Family ties strengthen Nicola's Ontario expansion

With real estate portfolio standing up well to COVID-19 on the back of ambitious growth plans, firm bolsters senior leadership

Family ties strengthen Nicola's Ontario expansion

Nicola Wealth has strengthen its senior management by instilling the most enduring bond possible – family.

Danielle Skipp came on board during the first COVID-19 lockdown to take up her dual role as Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, joining her brother David Sung, president, in the boardroom.

While David is Vancouver-based, which is where the firm has its roots, Skipp has made Toronto her family home. Her appointment, which was announced at the same time as Bijal Patel as CFO, boosts the company’s plans for national growth and, in particular, Ontario expansion.

A lawyer who has worked in capital markets, she watched from afar as Nicola grew and grew to its current $9.2 billion AUM. She said: “As the national expansion became a real thing for Nicola Wealth and material office space was leased, going back to September of 2019 I started talking with John [Nicola, chairman and CEO] and David about joining the team. Personally, it’s an exciting opportunity for David and I to come together.”

Unable to work in the new office space in Yorkville, Toronto, because of COVID-19 restrictions, she will drive more M&A activity in the region, which has seen deals already with Blackwood Partners and Stallion Financial. Having a growing Toronto-based team will “really accelerate the business plan we have”, she said.

Real estate is a core part of the Nicola blueprint. It’s broadly diversified investment pool features hard asset real estate, farmland, private lending and mortgages, along with a public equity strategy. The firm’s strategy does not favour retail or pure office real estate, however, meaning the portfolio has stood up to the impact of COVID-19.

Skipp said: “Our real estate portfolio actually fared relatively well in 2020, because we had low exposure to those two segments, which really are the hardest hit in real estate.

“We’ve got three big pools. One is Canadian Real Estate that we buy to hold to generate rental income – that could be storage, apartments, or multi-use. It’s basically a portfolio of real estate that you want to own because it pays good rent, and it's going to appreciate in value.

“We have a similar concept for U.S.-based real estate and the third pool is the development pool, where we generally partnering with other developers looking for land to develop and then usually aim to exit that to create your capital gain. The development pool has actually been all guns blazing in 2020.”