Investing: manage, make money and succeed

In less than 10 minutes we take a look at the investment process with our guest expert Jean-René Adam, Senior Vice-President and Head of Public Equities and Sébastien Mc Mahon, Chief Strategist and Senior Economist. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the process and get some great tips!

Ashleay: Welcome to iA Financial Group's “In Your Interest” podcast. My name is Ashleay and, as always, I will be hosting this podcast with Sébastien McMahon, Chief Strategist and Senior Economist, as well as Jean-René Adam, Senior Vice President and Head of Public Equities and Investment Funds. In this episode, we're going to talk about the investment process for equity funds, but also what it takes to be a good portfolio manager and what a typical day looks like. So hello, Sébastien. Hello, Jean-René.

Jean-René: Hi Ashleay.

Sébastien: Hi, Ashleay.

Ashleay: So, Jean-René, can you give us a bird’s-eye view of what a portfolio manager's role is?

Jean-René: Yeah, I think it depends on your process and style, but what people are used to seeing is really a buy and hold strategy. So it's really, I think, building a portfolio of the best companies—and managing risk and performance accordingly.

Sébastien: So, when you manage a portfolio, you manage a fund, there's a contract with the fund holders that you need to apply, a specific strategy so you can’t, you know, do things that are extreme. Like, for example, you're very bullish on a name like Nortel in the late 1990s, so you’re putting everything into Nortel. So you have some responsibilities. You have an investment policy that you need to follow and, you know, that dictates your behavior as a portfolio manager.

Jean-René: Yeah. So the investment policy is very important both for the client and the portfolio manager. So the client will know, you know, what the portfolio manager is allowed to do, which sectors are allowed to invest in, which countries, what's the cash level. And as you alluded to, you're not allowed to own just like five names in a portfolio, right? Because the risk would be too high. You're not allowed to have 25% in just one name or maybe be invested in only two different sectors. So you really need to look at the investment policies to make sure that the risk is appropriate for you.

Sébastien: So there are multiple investment styles: value investors, growth investors, contrarian investors, technical analysts. Every portfolio manager has to find their style, right?

Jean-René: Yeah. Obviously people know the buy-and-hold, which is a well-known strategy that has proven itself over the years. But there's many other ways to manage money and to be successful. So you're right. I mean, you can have a top-down approach, for instance, where you'll invest in—you'll decide which sectors you want to invest in, which countries, regions. There's contrarian investors that will go against the crowd, really invest in places that are on their own, for instance. There's growth managers that would invest in high-growth companies where you pay higher valuation multiples to invest. There’s value managers, which is exactly the opposite of growth, right, you buy companies that are cheaper. And so I think that there's no one process that's better than another process. They are all really good. You just need to be talented and believe in that process to be successful.

Sébastien: So multiple management styles, multiple types of personalities. So how do you find your own management style?

Jean-René: Yeah, again, you’ve got to manage in the way you truly believe is the best way,—and when I say that it's not being arrogant and you can do it being humble, but—if you truly believe in what you do, I think you can be successful. You’ve also got to be confident that you're talented.  So, you know, I have an example, when I was managing a portfolio, I wasn't really passionate about technology. And so, to me, it was really difficult to add value buying and selling technology stocks. So knowing what is your strength and your weakness is also very important to be successful.

Ashleay: Right. And it's hard to beat a passionate person, right?

Jean-René: Exactly. You know, this is a good example where sometimes when I come back over the weekend and I talk to my team—or even Sébastien will discuss—you know, “did you work over the weekend?” “Oh, no, but I spent a few hours reading about the economy or companies.” Because it's not a job, it's really a passion.

Ashleay: And what does it take to be a good portfolio manager? Obviously, you have to discover your own talent. You can't imitate others. Tell us more about that.

Jean-René: I think you need to be curious. So this is very, very important. When I, you know, in interviews, when I hire people, I'll ask many questions with regards to the economic environment—and when I say economic environment, it's not just deeply knowing the economy, but kind of knowing what's going on, same thing—you ask questions related to politics, to the current news. Just to see if people are curious.

