The Montreal brokerage is celebrating its 150th anniversary by continuing to adhere to what has made it successful

By Kate Betts-Wilmott | Mid-November 2008

If there is a single theme that pervades the long and distinguished history of Montreal investment dealer MacDougall MacDougall & MacTier Inc., it is the importance of keeping it in the family.

In the years since its inception more than 150 years ago, there has always been a MacDougall in the firm. Donald Lorn MacDougall, who was among the first stock brokers in Montreal in the 1840s, launched Montreal’s first stock brokerage firm in 1844 along with John Glass. Shortly thereafter, MacDougall was joined by his brother, Hartland S. MacDougall, making it a family affair.

The two MacDougall brothers played a key role in laying the foundation for the transition of the Board of Brokers into the Montreal Stock Exchange in 1872, establishing a market at a time when Montreal was a growing city in a very young country. The MacDougalls played key roles in the exchange’s development; Lorn was its first chairman and Hartland S. was its third.

A MacDougall nephew, Hartland B., who made his name with a competitor and won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Victorias, joined the family business in 1921. He brought an unrelated MacDougall, Robert, into the team to form MacDougall & MacDougall — or 2Macs as it then became known.

“Hartland B. MacDougall went right through the Roaring ’20s, the Great Depression, the Second World War,” says 3Macs chairman Bart MacDougall in Toronto. “Then, my father came into the firm — that’s Hartland C. MacDougall, who’s known as Tommy MacDougall — in 1928, and he survived right through until about 25 years ago.”

Tommy MacDougall presided over the firm while it grew; first, when it joined forces with MacTier & Co. in 1960, and later, when both organic growth and acquisitions lead to the creation of offices in Toronto and Quebec City. Tom Price took over from his uncle Tommy as chairman in 1975. In 1996, Bart MacDougall stepped into the office his father had filled when Price suddenly passed away.

Today, the firm has more than 70 advisors and 125 employees in five cities: Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, London, Ont., and, most recently, Kingston, Ont. It also has some $3.8 billion in assets under management and Tim Price, son of Tom, is at the helm as CEO. And while there are still MacDougalls playing key roles and learning the ropes, the MacDougall clan is not the family that Bart MacDougall has in mind.

“In today’s firm, we have a number of family relationships that run right through the firm,” he says. “There are as many as 15 families represented here by more than one person — mother/son, father/son, father/daughter and husband/wife. Nepotism runs pretty deep in this firm and it is actually something we are proud of.”

The “keeping it in the family” theme also breeds loyalty and continuity. Says Price: “Four of our people have 50 or more years with the firm and 60 people have been with us more than 15 years. These are things that are important to us.

“Having a long history breeds a very strong culture of service to our clients,” Price adds. “We have seen a lot of ups and downs and understand long-term thinking.”

So, ultimately, the families on Bart MacDougall’s mind are the families that are 3Macs’ clients. “The family I’m talking about are the clients — serving families in their entirety. You have a client, be it a man or a woman; if the other party isn’t involved, you want the other one involved, and you want to get their children involved.”

Getting clients’ families involved is a continuation and variation of the “keeping it in the family” theme. In fact, some of 3Macs’ client families have been around three and four generations. Says MacDougall: “Our business has always been serving families. Going right back to the beginnings of the firm, we served families who needed to have their investments managed.”

In the course of such a long history, evolving so that the firm meets these clients’ needs has been of paramount concern. “In the early days we were a brokerage,” MacDougall says. “Now, the business has changed in that we are more discretionary managers than we used to be.”

Although 3Macs still does some commission work, it is, for the most part, now a fee-based business.