Welcome home, Kim Shannon.

kim

Welcome home, Kim Shannon. 

The Rotman School of Management celebrated its inaugural Reunite@Rotman a couple weeks ago. It was a long time coming. While Rotman has been terrific about engaging its alumni over the years, a true homecoming had never been done.  Rotman alumni from far and wide descended on the community to reunite and reminisce. As a fortunate bonus to students that weekend, distinguished alumni gave fireside chats in which they shared both their personal and professional experiences. It was amazing that one of the country’s greatest Canadian Equity investors, Kim Shannon, agreed to participate.

I had had the chance to catch Kim Shannon speak the year before at a RAMA event. She had just published her book, The Value Proposition (available ‘here), which had brought a packed audience of faculty, alumni and industry insiders. The speech explained her incredibly unique approach to value investing. Her sensitivity to the Canadian market had allowed her to abandon the pure-blood value investing approach in favour of her own “relative value” method, which accounted for a country overweight in cyclical stocks. The details of the approach we can discuss another time, but what impressed me about Kim then was an in-depth understanding to economic history and trends that I simply hadn’t expected to hear from a value investor. What’s more compelling was Kim’s personal history. Like me, she was raised as a Canadian in expatriate communities overseas, and the credit she gave to her development truly spoke to me.

When I was asked to moderate the event, I had been a huge fan of Kim’s as a value investor for a few years. At TD Waterhouse, my boss, an investment advisor, offered with pride Kim Shannon’s professional management of Canadian Equities. It was 2006, and Kim had just left her largest client, CI Financial. At that time, managing $8.5 billion, she was one of the largest Canadian Equity manager in Canada. To all of a sudden, drop CI and let go of 90% of her assets took a great deal of courage. To many, including me, the decision paid off monumentally. With a far greater independence for Sionna, Kim today is not only recognized as a great portfolio manager, but as one of our country’s most successful women entrepreneurs. Telling that story of that decision with such candidness during the fireside chat, gave us all a great deal of perspective. Specifically, the value of friends and trusted confidantes during a period when a vital professional decision needs to be made.

I didn’t actually think I would have the opportunity to ask her about her CI experience, but her sincerity made me very comfortable. When I had been preparing my questions for the event, I had both investing and personal questions. Why not let her take the lead, I thought? Her introductory remarks would give me a sense for where she wanted to go. Fortunately for us, Kim focused on her own experiences, and how she originally came to investing. In a nutshell, it was pure serendipity. A zoology major and self-professed hippie with long curly hair during her undergrad, her focus back then was on setting up peer counseling programs rather than investment clubs. Discussing her curiosities one day with a friend, he told her simply that business was something she was geared for. Up until that point, it had never really occurred to her. Driven by her magnanimous desire to help others, the future Baroness of Bay Street had a strong sentiment toward becoming a social worker.

In her closing remarks, Kim cited an interesting statistic that only 7% of portfolio managers are women. It hit upon a question that we at RAMA have been grappling with: the lack of interest in women students choosing to join RAMA. How could we, as students, inspire more women into the field? Kim shared that the investment management field can be very rewarding for women. Given the work, women have the exceptional ability to do well at this job. Mostly, as they have a better handle on their ego than men do. In fact, Kim Shannon credits her development as a professional investor in her desire to master her ego. This journey she achieves through regular meditation. In her opinion, she does not feel she is there yet, but she is deeply committed to the task.

I think it’s fair to say talking to us that afternoon with such humility, it was clear to everybody but her that she had already achieved this.

– by Zahid Jafry
Zahid Jafry is an Exec. VP of RAMA and a Portfolio Manager of RSIF. He can be reached at zahid.jafry16@rotman.utoronto.ca

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