overnight.”

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