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Barry Gordon, former CEO of First Asset Capital, poses for a photo in Toronto on Nov. 8, 2012.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Several former CI Financial Corp. executives have joined forces with plans to boost asset manager Guardian Capital LP’s presence in the retail wealth management industry.

Barry Gordon, managing director at Guardian Capital and former CEO of First Asset Capital Corp. – which he sold to CI Financial in 2015 – has brought together several of his former colleagues in the venture. Working alongside him will be Rohit Mehta, former president of CI Financial’s exchange-traded fund business, CI First Asset.

The two executives plan to increase Guardian Capital’s investment business particularly in products for individual investors who are close to, or already in retirement.

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“We have the opportunity to build a new business, but inside the parameters of a well-established, well-known company that has a large existing footprint in the institutional asset management space,” said Mr. Mehta, who is senior vice-president and head of distribution for Canadian retail asset management at Guardian Capital.

Prior to joining Guardian Capital in April, Mr. Mehta spent five years in executive roles with CI Financial where he saw the ETF business grow to just over $10-billion in assets, up from $3-billion in 2015.

Mr. Mehta and Mr. Gordon recently recruited a team of “familiar faces” from the original First Asset company to similar roles at Guardian, including Eric Culjat, vice-president of sales, Cesar Rivera, digital business developer and Sheryl Chiddenton, director of compliance.

“We were blessed to have had such a close-knit group who helped build the success of First Asset so when I had the opportunity to get the band back together, I knew they were the right individuals to fill in the gaps,” Mr. Gordon said.

Mr. Gordon and Mr. Mehta first met in 2009 when exchange-traded funds were just emerging in the Canadian market. The company grew to manage $3-billion in assets before investment giant CI acquired it in 2015. As part of the purchase, Mr. Gordon agreed to stay on to help run the ETF business as a stand-alone subsidiary of CI.

But in 2017, Mr. Gordon says the vision he had for the company no longer “aligned" with CI’s management and he departed CI.

After signing a two year non-compete, Mr. Gordon stepped back from the industry but the 52-year-old executive said he never had plans to slow down or retire, and was looking for another opportunity in retail asset management.

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Guardian Capital manages about $31.2-billion of assets and has largely been focused on institutional clients including pension funds, foundations and endowments.

In order to gain greater access to the retail market, Guardian Capital launched an ETF division last month, listing five actively managed ETFs on the Toronto Stock Exchange. They are the 37th ETF provider to enter the Canadian marketplace, which now has more than $236-billion in assets.

Mr. Gordon said the ETF products were designed with retail clients in mind, with specific funds for those investors facing challenges in their “decumulation" years when Canadians need to prolong their investment portfolios with less risk.

To further tackle the retirement income challenges for investors, Guardian Capital LP announced on Monday it would collaborate with Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.

“We will be working together to develop new and innovative retirement income solutions to address the particular needs of the growing proportion of Canadian investors who are increasingly focused on generating higher income and extending the life of their portfolios,” Mr. Gordon said.

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