As an analyst with Fiera Capital Corporation, Ayssar Nasrallah Fernandez, BComm 17, helps identify promising investment opportunities for a team with over $60 billion in assets under management and clients across North America, Europe and Asia.
“My role is finding new investment ideas for our clients’ capital, while monitoring the investments that are already in the portfolio,” he says.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Nasrallah Fernandez inherited his drive and ability to navigate complex decisions from his parents.
His mother was born in Cuba where she met his father; a Lebanese foreign student. Seeing limited opportunities for their child at home, they left everything and moved the family to Montreal.
“I owe pretty much everything to them,” Nasrallah Fernandez says. “They had the courage to leave Cuba and come here for the sole purpose of giving me a brighter future. The idea of being successful has always been in the back of my mind because I wanted to make my parents’ sacrifice worth it.”
‘Something to go after’
In high school, Nasrallah Fernandez thought that success would come from a career in medicine or engineering. One book set his life on a new trajectory.
“I actually hated reading when I was growing up until I got my hands on The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham,” he says. “That book is fairly hefty and I went through it in less than two weeks, which to me was incredible. It rang a bell and gave me something to go after.”
When Nasrallah Fernandez started considering universities to help develop his new interest and launch an eventual career, he chose Concordia’s John Molson School of Business and the Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program (KWPMP).
As one of six students in his KWPMP cohort, Nasrallah Fernandez managed a real portfolio now worth over $3.8 million, working closely with professors and industry leaders serving as mentors.
Rather than focusing on stocks that were undervalued — a strategy Nasrallah Fernandez says was used by previous KWPMP fund managers — his team sold much of the portfolio to buy high-quality industry-leading companies trading at a fair price.
“We went after the market looking at a few industries that were very interesting to us. We picked the highest-quality companies within those industries,” he says.
‘Meeting Warren Buffett was an unbelievable experience’
Nasrallah Fernandez says one of the most valuable aspects of the program is the client committee, which convenes regularly to give the students direct feedback on their investment strategy and security selections.
“You need to be able to defend your investment philosophy and those ideas, which is something that helps me today when I sit down in front of clients,” he says.
“During our year, we actually underperformed our benchmark. We had to stick to our guns and convince the client committee that this strategy would pay off far beyond our one-year tenure as fund managers. And the stock we bought did do pretty well in subsequent years.”
Nasrallah Fernandez also says it was thanks to the efforts of then KWPMP director Reena Atanasiadis that he joined a small group of students for a steak dinner in Omaha, Nebraska with the legendary Warren Buffett.
“Meeting Warren Buffett and having the opportunity to ask questions directly was an unbelievable experience that I’ll never forget, especially as someone who lives and breathes the market every day,” he says.
“Reena Atanasiadis deserves a lot of credit for opening doors for students in the program and shaping it into the success it has become. She really worked tirelessly to get us a more interesting experience.”
Nasrallah Fernandez says the opportunities the program offered along with the lifelong friendships prompted him to give back. He has funded an annual scholarship for new cohorts of student research associates and fund managers, along with his former classmates Kevin Henley, BComm 17, Charles Morison, BComm 17, and Javier Hernandez-Cotton, BComm 17.
In addition to managing the KWPMP portfolio, Nasrallah Fernandez completed internships that exposed him to a wide range of careers in finance. In the process, he says he learned as much about himself as the industry itself.
By his third and final internship — at Fiera Capital — Nasrallah Fernandez solidified his passion for equity research and executing crucial investment decisions.
“I'm extremely lucky to have had that internship experience. I loved it. And thankfully, the Global Equities Team liked me enough to offer me a full-time position.”
In his current role as an analyst, Nasrallah Fernandez enjoys the ability to match his personal interests with his research.
“I'm very interested in technology and my role within the team allows me to focus a lot of my time on that sector.”
Reflecting on what lies ahead, Nasrallah Fernandez doesn’t see himself straying too far from his current field anytime soon.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work with the amazing individuals on my team. Right now, my focus is on learning as much as I can and enjoying every single day.”