Three months later, the pandemic hit, and the firm – like the others – had to figure out how to do what was best for its customers as well as keep the firm together. She originally planned to stay there for two years before becoming president, but six months later, the firm’s board of directors asked her to step down a year earlier.
“So, we accelerated that process,” Guenther said. “All of our clients are thrilled with the transition and Rob will be with the firm for as long as he wants. I think it’s really important to have young advisors. As we grow as a firm, we have that voice of history. The voice of reason will remain, because history repeats itself.”
Since becoming president, Guenther has focused on two key areas — growing employees and fine-tuning the product. They are connecting mentors and young researchers to help build their ESG capabilities and conduct their analysis. They now have 31 employees, 18 of whom are in the CFA or program. They’ve also added three client-facing consultants, so there are now seven. Nine months ago, they also started implementing their own ESG Risk Toolkit.
“We have really made this a part of our risk management and fundamental analysis of any company that comes into our platform,” Guenther said. It has been good for him on two levels. When they analyzed all current rating agencies, they found that they did not cover all Canadian companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange or any companies in Dixon Mitchell’s small-cap portfolio. Therefore, Dixon Mitchell created his own questionnaire for each holding he analyzes for his portfolio. This was followed by an analysis of its ESG processes and workflow by an international company based in Vancouver. Its only criticism was that Dixon Mitchell was not enough of an active investor.
“I had to explain to them that we’re Canadian. We rarely get mad about anything. If we really don’t like you anymore, we sell you,” she said with a laugh. “So, I am absolutely happy where we are with the ESG risk factors and also helping the small cap companies that are part of our portfolio because a lot of them have the horsepower one day to add ESG ideas. No. The world. So, when they studied our questionnaire, we chatted with them and helped them get a little better, and that’s great for their shareholders as well.”