AGF Perspectives – A Conversation with Blake Goldring
Author: Blake C. Goldring
September 26, 2018
Earlier today, Blake C. Goldring, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AGF Management Limited announced his decision to transition to the role of Executive Chairman for the firm and to name Kevin McCreadie as the new CEO in conjunction with his Chief Investment Officer role for AGF. Additionally, Judy Goldring has been named to President and Chief Administration Officer and Chris Jackson has been named Chief Operating Officer. These changes are effective December 1, 2018 at the start of AGF’s new fiscal year.
Following this announcement, Blake sat down with our AGF Perspective’s Editor to discuss his decision.
You made a pretty big announcement today. Why now?
It has always been my personal belief that leadership renewal is a hallmark of great organizations, especially one that has the deep bench strength that AGF does. I have enormous satisfaction in knowing that the firm is positioned for success based on the strategic decisions I have made over nearly two decades.
When I assumed the CEO position in 2000, I set out an aggressive strategy to broaden AGF’s business beyond its traditional retail mutual fund roots to become a diversified global asset management firm. Today, we have four distinct investment management platforms – Fundamental, Quantitative, Alternatives and Private Client – each of which is experiencing organic growth.
I feel I have accomplished what I set out to do for the firm and for myself and I know the timing is right to transition the leadership to Kevin. I know that our organizational strength and resilience to evolve will continue to set AGF up, and Kevin, for future success in the face of technological and regulatory changes to come.
I also want to mention that it sends a strong signal to the street that we have a woman as President. I couldn’t be more proud of Judy. She has earned this title and I’m excited to see her succeed in this role.
This must be a time of reflection for you. What are you most proud of as you look back?
I’m proud that over the course of my career, I was able to help investors fulfil their financial dreams. I have played a role in ensuring the financial health of Canadians and I believe that is noble work.
I’m also proud of my lasting friendships. This business really is about the people and relationships. I’m fortunate to be able to say that I have a number of clients who have become dear friends. Our friendships span decades and that’s something I am proud of.
What business decisions are you most proud of?
Back in 1997, my father Warren Goldring said to me “here are the keys, now drive the car”. It was a great honour, but at the same time a little intimidating to hear those words. I recognized that I had the opportunity to reshape AGF for the future. This is when I started to think about how to diversify the business. Diversification is inherent in a mutual fund and I believed it would also be key to a successful business.
Through organic growth and acquisitions, we have been able to launch new platforms and develop innovative products, while enhancing our research capabilities.
For example, we acquired Global Strategy and Acuity to build scale in the retail space and entered the private client space with the acquisition of Cypress Capital Management and Doherty & Associates Investment Counsel in 2004 and Highstreet Asset Management in 2006.
In 2014, we acquired a 51% stake in FFCM, LLC – a Boston-based boutique asset manager and ETF strategist whose expertise is delivered through a family of quantitative and factor-based alternative ETFs and a number of ETF managed solutions. These acquisitions led to the launch of our quantitative investing and ETF platform – AGFiQ Asset Management – which combines the complementary strengths of investment professionals across AGF, Highstreet and FFCM.
To further diversify we entered into the alternatives space in 2013 and 2014 with Instar Group Inc. and Stream Asset Financial LP respectively.
These are just a few examples of how, I realized my vision of growing AGF into a diversified global asset management firm. Today, I feel strongly that AGF is well positioned for what the future has to offer.
As Executive Chairman what will be your role at AGF?
I plan to still be actively involved in business development and strategic growth opportunities with a focus on furthering key partner relationships and the evolution of AGF within the alternatives space.
In the role, I will provide guidance and oversight as Board Chair to our new CEO Kevin.
Kevin and I have a great working relationship and I enjoy our conversations and collaborative approach. He truly understands what AGF is all about and where we are headed. I’m really proud of what I’ve build and I know Kevin can take it to the next level.
I will also maintain my Board seat at Smith & Williamson – a U.K.-based private client investment management firm with £20 billion in AUM – in which AGF has a 32.8% interest. This firm is performing very well and plans are underway for an IPO in late 2019.
As a long-standing participant and advocate for the Canadian financial industry and broader community, I have been increasingly balancing my time across a number of organizations including my involvement on the Board of C.D. Howe, as Chair, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and as a Director of the Canadian Film Centre and this new role will allow me more time to participate in and support a number of other organizations and causes I am passionate about.
How do you think about succession planning?
At AGF we take a deliberate and disciplined approach to reshaping our organization to maximize the full power of AGF — including mapping our talent to new opportunities.
In fact, during the last few years we have brought on an almost entirely new senior leadership team, with new hires and promotions, including Kevin McCreadie, Adrian Basaraba Karrie Van Belle, Frederic Poitras and Carol Ferguson. And today, we announced that Judy Goldring has been named to President and Chief Administration Officer and Chris Jackson has been named Chief Operating Officer.
Talent mapping and grooming for the next CEO was no exception. Succession planning began four years ago when I brought Kevin to the firm as President and CIO. Working closely with the AGFML Board, we identified Kevin as his natural successor, and together we recognized the need for a multi-year on-boarding plan to ensure continued success for the firm as well as for Kevin.
These past four years gave me the time and opportunity to realize my strategic plan, while ensuring a smooth transition to AGF’s next CEO. It also afforded Kevin the necessary time to fully integrate into the culture of AGF – a culture that has been the key to its success over these past six decades.
When I think of succession planning this is how it’s done. It wasn’t rushed and it was well thought out to prepare us for the next chapter.
How do you know Kevin is the right person for the role of CEO?
Kevin and I share the same values and vision. This is something that became very clear to me over the past four years working with him. We are aligned and both understand what it takes to build a modern, world-class asset management firm.
Given his extensive experience in investment management and his past four years of dedicated and proven leadership of AGF’s investment management and institutional sales team, I know he is the right person for the job.
In fact, I was really touched by the message he shared with our Board recently. He said, “When he looks at AGF as an asset management firm, he wouldn’t trade it for any other firm on the street.”
And I think that really sums up who Kevin is and his dedication to AGF.
Finally, as you begin to transition to the role of Executive Chairman what advice do you have for Kevin?
That’s a great question. As we began working through this transition, I let Kevin know that the key to his success in this role will be finding balance, both at AGF and outside of it.
As you can imagine, there are many demands associated with the role of CEO. When it comes to work, I think it’s important that Kevin surrounds himself with the right people to support the growth of the business. This means turning to the AGF Board, the executive management team and his colleagues for support.
When it comes to finding balance outside, I cite my own strategy — I have been involved in the Canadian Army and various Boards, including Chair, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, a Director of the Canadian Film Centre and the C.D. Howe Institute. While this has worked for me, I know Kevin will find what will work best for him to maintain that balance.
About AGF Management Limited
Founded in 1957, AGF Management Limited (AGF) is an independent and globally diverse asset management firm. AGF brings a disciplined approach to delivering excellence in investment management through its fundamental, quantitative, alternative and high-net-worth businesses focused on providing an exceptional client experience. AGF’s suite of investment solutions extends globally to a wide range of clients, from financial advisors and individual investors to institutional investors including pension plans, corporate plans, sovereign wealth funds and endowments and foundations.
For further information, please visit AGF.com.
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