Adam Elliott - The unconventional historian

President, iA Private Wealth
iA’s long track record of responsible investing funds and large independent advisor network convinced Adam Elliott to join iA Clarington, its mutual fund division, in 2018.

Adam Elliott took an unusual path to leadership in the asset management industry. However, this trajectory helped provide lessons along the way that are surprisingly useful in his role as president of iA Private Wealth.

After graduating from McGill University with a History degree, Adam went to London, UK for three years and got his first “real” job underwriting the credit risk of British exporters’ clients. “I started off covering French companies mainly because they needed a bilingual underwriter. Then I was asked to cover Russian companies when they had to reassess all their credit exposure during the LTCM crisis, and then Asian companies during their currency crisis in 1998. That was a crash course in market risks and the impact of politics in economics. It also led to a natural interest in investing and asset management. When I returned to Canada, I quickly took a number of industry courses and realized that I could combine some of the critical thinking and writing skills I had acquired through my arts degree with my growing interest in finance. As a son of two professors, I was also taught the value of reading widely, writing carefully, and thinking critically with a long-term perspective.”

He finds the leadership of former President Barack Obama very inspiring. “Even though I don’t think he was able to accomplish all he set out to do when first elected — a reality I think a lot of business leaders have to confront — he remained optimistic, focused on change and leveraged other leaders even if they had originally opposed him.” Working with others instead of focusing on competition is a philosophy he tries to apply in running iA Clarington. “It means working with other parts of iA, but also with heads of other major mutual funds companies that we compete with. There are times it pays to compete, and others where it pays to collaborate. If you don’t compete respectfully, you won’t make the necessary alliances to succeed in this business.”

According to Adam, the very large network at fiercely independent advisors at Investia and iA Private Wealth and the strong line-up of funds in global equity and global fixed income markets are major assets of iA Clarington. “Twelve years ago, we were one of the first fund companies to offer a full suite of socially and environmentally responsible investing funds while now almost every major asset manager is trying to enter this growing field.”

Adam Elliott had over 18 years of experience in the fund industry when he joined iA Clarington in 2018 as National Sales Manager. Last year he assumed the role of CEO. He was confident he could succeed because he knew he had the right senior leadership team in place already. “The trust you have to place in your senior leadership team is incredibly high. I knew I had to give them the independence and autonomy to make the right decisions for their division.” One important lesson when leading a company is that your senior leadership team knows their departments better than you do, and that great ideas can come from your most junior colleagues as well as your veterans.”

Adam Elliott has lived in Toronto since 2000, but he hasn’t forgotten his Montreal roots. “I tried to support the Maple Leafs, but I found it impossible. I will always be a Canadiens fan,” says the dedicated dad of a high-level hockey player. When he works from home, he starts his day cycling 75 minutes on the Don Valley Mountain Biking Trails, an activity that keeps him focused and ready for more professional challenges.

iA Clarington has enjoyed strong momentum in recent years. “2021 was a record year for the company in every aspect. 2022 is proving more challenging across the industry , but I’m confident this company is on the right track for long-term growth.”