Perpetual Learning

By Chad Butnari

As many of you know, one of our commitments we feel strongly about here at The Andrews Group is perpetual learning. The financial services industry, like many others, is evolving at a rapid pace. As professionals, we have a responsibility to our clients not only to keep up with our continuing education credits to maintain our licensing but also to passionately and vigorously learn so we can apply newly acquired knowledge and solutions with our clients.

At the end of October, Mike and I attended The Canadian Advanced Conference held by Dimensional Fund Advisors, in Austin, Texas. In many ways, this is much more than a typical conference. It’s a 3-day intensive think tank with over 100 advisors from various firms across Canada. We have the pleasure of hearing current research and best practices from some of the world’s leading academics in the field of finance. Some of these experts have won Nobel prizes for their work in their areas of specialization. We have the unique opportunity, not only to hear from them but to ask them questions.

Prior to the conference, a select group of advisors who comprise six study groups across Canada meet to exchange ideas. Each study group is comprised of between 5-6 advisors who meet on a systematic basis. Mike and I are fortunate to each have our own study group. In my study group, we focused on communication tools to improve how we explain complex concepts to clients, best practices related to improving the client experience, and ways in which each of us is having success in finding and helping new clients. I find these study groups extremely helpful. By participating regularly, it allows us to generate new ideas, fix any issues/ problems we may be experiencing, and ultimately, provide more value for you.

The second day kicked off with a session in which we heard from Eugene Fama and Ken French, two of the most legendary figures in the world of financial science. It’s somewhat surreal hearing directly from two academics who literally wrote some of the most influential books and papers in the field of finance. Their ideas are prominently featured in the majority of university and college finance textbooks around the world. It’s fair to say that they literally “wrote the book” on modern finance.

The remainder of the day included an enlightening conversation on what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can (and cannot) do to help advisors and their clients, “hot topics” in the investment industry today, and how focusing on specific investment characteristics or “factors” can improve retirement outcomes for clients.

Finally, day 3 was largely focused on the biggest misconceptions investors are challenged with today (and how some of these myths can be dispelled), as well as an advisory panel sharing their best practices. All-in-all, it was a fantastic conference with a number of takeaways. If I had to boil it down to 3, I would summarize them as follows:

  1. AI is here. It will help many of us be more productive but it is not a magic bullet. There is no evidence that it will improve the process of picking stocks or find a better investment process.
  2. Despite all of the changes in the world around us in recent years (including vast technological changes), there is still a tremendous amount of evidence that value companies, small companies, and high profitability companies, will continue to provide a premium over the market return in the future. But, we may have to exercise patience for those excess returns to materialize.
  3. Although we need (and will) to continue to stay diligent in our assessment of various investment strategies, managers, and processes, this conference helped to reaffirm our confidence that client portfolios are well-positioned for success in the future.

I look forward to sharing what we learned with each and every one of you in our future meetings.

As much as it can be inconvenient to make the time to attend these events (and tiring – I’m not the best traveller in the world 🙂 ), I believe it’s extremely important to step outside of our comfort zone every now and again to challenge our ideologies, learn new ideas, and continue working our craft. I would make the analogy of a craftsman taking the time to “sharpen his tools.” Getting away and spending time in an environment like this allows us to clear our minds and continue to grow. After all, our personal growth allows us to better serve you in the long run.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Assante Capital Management Ltd. This material is provided for general information and the opinions expressed and information provided herein are subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources however no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. Before acting on the information presented, please seek professional financial advice based on your personal circumstances. Assante Capital Management Ltd. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.