Au Revoir

Topic: Inside Nexus

Geoffrey J. Gouinlock CFA

December 15, 2023

Image used with permission: Dilok Klaisataporn


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Au Revoir

As you may be aware, my time at Nexus is coming to a close. Over the last number of months, I have been working closely with others at the firm to transfer my responsibilities to the younger, smarter and more energetic people I am lucky to be partnered with. And while I might get a little wistful at the prospect of moving onto a new chapter, I am extremely confident that our clients’ financial affairs are in very good hands. On that last point, I don’t make such an assertion lightly. Here's why.

After more than 40 years of working in markets, I have come to know that the private client business is different in many respects from other investment management practices. On the client side, there is a wide range of sophistication, risk tolerance and service requirements. For instance, some money is taxable, and some isn’t. Some clients read every last word of our reports and some nothing at all. Some clients are a closed book – private and sparing with feedback. Others are completely open – voluble with their worries or their satisfaction. They share similarities, but each is a little bit different. Our client wealth managers at Nexus are well schooled in these nuances. And, ad nauseum, I have impressed upon them that in an unsettled world, one business risk Nexus can control is the client service experience. You will get better attention from your new client wealth manager than I have ever offered you!

On the investment side, Nexus has always made team-based decisions. My absence will have only a marginal effect. I know that the rest of the team is completely indoctrinated in the belief that quality matters, market timing is a losing strategy, and that successful investing is measured over years not quarters. What’s more, the investment team is experienced, hardworking, smart and well-educated. Your portfolios (and mine!) will be in good hands.

Throughout my career, clients have expected me to have definitive opinions on markets and investments. But recently, the tables have turned. It will come as no surprise that many of my clients are retired and consider themselves to be experts in the field. Many have offered me free advice on how to begin this next phase of my life! There is a common thread that I should not make any big decisions for six months, and that seems to make good sense to me. Eventually, Anne and I will do a little travelling, I’ll tackle reading the 300 or so books I have been setting aside for many years, and I’ll find some volunteer work that doesn’t involve fund-raising. Frankly, I intend to ignore my Nexus statements for a period of time so I learn to let go of having a hand in the decision-making. But after a period of transition, I will pay attention to the investment reporting and see if I’m tracking according to my plan. You can count on me to lob a few tough questions at my former colleagues at crowded functions. I want to keep them on their toes!

I look back at my time at Nexus with great fondness. I have had the pleasure of working with excellent partners and together we have built a business I am proud of. Our clients were an essential part of that wonderful experience, and I am truly grateful for your support. Without naming names, I’m especially grateful to a few brave souls who stepped forward when I was just getting going and gave me a shot. Although the business has grown almost 20-fold in size from when I started 27 years ago, there have been many trying periods. Difficult markets worry clients and cast a dark shadow inside a firm such as ours. But it is in troubled conditions that we earn our clients’ trust. Let me tell you, from the inside looking out, that it can be a heavy burden to be entrusted with the entirety of someone’s life savings. I have always taken this responsibility to heart, and I know that the colleagues I leave behind understand that the stakes are high in a business such as ours. So, as I depart during a time of challenging markets and world-wide economic and political instability, I don’t deny that a feeling of unease is justified. However, paradoxically, I’m confident that the right approach to manage through these unsettled times is the approach that Nexus takes. If I have learned anything from working in markets for 40 years (and having read a bit of history) it is that events and markets turn unexpectedly. If you own quality businesses, or the credits of quality companies, you can afford to be patient. Now is one of those times where patience is required.

Lastly, to all my colleagues at the firm, a simple message of thanks. Building a business, dealing with difficult markets, managing people, and then managing the transfer of what we created to the next generation has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I am so fortunate to have worked with smart, honourable and genuinely nice people. The thing about a high-functioning team or partnership is that everyone brings something different to the effort. People don’t always agree. They don’t always contribute evenly. They may not even see the ultimate goal in the same way. But a good team builds its members up and amplifies their strengths. Team members feel comfortable speaking their mind and better decisions occur as a result. Most importantly, a high-functioning team develops and attracts talent for renewal in the hope that the work we do, and the business we have built, can be perpetuated and improved. So it is in that spirit that I move on with confidence that all will be well and maybe even better!

In June, my friend and colleague Jim Houston retired. He quoted Charlie Brown. So, with that as precedent, I’ll quote Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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