From the schoolyard to the boardroom: one man’s story

We sat down with Norman Levine to discuss his career, investment success and what motivates him when he’s not at work

For Norman Levine, entering Canada’s financial services industry always seemed destined to happen. Unlike other teenagers who receive cash or a skateboard, when Levine celebrated his Bar Mitzvah two of his uncles gifted him shares: Levine’s interest in the markets had been piqued and there was no looking back.

“In high school, I had a little bit of money and played around in the stock markets,” says Levine, now the Managing Director at Portfolio Management Corp. “There was a soft drink that was public at the time called Crush International and I owned 50 shares which I sold at the highest price it ever traded at, but it was an odd lot so it doesn’t show in the statistics!”

After university Levine became a retail broker with Merrill Lynch in New York but after a short stint decided that side of the business was not for him. He went back to school to get his MBA and in July 1976 started in the investment division of Crown Life Insurance as an analyst. Since then, Levine has taken on wide range of roles in the industry including account executive, research analyst, portfolio manager and investment strategist at Canada Trust, Barclays McConnell and BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. My father owned a chain of drug stores but I just couldn’t see myself doing that because it seemed too static a business,” Levine says.  “In our business, things are always changing which makes it so exciting.”

After a highly successful 2015, 2016 has been a mixed year for Levine and his firm. Last year, Portfolio Management Corp had 60% of its money placed outside Canada and very little commodities exposure, and the firm had lots of cash going into this year. “When the markets were performing badly in early January, we were pleased: we thought it’d be a good opportunity for us. But then boom, everything took off: the Canadian dollar took off, commodities took off, and we were left behind,” Levine says. “What was good for us last year, wasn’t so good at the beginning of this year. But we’re long term investors and as the year has unfolded things have started to come back our way.”

Away from work, Levine spends a lot of his time assisting community projects and volunteering for various charities. As well as being Chairman of the Investment Advisory Committee of the United Jewish Welfare Fund of Greater Toronto, Levine is also a member of the investment committee for Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital endowment fund. He’s also on the board of directors for Ve’ahavta, a charity which helps to feed and clothe the homeless. “Ve’ahavta also has an association with George Brown College which allows us to put homeless people into education and help them get new skills,” Levine says. “I’ve know that I’ve been fortunate and that’s why giving back is so important.”