Ian Soutar wins Career Achievement Award

Ian Soutar, Pembroke Management, is a pioneer of Canadian growth stock investing and is recognized for his contribution to the finance industry at the 2013 Morningstar Awards.

Ashley Redmond 28 November, 2013 | 1:00PM
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Ashley Redmond: Ian Soutar, a pioneer of Canadian growth stock investing, was born in Asbestos, Quebec. Hoping to avoid the small-town lifestyle he followed his brother to boarding school and eventually enrolled at McGill University for mining engineering. He received a fellowship to the London School of Economics and took a mining job one summer.

Ian Soutar: This was 55 years ago, and in those days mechanization was very modest indeed, and here I was installing this equipment in a three-foot seam about 3,000 feet under the ground. It was tough work. The pit ponies were really nasty. If you got close to them they would bite you and it gave me a pretty good indication of what my future career might be in mining if I was going to pursue that.

Redmond: Suffice to say, he moved back to Canada to look for something else. He landed his first investment job at Sun Life Financial.

Soutar: I think two or three days after I started working, I thought, holy smokes, is this ever interesting, what they're doing here. They were telling me all about the investments they were making, et cetera. I loved what I was doing and it was easy for me to say, I'm going to make a career out of this.

Redmond: Early on, Ian got a taste for investing in small-cap companies, but this was difficult to do at the time at a big corporation.

Soutar: A few of us got together and we formed an investment club and we called it Myopic Investments, which was really a great name, and we decided that we would invest because there was no conflict, because Sun Life was not doing this, that we would invest in these small companies.

So, we started – we each put $10 a month, which at that time was a lot of money, in this fund and we started off and we made these little investments. Well, sure enough, we sort of hit gold right at the beginning and we bought a couple of speculative stocks. Not only was I having fun doing it, but I was making money and I thought, wow, this is amazing. Let's sort of keep this going.

Redmond: Ian was hooked on the idea of small-caps and Pembroke Management was born in September 1968 by four partners; Neil Ivory, Cliff Larock, Scott Taylor, and Ian. The company got off to a rocky start, but quickly turned things around.

Soutar: We, I think, became a little more experienced with investing in this sector, and of course, as things would happen, the sector became a lot more attractive. Between 1974 and 1983, we compounded the fund at 30% a year each year for eight years in a row and, needless to say, we went from bums to heroes.

Redmond: Ian's been at Pembroke for over 45 years and he's still working today. He served as CEO from 1988 to 2000 and managed the successful GBC American Growth Fund.

John Quinn: Ian is probably the most unpretentious person that I know, and he's always got a lot of time for me and for our clients, and I know that they appreciate his honesty. One of the things that he's done is he's managed to instill a deep sense of passion both for life and for investing amongst the people that have worked with him over the years.

Redmond: His passion extends to philanthropy as well. He serves as Governor Emeritus at McGill University.

Stuart H. Cobbett: Ian is a man of enormous good judgment, terrific common sense, and brings a very valuable perspective to any meeting, whether it's a committee meeting or whether it's a meeting of the Board of Governors of McGill. His opinion is an opinion that is always useful, always helpful. He's a very constructive guy.

When he was Chair of the Investment Committee – he was Chair of the Committee through the economic downturn of 2008, and he steered us through it very well and our Endowment Fund has recovered very nicely due in no small measure to the steps that Ian took and has taken.

Redmond: But above all, Ian is a family man; celebrating 50 years with his wife and he couldn't be prouder of his three children and four grandchildren.

Congratulations, Ian, the career achievement winner for 2013.

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Ashley Redmond

Ashley Redmond  Ashley Redmond is a Vancouver-based freelance writer.

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