Pier 21 is, of course, the National Historic Site in Halifax. The pier was the gateway for one million immigrants to Canada between 1928 and 1971. It also served as the departure point for 500,000 Canadian military personnel during the Second World War. Pier 21 is a symbol of the coming-and-goings of those who have defined this country through history. It is a symbol of the connections between Canada and the rest of the world.
The name is perfect then for a company headquartered in Quebec that provides domestic funds access to global asset managers.
Pier 21 has quietly gone about its business for almost a decade now. The company searches the globe for little-known, but successful fund managers. The company then works through the various levels of regulatory clearance necessary to introduce these managers to the Canadian market.
The company came to be in 2005. At the time the Canadian government was getting ready to lift the old foreign content constrictions that limited how much individuals and institutions could invest outside of Canada. Younger people in the industry might not remember this, but it was not long ago that retail and institutional investors were limited to investing only 30% of their portfolio outside of Canada. When that cap was lifted the founder, president and CEO of Pier 21, David Star, saw an opportunity—make foreign asset managers available to domestic investors.
Since then the company has gone about its business, churning through the paper work necessary to bring these companies to Canada. Pier 21 handles the substantial paperwork necessary for approval from a dozen different provincial securities regulators. “Our regulatory system works well we have found. But paper work can be daunting. We’ve become pseudo-experts on getting that work done,” says Star in a recent interview with WP.
Today, Pier 21 has grown to three billion dollars in assets under management. The funds are overseen by a suite of global sub-advisers. Clients are typically institutional investors. Since the lifting of the cap on foreign investments, domestic money managers have revamped their asset mix so that there is today, probably, a 50/50 split between domestic and foreign holdings post-“cap.”
The latest offering Pier 21 is dishing up for the domestic crowd is global equity strategist Taube Hudson Stonex Partners LLP (THS Partners). Established in 1997, this independent boutique's 'Global Compare and Contrast' approach delivers a benchmark-agnostic portfolio of approximately 70 all-capitalization stocks across 15 growth themes. Pierre Collins, a senior vice-president with Pier 21 and general manager of Parade Street Investments, is developing the relationship.
“We’re excited about bringing someone with this pedigree to Canada,” says Collins. “This is thematic investing. What themes are going to drive the economy? What does it mean that the population continues to expand? What opportunities does the economic recovery offer? This company asks these big thematic questions and then goes out to look for those companies that will gain from the trend. They do a thorough bottom-up appraisal. They are very willing to be contrary to beat the benchmark, which is nice to see.”
THS Partners was named Global Equity Manager of the Year and European Equity Manager of the Year at the Global Investor Investment Excellence Awards 2014 held in London in July. Previously, access to this manager had been off-limits to Canadian investors. Pier 21 brings this experience to the domestic Canadian market. “Some of our investments are hard to find in Canada,” says Star. A little less-so now, thanks to Pier 21.
Today, most of the company’s client base is institutional investors, but “we’d love to offer this stuff to HNWs,” says Star. Advisors take note.