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The two runners-up for the Investment Industry Association of Canada’s Top Under 40 Award were recognized for their accomplishments in their careers and dedication to public service.

Robert Marck, 39, an investment advisor and portfolio manager with BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. in Orillia, Ont., and Niki Prodanovic, 40, principal of Canadian operations with Edward Jones in Mississauga, Ont., were finalists for the award, which celebrates the next generation of talented young professionals in the investment industry.

Jonathan Lin, 39, received the award itself, which is sponsored by Investment Executive and its sister publication, Finance et Investissement. (Read about Lin.)

Marck works on a four-person team in the Simcoe-Muskoka area and spent the previous part of his career on Bay Street. During that time, he worked for five years in equity research, writing research reports and providing advice to institutions. Before going to the retail side, he worked for two years as the manager of North American equities with Toronto-Dominion Bank.

“I was the middle-man between the investment advisors at TD Waterhouse and the equity research team,” Marck said. In the role, he was able to lean on his institutional experience while also learning about the daily concerns of advisors working in a brokerage.

Nearly six years ago, he moved to Orillia and partnered with John Mayo, another investment advisor and portfolio manager. Mayo has been in the financial business since 1981 and had an established practice in the area. Together, they have approximately $500 million in assets under management, of which $130 million are managed by Marck.

Marck’s typical clients are retirees and pre-retirees who need investment and financial planning. His clients are primarily concerned about whether they’ll have enough to retire comfortably.

He learned during his time at TD Bank that there’s no one way to be successful in the business.

“I’ve seen very successful investment advisors that have focused on a niche clientele — a group of people or a type of employment — and they’ve been very successful. I’ve found other investment advisors focus on some strength of theirs, whether it’s tax or insurance or investment analysis, and market based on that,” Marck said.

He said his analytical background serves as an advantage, especially as it’s less common for advisors outside of the Greater Toronto Area to be CFA charterholders.

He also credits his mentor, Mayo, for teaching him how important it is to get involved in the community — especially smaller ones.

“People can do it in different ways, whether it’s sitting on charities or boards or just being out in the environment so people become comfortable with you,” Marck said.

Marck currently is an active member of the Kiwanas Club of Orillia, an organization that raises money for children in the area. “Service clubs are excellent because they provide you with lots of different outlets where you can help the community,” he said.

Prodanovic also stressed the importance of getting involved, whether that be with your employer, industry or surrounding community.

“I’ve been passionate about looking for opportunities, putting my hand up and working with my colleagues to look at particular challenges and partnering together to solve them,” she said.

In addition to her role as principal of Canadian operations at Edward Jones, Prodanovic is on the board of directors with FundServ Inc. and has served as chairwoman, vice-chairwoman and member of numerous committees for the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

“When I look at the financial industry, our collective challenges are very similar and most are non-competitive in nature. By building stronger relationships, we have the opportunity to help one another,” Prodanovic said. “We also have the opportunity to make a bigger and more positive impact on the financial lives of Canadians.”

Like Marck, Prodanovic came to her current role from an unconventional background. While she recently finished an MBA at Northwestern University, her first graduate degree was a Master of Arts with a focus on philosophy from the University of Guelph, a subject she also studied during her undergraduate degree at McMaster University.

That background, she said, has been a benefit in her current role. “That critical thinking, creativity, the ability to look at problems from different perspectives, and the questioning of self is key,” she said.

Prodanovic began her career at RBC Investor and Treasury Services as an assistant manager of entitlements. She then moved to Citi and then BMO Financial Group, where she finished her tenure as head and senior manager of client experience, before landing with Edward Jones.

Prodanovic credits her success to a combination of preparation, hard work, learning as much as possible, purposefully planning next steps, and being at the right place at the right time.

“It’s [important] to be surrounded by people who are willing to support you and give you advice with candour so you can improve,” she added.

Her advice for young people starting out in the industry is to take risks, and to not be afraid to say “yes” to opportunities, even when it feels like you’re entering unchartered territory.

“Stay humble,” she added. “Be a student of the industry and actively participate in that growth mindset. When you think you know it all, realize that there’s so much more to learn.”