SPECIAL SPONSORED CONTENT
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP
“If we do a good job, we’re helping people feel more comfortable with their investment positions and retirement plans.”
- Christine Tan, AVP, Portfolio Management, Sun Life Global Investments | Portfolio Manager, Sun Life Excel Emerging Market Balanced Fund
What made you decide to pursue a career in portfolio management?
Curiosity. I enjoy the challenge of learning new things. I enjoy speaking with management teams, strategists and analysts and forming a view about what’s happening around the world—so, assimilating a lot of information and then distilling that into investment action. One of my childhood aspirations was to be a physician; a portfolio manager has several similar characteristics. I’m always working with people, including advisors and their clients, and I’m constantly improving my knowledge and skills. I’m also prescribing an asset allocation after diagnosing macro concerns—whether those are trade disputes, political issues, slowing global growth or other factors. Perhaps most important, I’d like to think I’m helping people. If we do a good job, we’re helping people feel more comfortable with their investment positions and retirement plans.
What challenges did you overcome to reach your current position?
There are a lot of very smart people in this industry, so I believe part of becoming a portfolio manager is luck and timing—the first challenge is being in the right place when an opportunity appears. Having a unique background helps. In my case, the fact that I grew up in Asia and was educated in Canada lent itself to covering emerging markets. It’s also essential to keep a competitive edge. Since we’re bombarded with a lot of information every day and sometimes have to react in real time, I can’t ever be fully on vacation, but I don’t mind because I love what I do.
A related challenge is that the financial markets are changing every day, so even if I’ve been successful historically, it doesn’t mean I’ll continue to succeed unless I keep working hard—and doing so with passion.
What do you love most about your job?
I consider myself very lucky to have a job that revolves around constant learning and thinking. For example, the key issue since May last year is trade—so I’ve been reading in great depth about the different aspects of the U.S.–China trade dispute (including history) and how it might influence decisions by the parties involved, and then thinking about how it might affect the global economy, the Canadian economy and, as a result, the financial markets. If I had a different job, I would only be able to do that reading and thinking in my spare time—which probably means I’d sleep a lot less!
You’ve travelled extensively to emerging market countries to meet with corporate management teams. What have you learned on your visits?
On a personal basis, this travel has shown me how fortunate I am to live in an environment where there’s relative social, political and corporate stability.
On a professional level, I continue to be impressed when I meet with corporate management teams in emerging market countries. They might be earlier-stage businesses that haven’t experienced as many business cycles yet, but the experience level, knowledge, corporate governance and commitment to shareholders are often similar to that of Canadian management teams. I’ve also learned it’s important to visit these countries, rather than relying on information from road shows held in North America. When you’re on the ground with emerging market companies, you get to see them in their environments, see the businesses they’re in, experience the value propositions first-hand—and, most important, it’s not scripted. These visits also provide direct insight into the true growth opportunities, beyond just numbers.
What qualities do the successful female leaders you know share?
I believe our leadership style is different—often more empathetic and consensus-seeking—and I think the key is not to emulate male leadership traits but to hone the skills we have so they become successful traits. The successful female leaders I know embrace who they are and, by instilling a sense of family within the team, create an environment in which team members naturally step up to help one another. In addition, they tend to think longer term, through the cycle, rather than focusing on shorter-term goals—so it’s about the five- or 10-year plan, and how we can get the team where they need to be to realize that plan. Finally, women may be more willing to admit when they’re wrong; bringing mistakes out into the open makes it possible to access the skills or resources you need to fix them. It’s also leading by example, making it easier for team members to acknowledge and fix their mistakes.
Why is Sun Life hosting its fifth Women’s Investment Symposium this fall?
Sun Life believes women have a unique role in the financial industry. Internally, the company treats men and women equally. Flexibility for family commitments is available to women and men. Positions and leadership opportunities are provided based on merit. I value that equality. Externally, there’s a recognition that events geared toward women are important.
For example, I recently spoke at a male wholesaler’s event organized specifically for female advisors. At the Women’s Investment Symposium, female advisors can learn about the investment landscape directly from portfolio managers and our chief investment officer. We’ll provide our overview of the world, explain our concerns and describe how we’re positioning our multi-asset allocation product, Granite Managed Solutions. They’ll also learn about specific products—equity and fixed income—and why certain areas such as emerging markets are especially interesting longer term. It’s a wonderful chance to network with us and other women advisors in an informal, smaller-group setting, away from your home town. At previous symposia, I’ve been amazed at how open these women were in sharing their best practices and ideas with their peers and competitors. Those honest and generous conversations are at the heart of why I feel it’s important to have a Women’s Investment Symposium.