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AGF Management employees collaborating in its redesigned head office that accommodates hybrid work.Provided

While AGF Management Limited is known as a financial asset management company, founded over 65 years ago, the firm’s CEO and chief investment officer, Kevin McCreadie, doesn’t like to talk about money.

“We’ve always been an employee-centric organization,” McCreadie says. “The product we make is people. They’re our assets.”

He says this was never more obvious than during COVID-19 lockdowns, when AGF prioritized employee health and well-being. With the pandemic taking hold amid a preplanned office move, AGF’s executives and a crisis management team had to reimagine the future of work at the company, a process that led to a completely redesigned Toronto head office to accommodate a seamless hybrid experience.

“People and culture go hand in hand,” says Regina Chi, a vice-president and portfolio manager at the company. “Job function is the same wherever you go, but the key difference is people. I’m sure a lot of companies say the same thing but it’s very true here, especially since we have such strong engagement.

“We’re the perfect size,” she adds. “We’re big enough to have the resources we need but small enough to have a very high level of collaboration. There’s a lot of access to senior executives, and it gives everyone an opportunity to be heard.”

McCreadie says this makes attracting and retaining talent key. “It’s things like professional development and education to help enhance people’s career down the line. We think of benefits not just as your classic medical and dental – it’s much broader today because of the needs of people.”

“I think we do a very good job of career mapping,” Chi adds. “The firm sets goals and expectations at each level, so we have very transparent discussions about each person’s objectives at the end of each year. Everyone knows where they are and where we expect them to be.”

Professional development and initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) go together at AGF, she says. “I’m honoured to serve as co-chair of our DEI committee. It’s a grassroots effort, made up of 25 employees across the organization from investment management, operations, compliance and legal, and our CEO serves as executive sponsor.

“We have education and web seminars so everyone’s level is set at what it means to have a strong sense of belonging at the company,” Chi says.

“We have close to 600 employees around the world,” says McCreadie. “So we have leadership development for managers and personal development plans to help employees think about their career goals, their aspirations.

“Probably even more important, we look to move our talent around. It’s hard to do because everyone loves their best talent, but if you can do it correctly it can really broaden the firm out.”

He and Chi both note the case of a junior level employee who had been taking night classes in information technology.

“We used our privilege and status in the company to amplify another person’s opportunity,” Chi says about this employee. “Our head of HR brought in different levels of stakeholders to help this person, who started as an executive assistant, to move into data management, something she did in Jamaica but hadn’t had the opportunity to do in Canada.”

“Because we were aware of that,” McCreadie says, “we were able to let her shadow a group, work in that group and ultimately move her into what she was going to school for. We were able to keep her in the company and benefit from her experience.”

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