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A message from Kenneth Woods

Kenneth Woods

It was in 1998 when we provided the foundation of a unique investment program that combined the best of academics and the business world. The objective was to provide a long lasting investment foundation to a fortunate group of students at Concordia University. Prior to enrolling any students, we deliberated on the strategy with the intention of having a strong framework in addition to establishing the donation, and recruiting Prof. Brodt to head up the program as its first director.

We held a live media event to announce this exciting new venture. Unfortunately, there was a mixed reaction. One of the broadcasters said the program was doomed to failure with the belief the inexperienced students would soon lose the $1 million donation. In this reporter’s opinion, a fool and his money are soon parted.

However, a competing reporter broadcasted live from in front of the Hall Building and expressed delight in having witnessed a most incredible initiative. He understood the essence of the program: the opportunity as a student to learn about investing under the guidance of academics and professional money managers in a real time with actual money basis as well as obtaining the experience and contacts. Additionally, the door will open to job opportunities immediately upon graduation. Hence, in his opinion, this experience will be second to none.

Fortunately, the initial donation amount of $1 million is now $3.3 million with 150 Calvin Potter Fellows. We trusted the youth of the day, they delivered, and in doing so, the second reporter was right.

The results have been amazing. Although the program was designed to be a learning experience, the Fund has performed well over time, maintaining a position among the upper 50% of charitable funds under management. It has also set a very high standard for student management funds with many being established in later years. Universities across Canada and in some case in other countries have studied our program and have borrowed from it or tried to replicate it. “Often imitated, never duplicated.” (Traub Manufacturing Company, 1927)

I am proud to say the KWPMP has been successful for many reasons. As it has been noted in prior occasions, we have been blessed over the years with three incredible Program Directors who each made it a priority to making this the best program possible. Furthermore, we have talented and dedicated client committee members. Many have been with the program since the beginning. What makes our members exceptional is their mentoring of the students and their ability to communicate in a positive and constructive way.

The program is a big picture investment teaching platform. Rather than being limited to a small part of the investment world, students are exposed to many aspects of investments through seminars and the management of a balanced portfolio. They learn about fixed income, diversification, stock selection, risk management, ethics, and asset allocation. They are introduced to other specialty investment areas - infrastructure, real estate, small cap, private equity, and investment banking via seminars and
through their mentorships. Upon graduation, students have been acquainted with the various areas of investment opportunities and are better prepared to make informed career choices.

Another very important distinguishing feature is the latitude the students have in making decisions and managing the Fund. They work within an investment policy statement and under the scrutiny of the Program Director and the Client Committee. In that context, they make their own investment decisions. They are not denied a trade or overruled by the committee. This freedom to decide allows them to be creative and learn about success and failure. They are fully responsible for the results. It has proven to be a highly desirable feature of the program.

Furthermore, since its inception, the students have had some input into the investment style they wish to follow. Investments must be made within the guidelines and constraints listed in the Statement of Investment Policy. This still presents the students with significant flexibility. Over the years, we have seen various equity styles including value, growth, growth at a reasonable price, and best in class. Fixed income strategies have also varied. In short, this is a truly student managed fund. At the end of the year, the students can look back upon their experience say, like Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way”.

It has been a terrific two decades for investments with many unforeseen events challenging even the most astute investors. In the coming years, the KWPMP will see some change. Some of the original client committee members and mentors will “retire” leaving the door open for some new members. Please know that without their contribution, advice and dedication, the program would not have attained its current prestigious status. So, after twenty-two years from inception to today, it is a pleasure to see our 20th cohort of Calvin Potter Fellows. Everyone graduating from the program has worked extremely hard, shown intelligence, initiative, integrity and respect. The program and all its alumni have certainly exceeded the expectations we all had twenty-two years ago. I wish all the graduates the best of success, knowing they are well prepared to enter an exciting phase of their careers.

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