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A Bay Street sign is seen in Toronto, May 1, 2013.Mark Blinch

One of Canada's longest-serving mutual-fund investment managers has been shown the door. Ian Hardacre, head of the Canadian equities team at Invesco Canada (previously Trimark Financial) and a 19-year-veteran of the firm, was let go in late January after a poor showing by the flagship $1-billion Trimark Canadian Fund and other funds under his watch over the past 18 months.

Mr. Hardacre declined to comment but sources in the investment industry say the value-style manager was stung by the same thorn that hurt many value managers in the last year – an overweighting in the oil and gas and gold sectors.

Though gold has rallied recently, the price of oil has not only failed to rebound but sagged to much lower levels than when value managers invested in 2014 and 2015.

An Invesco spokeswoman declined to comment, referring to a news release in which the company said Mr. Hardacre had been "replac[ed]" and had left "to pursue other interests." The firm thanked Mr. Hardacre for his service and said "he has played a significant role" in developing its talent and "instilling the values of collaboration and accountability."

"Every money manager goes through performance slumps," said Dan Hallett, vice-president and principal with HighView Financial Group. "Over the last full cycle, [Mr. Hardacre's] funds were one of the best performers and one of the few to outpace the benchmarks." He added that "investors and advisers have come to expect funds with the Trimark label to outperform in down markets," which wasn't the case in 2014 and 2015. "So, delivering returns that are in sharp contrast to expectations help to add context to this situation – and are less likely to be tolerated because the performance pattern is out of character."

Some observers noted Mr. Hardacre succumbed to a similar fate to his predecessor, Vito Maida, a deep-value manager who was turfed by Trimark in the late 1990s after the funds under his watch underperformed. Mr. Maida had bet heavily on undervalued commodities and gold instead of the banks and Nortel, which he thought were overvalued. History ultimately proved he had made the right call, but he was long gone.

Interestingly, Mr. Maida, who now oversees about $1-billion in assets at Patient Capital Management Inc., has invested close to one-quarter of funds in energy equities since December, 2014, up from about 5 per cent before. Although the value of those stocks have dropped by about 25 per cent, Mr. Maida says he's "absolutely" content with his decision, based on his belief that the price of oil will return to its long-term average of $60 (U.S.) a barrel within three to five years.

Mr. Hardacre – whose medium- and long-term returns were also hurt by the sharp fund value declines since mid-2014 – apparently didn't have that amount of time given recent management changes at Invesco Canada, including the promotion last year of his new boss, chief investment officer Rob Mikalachki.

Mr. Hardacre kept a low public profile during his days at Trimark/Invesco but played an active role on behalf of shareholders in closed-door meetings with corporate Canada. He helped to secure a better bid for Molson Inc. shareholders when the Montreal beer giant merged with Adolph Coors Co. in 2005. He also helped lead a successful bid to overhaul the board of hardware retailer Rona in 2013 after it rebuffed a takeover offer from U.S. giant Lowe's Cos. (The Quebec company finally agreed last week to a takeover bid by the U.S. company.) Mr. Hardacre escaped most of the carnage other fund managers felt with the explosion of the dot-com bubble and the implosion of Nortel Networks Corp.

In Mr. Hardacre's place, Invesco's Canadian equity team will be led by Trimark vice-presidents Alan Mannik and Clayton Zacharias, and vice-president Brian Tidd will take over the Canadian equity income team. Mr. Mannik, lead manager on two funds, takes over from Mr. Hardacre as lead manager of the Trimark Canadian Fund and Invesco Select Canadian Equity Fund.

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