Sébastien: The breadth of their interest, too.

Jean-René: Exactly the breadth of their interest. You're totally right. Because I don't think you can be successful if you're not curious. You need to have very high confidence in yourself, also.  Because sometimes you might, you know, when you look at the market there's always someone who will say that you should sell that stock; and there's another one who would say you should buy it. So having high confidence in yourself is super important, so that you won't be influenced by others.

Sébastien: And luck and bad luck are part of the game, right?

Jean-René: Yeah. Over the long term, there's no luck or bad luck, right? Because if you're good, it's going to show up in performance. But over the short term, you're right. I mean, luck is very, very important or—bad luck, in fact. And even if you look at 2021, remember, it was the meme stocks and the gaming stocks and all that. And I think that most of these, I would say—I wouldn't say investors but—gamblers probably had better performance than seasoned investment professionals, right? So yeah, in the short term you have that as well.

Sébastien: So if we have some young students listening to us right now thinking “Well, I'd love to be a portfolio manager, I'd love to go into finance,” would you say that of course it's a job that you love, but would you say that it's always the best job in the world?

Jean-René: Yeah, I think it can be both, right? It can be the best job in the world. You can go through a period where the environment is really favouring your style. So you can make many very good decisions for many years, even. So when you're going through it, it's amazing. But conversely, you can go through a period, where it's not that you're less talented, it's just that your style is out of favour and then you'll go through very difficult performance. And this is very draining, in fact, emotionally, right?

Sébastien: Yeah. And you know, the performance that we have, we see it every single minute, every single day. Underperforming could hurt your sense of self-worth. And, you know, you can start performing even worse. So it takes a cool head, I would say, to do that work.

Jean-René: And, I would say, what's dangerous when you go through that difficult period is really staying true to your process, not changing your process. Because usually when you go through it and if you decide to do that at the worst moment, it could be pretty bad for performance.

Sébastien: Just like Ashleay said, you need to know yourself.

Jean-René: That's it.

Ashleay: Yeah, exactly. And what does a typical day look like? It feels like I can imagine what it looks like in the movies. You know, everyone's yelling on one side and the other and passing papers and counting numbers. But tell us how it really is.

Jean-René: Yeah, I would say it's pretty unpredictable, right? So sometimes you'll have your day planned, where you'll know what would be the economic news in the morning, you'll know that you have, maybe, a one-on-one, an interview with the president of a company—but you never know, right? There’s news during the day that will come out of nowhere. Sometimes it could be political, right, it could be companies that announce a warning during the day. So you need to always be on your toes, be ready to trade when need be. So it's different depending on your process and your style.

Ashleay: Great. Jean-René, Sébastien, thank you so much for sharing. It's very interesting to know a little bit more about your reality. And listeners, once again, thank you for being here. Hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, please share. We'll see you next week. Have a great day, everyone. Love this podcast? Want to know more about economic news? Follow our “In Your Interests” podcast available on all platforms. Visit the Economic News page on or follow us on social media.


Sébastien has nearly 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors. In addition to his roles as Chief Strategist and Senior Economist, he is an iAGAM portfolio manager and a member of the firm’s Asset Allocation Committee. All of these roles allow him to put his passion for numbers, words, and communication to good use. Sébastien also acts as iA Financial Group’s spokesperson and guest speaker on economic and financial matters. Before joining iA in 2013, he held various economic roles at the Autorité des marchés financiers, Desjardins, and the Québec ministry of finance. He completed a master’s degree and doctoral studies in economics at Laval University and is a CFA charterholder.

Sébastien Mc Mahon and Jean-René Adam

This podcast should not be copied or reproduced. Opinions expressed in this podcast are based on actual market conditions and may change without prior warning. The aim is in no way to make investment recommendations. The forecasts given in this podcast do not guarantee returns and imply risks, uncertainty and assumptions. Although we are comfortable with these assumptions, there is no guarantee that they will be confirmed.

Share prices

2024-04-23 12:40 EDT
  • ^TSX $22,011.72 $139.76
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