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Winnipeg-based Cardinal Capital Management Inc. will soon have a new head of the flock as Evan Mancer, the firm’s chief investment officer (CIO), will assume the presidency on Oct. 1, succeeding Tim Burt, its longtime leader and founder, who is scaling back his workload for health reasons and to spend more time with his family.

“It’s time for me to de-stress myself and move down to a different capacity,” says Burt, 66, who has had three heart stents surgically implanted in the past two years.

Mancer, 43, joined Cardinal in 2003 as an analyst and has spent time in a variety of roles at the firm, including more than three years as a planner, after starting his career at Investors Group Inc. But his knowledge of Burt’s investment philosophy goes back even further to his student days, when he took Burt’s investment course at the University of Manitoba.

“He was my professor and gave me my first introduction to a lot of investing concepts, Warren Buffett value investing and preaching [the merits of] dividends,” Mancer says. “Those are the same concepts that he believes in today. I needed a mentor and I pushed him a few times to take me on as an analyst. As Cardinal got bigger, I got my [chartered financial analyst designation], the stars aligned and it’s been a good ride ever since.”

As such, Mancer doesn’t plan to reinvent Cardinal’s wheel and says 80% of his job will be maintaining the culture that Burt has built since starting the company 24 years ago while the remainder of his duties will be charting a path for growth.

“The company is a reflection of Tim,” he says. “There is good trust of the employees; there’s a lot transparency; the clients and employees are put first; and the engine of the firm is the investment department. We have a common sense philosophy and it works. I feel like we need to get up on the rooftops and shout it out that this is the place to be for clients.”

Cardinal has about $1.7 billion in assets under management in its Canadian, U.S. and international mandates with about 1,200 families and institutions and Mancer would like to double that within the next five years.

Most of Cardinal’s growth of late has come through the independent advisor channel, but Mancer believes the future lies with attracting internal advisors who focus their business with Cardinal’s product line. The firm currently has a trio of internal advisors, all of whom have built significant books of business, and Mancer would like to get that up to a dozen in the not-too-distant future.

Still, Mancer admits he’s feeling a little bit of pressure stepping into the shoes of his mentor, but it’s not the first time he has had this sensation as he replaced Burt as CIO a year ago and he felt even more pressure then.

“I’m definitely honoured that he would select me [as president],” Mancer says. “I consider Tim to be one of the best investment managers in the country. In this business, you’re judged on your near-term returns even if your strategy is long term.”

Cardinal has 38 employees, including three at its Calgary sales office. In fact, Winnipeg and Calgary remain the firm’s focus, but Mancer says he’d be willing to open an office in another city, perhaps in Saskatchewan, if he and his team can find the right people.

Meanwhile, Burt says he’s looking forward to the free time he’ll have by not going to management committee and board meetings, although he will continue to stay on top of the markets.

“That’s where I can add the most value, helping Evan guide our portfolios through rough waters,” he says. “After 44 years in the business, I’ve seen pretty much everything.”

Cardinal’s board did not bestow the title of CEO on Mancer, but Burt believes that’s just a matter of time. In the meantime, that position will remain vacant after Oct. 1.

The fact Burt’s wife retired recently and that three of their four grandchildren live out of province also made the decision to scale back easier, he says. September will also mark his last month as the president and chairman of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra after a four-year run.

Burt will also be stepping down as company chairman and will be replaced by Jim Lawton, head of sister company, Lawton Partners.

However, Burt will not be giving up any of his ownership position in Cardinal. He is currently the largest individual shareholder with 32% of the firm’s outstanding shares; Lawton Partners is the biggest, overall, with 47%.

Mancer is far from the first student of Burt’s to succeed in the financial services business. While working as senior U.S. equities analyst at Richardson Greenshields of Canada Ltd. many years ago, Burt’s assistant was Larry Sarbit, one of Canada’s best-known value investors.

Burt also gave Tony Demarin, president and CIO of Winnipeg-based BCV Asset Management Inc., his start as a portfolio manager at Cardinal and Gerry Bettig, head of Antares Investment Management Inc., also of Winnipeg, cut his teeth as Cardinal’s director of research.


An earlier verison of this article mistakenly stated that Cardinal Capital Management Inc. has $1.7 million in assets under management.

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