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Origins

The following is an excerpt from a book presented to Kenneth Woods commemorating the 20th anniversary of the KWPMP:

The Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program was established in 2000 at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia with an endowment of $1 million, an amount that has since grown to more than $3 million. The brainchild of businessman Ken Woods, the stated purpose of the two-year program, a first in the province of Quebec, was to give a handful of select finance students an unparalleled opportunity to execute real-world investments, with guidance and mentorship from finance professors and top business professionals, and fulfill a demand for entry-level investment personnel in the process.

The name Ken Woods instills prestige. He’s truly a visionary who understood that in order to bridge the knowledge gap for students, you had to put money down. Who had that vision? Nobody did. He provided a real-world platform for students to be held accountable.

Andrea Bobkowicz, KWPMP mentor and investment advisor at National Bank Wealth Management

Bringing the vision to life

Woods wanted the program to be one of excellence, with only six to nine students admitted per year. To make it credible, students would manage a fund of money — a balanced fund with guidelines, objectives, constraints and actual stakes and consequences — under the same investment policy as a foundation.

A client committee would be assembled to serve the same function as a pension fund committee, with the ability to oversee all investment activity and assist students with analytical and communication skills.

First-year KWPMP students serve as research associates. They assist second-year student fund managers, each of whom handles a specific market or industry sector and makes the case for specific investments. Student fund managers administer all aspects of the investment management process, from the analysis of geopolitical, economic and capital market forces to asset allocation and security selection. KWPMP’s investment policy, which outlines permissible investments, asset class ranges, risks and more, must be adhered to throughout.


Evolution of the program

Though the program’s foundational ethos has not changed, the program has developed significantly over the last two decades. In 2009, it moved into the new LEED-certified John Molson School of Business building in the heart of downtown Montreal, where students had access to an improved facility complete with Bloomberg Terminals — a luxury for a business school — and other state-of-the-art software and multimedia technology.


Growth and success

The real-world dimension of the program comes into stark relief when the KWPMP’s client committee convenes. The quarterly sessions are chaired and attended by senior investment executives who ensure that the student fund managers not only prepare and present in a professional manner, but also exercise the kind of analytical savvy required of them as they go on to chart careers in the investment world.

The program’s focus on mentorship and client committee scrutiny has proved hugely successful: investments made by the student stock pickers consistently eclipse indexes like the S&P and TSX.

This, in spite of sporadic global events that threaten to destabilize and spook the markets, such as 9/11, the financial crisis of 2007–08 and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, over the last two decades, as profits have been reinvested, Ken Woods’s $1 million endowment has grown to a fund of more than $3 million.

Summer internships — facilitated by the program’s director — and often mentors or client committee members, also bolster the experience for students, many of whom also belong to Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education. Work terms and internships typically take place in Toronto, on the sell side of the industry, or on the buy side at firms based in Montreal.

You’re really put out there in the business world. You meet people and get great experience. Without the Woods program, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Evelyne L’Archevêque, BComm 10, CFA, investment officer at CN Investment Division

Without question, the annual contingent of young research associates and fund managers has been the lifeblood of the Woods program. These talented students come from diverse backgrounds — many are the children of immigrants and the first in their family to attend university — but exhibit similar characteristics: a tireless work ethic, boundless curiosity and a hunger to succeed. They habitually represent the best that the John Molson School of Business has to offer.


Beyond the KWPMP

Alumni of the program go on to choice careers and become paragon ambassadors to the university, the business school and the KWPMP itself. In gratitude, they routinely come back to Concordia to mentor and coach, lecture and teach, share finance and investment expertise at seminars and hire current students as interns.

Ken Woods is a humble man. When he established the program he made it known that he didn’t want people to say, ‘Well, this is your money Ken, what do you want?’ His focus has always been on how to make the program successful and the students successful. From that standpoint, what he’s done is very impressive.

Judith Kavanagh, BComm 87, KWPMP client committee member since 2000

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