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Some of Canada’s best financial advisors share the best advice they ever got, their investing motto, and their own advice for investors today

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Marley Hutchinson/The Globe and Mail

Christina Anthony

Vice-president, director, portfolio manager and investment advisor, Odlum Brown (Vancouver)

Since her days at the University of British Columbia, where she participated in the portfolio foundation management program while getting her degree in finance, Christina Anthony has been interested in helping people manage their portfolios. First she worked as a bond trader at Goldman Sachs in New York and then in investment banking. After three years in New York, she made the switch to Goldman advisor in Seattle, earned her CFA designation and then moved to Odlum Brown in Vancouver in 2002. “Through the banking and trading experiences, I was able to gain a great perspective on how companies really work, and how the stock and bond markets interact,” she says. “I was then able to take a step back and say, if I look at this as an investment opportunity, what’s going to matter to me, and how am I going to analyze it?” Understanding the debt side of the business, in particular, has been key, she notes, pointing to the 2008 financial crisis. “It was the fall of the mortgage market that happened first,” she says, explaining that her credit background “gave me great insight into what was going on.”

Best advice I ever got

Prioritize the most important things in your life, which for me is taking care of my family and friends, and trying to be a great member of my community. That may not sound specific to wealth management, but that’s what ends up being at the core of how I think and who I am.

My advice for investors

Have enough cash on hand to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, because we may not know what causes pullbacks in markets or in particular companies, but if you have cash, you can take advantage of them.

My investing motto

Buying great companies with great management that have innovation built into them leads to strong competitive advantages. We know these companies are going to continue to be successful and grow, regardless of what the market does. And that means if we invest in them for long enough, our portfolios will grow.

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Jessica Lee/The Globe and Mail

Rob Tétrault

Senior portfolio manager and branch manager, Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management (Winnipeg)

Finance was all around Rob Tétrault growing up. His father was an investment banker, his mother an accountant. He started out as an insurance litigator, but when the job failed to bring him much in the way of personal satisfaction, Tétrault quit to get his MBA and then launched his own Winnipeg-based practice 13 years ago. He calls the move the best decision he’s ever made. “I consider myself lucky to be in this industry and to have been able to surround myself with such high-quality people,” he says. “I would not trade my team for anyone else’s. They’re fantastic.”

That team includes his sister and fellow advisor, Tania Tétrault Vrga, and his father, Claude, who heads up business strategy. “I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have solid mentors, most notably my father,” says Tétrault, who is proudly Métis and devoted to helping Indigenous peoples achieve economic success. “He was an advisor, so a lot of the mistakes he made, he was able to share with me, which allowed me to avoid making the same ones. I’ve learned so much from him.”

Best advice I ever got

When my dad got cancer last year, he told me to just focus on the things you can control. That really guides my life, and it has tremendously relieved any stress and mental anxiety.

My investing approach

Our focus is always on risk-adjusted returns. So for the amount of volatility we’re taking in a client’s portfolio, what kind of returns can we generate? We believe every investment should be looked at independently and that there’s a whole bunch of other assets you can invest in aside from stocks and bonds. And we’ve generated phenomenal risk-adjusted returns by focusing on that.

My investing outlook

I’m a big believer that when markets correct, if you have cash or additional capital, or if you can rebalance, add as much equity exposure as you can. And you don’t really worry about where you’re buying at the bottom. There’s no doubt this market is going to recover. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but you definitely want to own equities now and into 2023.

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The Globe and Mail

Ross Ferrier

Branch manager and investment advisor, CIBC Wood Gundy (Thornhill, Ont.)

Ross Ferrier had two dreams as a high-schooler: to play professional baseball and work in the investment industry. He was drafted by the New York Mets while at the University of Waterloo and played in the minors for three seasons. He started his second career, as an advisor, 24 years ago. Now, he manages 30 other advisors and their staff. Ferrier figures his success stems from his approach to building relationships with clients, rather than his skill at picking stocks, bonds and mutual funds. “I don’t think you could be successful and have lots of clients if you weren’t doing a good job in that regard,” he says. “But if I look at my career, it’s been more about our interest in people’s lives and the service we offer clients.”

That service, he says, includes creating a plan that works for each unique situation, set of objectives and personality. “We have some clients with hundreds of millions of dollars who could choose investment people anywhere,” says Ferrier. “They have big goals, and they’re allowing me to serve them so that they can fulfill those goals. It’s an incredible responsibility, but I love it.”

My mentor

My mother was born in Jamaica, and I used to spend a lot of time there. Early in my career, I read about Michael Lee-Chin, and I cold-called him. At the time there weren’t a lot of people of colour on Bay Street, and while I always looked at my colour as a super advantage because it made me stand out, it was good to see someone from similar roots who had some success in the industry. We’ve been close ever since.

My investing approach

I look at each client portfolio as if it’s my own money at stake. There’s nothing I would put my clients’ money in that I wouldn’t have invested in. I also look at things from a holistic point of view. I tell clients that in order to build their net worth, look to other asset classes—even ones I don’t deal in.

My investing outlook

This is a period where returns are normalizing to what they have been like historically. Because the previous two years were not normal. People might have to be more comfortable with single-digit rates of return.

What keeps me up at night

Someone with an iPhone can pretend they are a quality dispenser of information, and they might be acting on behalf of a source that has a slanted view. People are being manipulated, and that concerns me.

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Kalen Huxham/The Globe and Mail

An-Lap Vo-Dignard

Senior wealth advisor and portfolio manager, National Bank Financial Wealth Management (Montreal)

“I love people,” says An-Lap Vo-Dignard, explaining part of what makes him happy doing the work he does. A lifelong Montrealer, Vo-Dignard has been in the wealth and portfolio management business for more than 20 years. After graduating with a bachelor in finance from HEC Montréal, Vo-Dignard started out on the credit side of the finance world. He soon made the shift to working as an advisor after being drawn to the stock market. Vo-Dignard joined what’s now National Bank Financial in 1998 and started working with partner Ian Provost in 2001. “We analyze risk differently, so we complement each other well. I worry about things that are less likely to happen but could have a high impact,” says Vo-Dignard. “Ian worries more about things that have a higher chance of happening but will have a lower impact.”

The team now includes a staff of 15, including analysts and a financial planner—everything clients need right on hand. All these years later, Vo-Dignard remains passionate about his work and building a better world. “I’m proud that I was very vocal in helping to create the bank’s ESG committee,” he says. And he’s happy his clients can now make solid returns by investing in companies that are doing good. “Before, it was almost like charity, because the returns were really bad,” he says. “But we’re entering a phase where you’re going to get rewarded.”

What keeps me going

Besides when we generate good returns and the markets are up, a great day is when a client is so satisfied with our services and they trust us so much that they put their neck on the line to refer a friend or family member to us. It’s the biggest compliment, and it humbles me.

Investing outlook

Volatility will be something investors have to get used to. But short-term volatility could be a long-term opportunity. With people panicking or being overenthusiastic, that’s when you have the opportunity to buy low and sell high. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Stick to quality companies: good balance sheets and not too much debt, sound management, leaders in their industry and with good brand power.

Best advice I ever got

A very successful entrepreneur once told me: “Never get into business with someone with whom you do not share the same values.” Sometimes you flag something without exactly knowing why, but you’ve got to trust your instincts.

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