'We’re becoming more of a strategy consultant'

Portfolio manager says job is changing as clients struggle to deal with the era of instant information about their investments

'We’re becoming more of a strategy consultant'

The profession is changing from being a product provider to more of a strategy consultant, according to a portfolio manager.

Faisal Karmali, investment advisor at Popowich Karmali Advisory Group, CIBC Wood Gundy, said the return of volatility and the speed with which bad news travels in the digital age has been a new experience for some of his clients.

He said it’s resulted in more contact with people and more frequent re-education as the 24-hour news culture feeds investors blow-by-blow accounts of the markets.

He told WP he is actually pleased with the return of volatility as he’s the "growth guy on the team" but said the main challenge has been managing clients’ expectations.

“The hardest part of this whole change that’s happening is that instant information makes the market move a lot faster and a lot more expeditiously, which causes a lot more jitters among the demographic that is not too comfortable with those kinds of quick changes.

“They have been accustomed to a market where it would take days to get that information. Now it’s minute by minute if not even faster than that.”

The day-to-day consequence is that Karmali has had to provide more information to clients and ensure they have a better understanding of what his team will do when things go wrong, as well as when things go right, so they feel comfortable that every scenario is covered.

He added: “When we see this type of volatility (in December) and more importantly the geo-political issues, people are really concerned it will impact them. They have their views and opinions and they want to make sure those views and opinions won’t be the worst-case scenario so they can protect themselves. And they want to know where the opportunities are so they can actually see growth in their portfolio

“It’s been challenging the last little while but our clients are comfortable we have strategies going for every direction.”

Education has become a crucial part of the job, said Karmali, who believes it’s something that has to happen on an ongoing basis with an emphasis on the long game.

“[It’s a case of] reminding clients that’s the reason we built these strategies - and when there are large swings in the market is gives us an opportunity to go back and say, 'remember what we are doing this for'. Over time people have seen the benefits of our strategy.”