In some pockets of Côte-des-Neiges, one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in North America, let alone Montreal, you’re just as likely to hear languages from the Indian subcontinent as you are English or French.
“You know that Drake song, ‘Started from the bottom, now we’re here’?” says Patel, who spoke Gujurati at home. “That’s how I feel when I look back.”
‘Get good grades, get a good job’
In the mid-1980s, when he was two years old, Patel’s family left India to settle in Côte-des-Neiges. His parents held minimum wage jobs — his father worked in an auto-body shop and his mother worked in a factory — and never hid what was expected of Vishal and his brother and sister.
“Get good grades, get a good job, or else!” laughs the graduate of Concordia’s Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program (KWPMP). “It was always work, work, study, study. There was a lot of unconditional love but that drive to succeed was definitely engraved on us.”
Patel, a Toronto-based vice-president and portfolio manager at 1832 Asset Management L.P., developed an interest in the stock market when he purchased some shares in Air Canada at the age of 16. A career in finance was never in doubt.
“I was very fortunate to find my passion at a young age. You have to like what you do and I have been blessed in that regard.”
At 1832, Patel oversees a small group of analysts who manage more than $5 billion. His team has surpassed all relative industry benchmarks and have top decile returns. As a result, Patel has been honoured with two industry awards.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” Patel, a CFA charterholder, admits. “It’s a lot of money but it’s not dissimilar to what we did in the KWPMP. The goal is the same — you just want to be a good steward of capital.”
When Patel was enrolled in the KWPMP, his cohort of student fund managers, the third class of Calvin C. Potter Fellows to graduate, did exceptionally well. At a portfolio management competition at the University of Dayton, Ohio, with Ken Woods in the audience, Patel and his peers placed first out of more than 30 other business schools from the United States and Canada.
“Beating the financial markets is one of the hardest things you can do,” says Patel. “You have to be patient, flexible, open-minded and do good fundamental analysis. Tullio Cedraschi [the retired president and CEO of CN Investment Division and a former member of the KWPMP client committee] often talked about the importance of passion and intellectual curiosity. That stuck with me.”
The KWPMP program, which gave finance students at the John Molson School of Business the opportunity to invest real money after a $1-million gift from Ken Woods in 2000, afforded Patel not only hands-on experience but access to a network of proven industry veterans.
As part of the Woods internship program, Patel spent a summer at Goodman & Company, the investment counselling arm of Dundee Wealth, whose founder Ned Goodman, LLD 97, endowed the John Molson MBA in Investment Management in 2000. Scotiabank completed a majority acquisition of DundeeWealth in 2011 and, two years later, renamed the subsidiary 1832 Asset Management L.P. Patel began his career with the company as an analyst in 2005 and has progressively been promoted to more and more senior roles ever since.
“Ned Goodman made a commitment to hire interns from the KWPMP. He made time for me, even when I was a summer intern. This helped fuel my career.”
Before the company became 1832, Patel would accompany Dundee’s brass to attend the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders conference, known as “Woodstock for Capitalists” largely because of Warren Buffett, Berkshire’s revered CEO.
“We would get to Omaha and I would wake up super early the next day to save seats in the auditorium for Ned and Sonny Gordon [BA 61] our chairman. Later on I suggested to Reena Atanasiadis [BComm 87, MBA 95, KWPMP program director from 2013 to 2018] that the program should submit a proposal for Woods students to meet Buffett, which they did. It’s funny how things come full circle.”
Indeed, Patel now hires KWPMP students himself. He also volunteers his time to improve the financial literacy skills of students, through programs like Trust 15, a youth and community non-profit in the Rexdale/North Etobicoke area of Toronto, Dollars With Sense and Take Our Kids to Work Day.
“We discuss the basic principles of business and finance with a focus on the stock market. I also use brands and companies that resonate with the kids to make the material more fun, engaging and inspirational. It’s important for the next generation to develop and succeed. Education is the best way to pay it forward and ensure that upward mobility.”