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Advisor Context

photo: KathleenWronski

‘Warren Buffett, you’re my hero’ and other role models

We asked seven advisors to tell us about their prime influencers and the lessons they taught

By: KIRA VERMOND

Date: March 15, 2016

They are some of Canada’s most sought after investment managers and financial experts, but they are the first to say they’ve had plenty of help along the way.

Role models – from long dead gurus to (very much alive) former bosses – have made such an impression on these advisors that more than one recently professed, “I wouldn’t be here today without ...”

Here are the advisors, their role models and their reasons:

Thane Stenner, director of wealth management and portfolio manager at StennerZohny Investment Partners, part of Richardson GMP, Vancouver

His role model: Sir John Templeton, British stock investor, mutual fund pioneer and philanthropist.

Why: “My father, an advisor for almost 50 years, introduced me to Sir John Templeton, the deep value thinker. I used to just love picking his brains about how he viewed the world.

“He said that twice in his investment career – once at the tail end of the 1973-74 bear market when the oil-shock crisis occurred and again in 1982 at the bear market low – he and his two partners almost decided to call it a day.

“But they persisted. He became an extremely wealthy man, but even Sir John Templeton found that in bear-market times it’s tough to have the mettle to stick with your convictions. I’ve always admired that about him. I value the fact that even the very best of the best go through tough periods.”

Adrian Mastracci, portfolio manager for KCM Wealth Management Inc., Vancouver

His role model: Warren Buffett, the famed “Oracle of Omaha”

Why: “Here’s one sage comment from Warren Buffett: ‘I don’t look to jump over seven-foot bars. I look around for one-foot bars that I can step over.’ He opened my thinking to appreciate the simple value of patience

“Warren Buffett’s fame is the buy-and-hold strategy. He has followed that philosophy year in and year out. Clearly, he’s not participating in any 100-yard sprint. I refer to him as the champion marathon investor.

“He’s not always been right, but he has enjoyed a high degree of success by staying the course. His secret is quite simple: Buy businesses that you understand and want to hold for a long time. A very long time.”

Tina Tehranchian, branch manager and senior financial planner for Assante Capital Management Ltd., Richmond Hill, Ont.

Her role model: Benjamin Graham, economist and the father of value investing

Why: “Benjamin Graham taught me that you should expect volatility as an investor. That’s part of the game. And you should try to profit from it. So rather than being scared of volatility, you should use it as an opportunity to buy those securities that are being misjudged by the market.

“Just because the market puts a price on businesses you own, it’s not necessarily the correct value. You need to be able to evaluate a business based on its own merits rather than what people think it’s worth on that particular day, because they’re too depressed or greedy.”

Dan Hallett, director of asset management for HighView Financial Group, Windsor, Ont.

His role model: Duff Young, the best-selling author and hedge fund analyst

Why: “Duff Young was my first professional mentor – initially from a distance when I read everything he wrote, especially his regular Globe and Mail column, and later when I worked with him for three years. He taught me a lot about investing, writing, speaking and interviewing fund managers. And he introduced me to the financial media.

“I am not shy about taking credit for my success, but I feel very fortunate to have met and worked with such a smart and dynamic analyst.”

Kathleen Wronski, author, retirement specialist and director of wealth management for Richardson GMP, Toronto

Her role model: Fred Boardman, portfolio manager with more than 30 years experience, now deceased

Why: “When I first started out, we concentrated on stock by stock, or bond by bond. We wouldn’t have a true picture of someone’s financial picture or what their whole portfolio looked like.

“Fred showed me what you do to put together a portfolio. It’s like a recipe. The different ingredients lower the risk and increase the return, but you look at the whole, not just the sum of the parts

“Fred was also a true, true gentleman. He listened to people and he showed me what a true professional, a mannerly professional, does to listen and create wealth for clients.”

Paul Harris, partner and portfolio manager for Avenue Investment Management, Toronto

His role model: His former boss, Satish Rai, today the chief investment officer, public markets, for Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)

Why: “I think bond guys, by nature, are smarter than equity people. When you’re a bond investor investing in corporate or high yield debt, you just look at the company and say, ‘Are they going to pay me back my money? That’s all I care about.’ Equity people think about all that extra stuff: ‘It’s a fascinating company and a fascinating product! The guy is the coolest and he skydives on the weekend!’ They think about that world instead of asking questions about the company. Is it a good business? Is it well-run? Is it cost effective?

“Satish gave me a very strong base for understanding equities because I don’t think about stocks in the same way a colleague might. I’m more judgmental.”

Barbara Stewart, partner and portfolio manager at Cumberland Private Wealth Management, Toronto

Her role model: Gerald Connor, chief executive officer of Cumberland Private Wealth Management

Why: “This is going to sound really hokey, but my role model is my current CEO. He’s been in the biz for 40 years and he’s probably the straightest shooter I’ve ever encountered in the industry.

“Every manager experiences good and bad parts of a cycle, but he talks straight to clients. He’s not afraid, even if it’s a large client.

“I’ve really been able to learn a lot from that style of communication. I’m a chartered financial analyst, and one of the rules is about fair dealing with all clients. I think that’s really important. Whether it’s a tiny client or a really huge one you’re afraid to lose, you speak the same way and deliver the same message.”

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

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