Meet the woman behind the Canadian ETF Association

Pat Dunwoody has made her name in the fast-growing industry but says there is much more work left to do

Meet the woman behind the Canadian ETF Association

Pat Dunwoody, the one-woman show behind the Canadian ETF Association (CETFA), said the majority of investors are still not looking at the vehicle as a potential portfolio option.

The industry has grown exponentially from the association’s inception back in 2011, with the number of providers having increased from the initial handful to 31.

Dunwoody, a finalist at WP’s inaugural Women in Wealth Management Awards, which takes place on November 21 at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto, admitted she had no idea she would still be in the role after joining in the Fall of 2012. The job just “kept rolling”.

“It was fun to see it grow,” she said. “And it was fun to see the companies as an industry work together because they’d never really sat at a table together to talk about common issues and concerns.”

According to the CETFA, ETF assets increased by 3.9% over Q3 to close out September totalling $163 billion. However, Dunwoody said that from research done over the summer only 7.3% of investors in Canada use exchange-traded funds. She said that statistics like this reinforce the need for the association.

“Mistake number one is that they are not even looking at the product as a potential for an investment account. The other mistake [investors make], and you can get technical I guess, is thinking you can trade an ETF like a stock, so there’s sometimes trading errors that can hurt the client’s accounts if they are doing the DIY thing.”

Dunwoody wears many hats. She has her own consulting business, is a board member for Prosper Canada and is chair of the board for Community Living Dufferin. These roles, she said, are largely, and deliberately, behind the scenes and that it’s her role as executive director of CETFA that’s she become best known for. It’s a hectic, if sometimes isolating, schedule.

She said: “Being with the association is a huge positive because, knock on wood, we haven’t had any negative press about the product or firms and we have got strong relationships, or at least respect, with the regulators and government officials.

“The downside is that unless I’m out at meetings or doing committee work, it gets lonely staring at four walls by myself!”

Dunwoody is acutely aware of the fact she is a successful woman in the wealth industry in a position of influence and said she is always indirectly talking to her female peers.

She believes the ETF industry, because of its rapid growth, is the perfect arena for women to thrive and succeed, and highlights the Women in ETF organization for making strikes in helping them achieve their potential in the industry.

“It’s an attractive industry for women because the growth is so high. I parallel it with the mutual fund industry in the late 80s and early 90s where, to be honest, it didn’t matter if you were male or female because the growth was so strong. If you were good at your job, you could grow with it.

“There wasn’t a lot of discrimination – I mean, there probably was – but you didn’t feel it because you were able to get promotions through those years.

“In this industry, the companies are growing so quickly it’s who proves themselves the fastest and the best who will get the role, regardless of who they are.”

However, Dunwoody, while reluctant to use the “glass ceiling” cliché, believes more progress is needed to ensure women are proportionately represented in the upper echelons of companies.

She said: “There’s certainly support for women in the industry but when I look around the boardroom table, it’s great but there’s no women.”

She added: “You hate to use the word glass ceiling but through financial services, there is a lot of women in senior roles and senior executive roles but if you look beneath the covers they are usually HR, marketing, compliance and they’ve become the typical female role.”

Dunwoody’s message to young women in wealth is to understand what they enjoy doing and avoid standing still.

She said: “I’ve been very successful but I’ve had the luxury of being in growth industries and being able to jump back and forth, and be in anything from sales to business analyst to looking after a call centre because of my ability to grow and learn within the industry.

“One tip would be don’t be static. If you aren’t growing in your job, take courses and continue your learning so on that perpetual learning curve you will get to where you want to get to.”

WP is holding its inaugural Women in Wealth Management Awards on November 21 at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto. To see the full list of finalists go to and to reserve tickets for the cocktail-style reception go to

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