Going for gold: A portfolio manager shares the secrets to her success

Going for gold: A portfolio manager shares the secrets to her success

Going for gold: A portfolio manager shares the secrets to her success After graduating as a Bregman Scholar from the University of Toronto's MBA program in 2005, Maria Smirnova didn’t waste any time entering Canada’s financial industry. Smirnova was hired by Sprott Asset Management straight out of MBA school, initially taking an analyst role. “At first, Eric Sprott asked me to look at base metals, so I was mainly focusing on Copper and Molybdenum,” says Smirnova. “A couple of years later, I joined the precious metals team and have been a portfolio manager on the Sprott Silver Equities Class since its inception in 2012.”

Smirnova is clearly passionate about the precious metals space and has enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the mining industry and how it works. “It’s a very colourful area with a lot of characters and interesting people,” she says. “It’s full of geologists and mining engineers, people who travel all over the world for their work. I feel very lucky that I get to meet a multitude of people from different backgrounds. It’s very exciting.”

The precious metals markets are cyclical by nature, which can make it tough for portfolio managers and wealth professionals who specialize in the space. “Back when I started, in 2005, it was the middle of a bull market. That was followed by a four or five year bear market, which ended last year,” Smirnova says. “We try to outperform in a down market; it’s tough but you make the best of it. It’s up and down so you have to be prepared for that.”

The precious metals space is back into bull market, with gold and silver both rallying throughout 2016. Studies of past cycles lead experts to predict that precious metals will experience three or four more years of bullish conditions. “Our gold fund is up over 110% year-to-date and our silver fund is up around 170%,” Smirnova says. “It’s been fun and I think that people are buying into this being a new upcycle, the mood has been improving markedly over the past seven months.”

Although she’s thrived in the precious metals market, due to it cyclical nature, Smirnova would be unlikely to recommend the space to others. “But for all investment advisors, wealth professionals or portfolio managers, I would advise them to be curious about the world and be aware of what’s happening in economies around the world,” she says. “You can get the CFA designation, but it’s more important to be passionate about capital markets and be interested in learning.”

In order to be a successful portfolio manager, you have to look at the macro picture, Smirnova believes. “Always think about things from the top down. Understand the bigger picture and the little parts will fall into place,” she says. “Open your mind and learn the world.”

Although she may not necessarily recommend the precious metals markets to others, Smirnova has no regrets about the direction that her career has taken. “I’m very lucky because I get to interview CEOs on a daily basis; I love sitting down with people and learning about what they’re doing,” she says. “I really do feel lucky doing what I do.”