Sentry Investments Inc. of Toronto has hired industry veteran Gaelen Morphet as chief investment officer (CIO). Sentry, a fast-growing independent mutual fund firm, oversees $20 billion in assets under management.

Morphet, an experienced team leader who has more than 30 years of investment experience, took up her new job on Aug. 15 after spending almost seven years in a similar role as senior vice president and CIO with Empire Life Investments Inc. of Kingston, Ont.

“Sentry has a phenomenal track record and reputation, and I am happy to be here working with a talented investment team,” Morphet says.

In addition to her duties as CIO, including overseeing the investment team and acting as coach and mentor, Morphet will assume asset-allocation responsibilities for Sentry’s Personal Pension Portfolios and certain Real Income Solutions portfolios, along with Sentry’s chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager James Dutkiewicz.

“Morphet is a bottom-up investor with something of a value bias, and also is mindful of risk constraints,” says Rudy Luukko, investment funds and personal finance editor with Morningstar Canada in Toronto. “Her investment discipline is a good fit with Sentry, and also fits with the current conservative, risk-conscious state of mind of investors.”

At Sentry, Morphet will no longer be picking individual stocks for fund portfolios, although she has earned a reputation for paying close attention to valuations, growth potential and downside protection. She will still be reinforcing these values across the product line. Her style is very much in line with Sentry’s brand of investment management, designed to ferret out companies with strong cash flow, ability to pay and increase dividends, and a healthy balance sheet.

“The house style at Sentry is core to the company’s identity and brand, and I will ensure we continue to deliver on that,” Morphet says. “We are in complete alignment, with a disciplined investment process that focuses on downside protection.”

Morphet replaces former CIO Sandy McIntyre, who had taken up the role for the second time in July 2015 when Dennis Mitchell unexpectedly left the CIO post at Sentry to become a senior portfolio manager with Sprott Inc. of Toronto.

McIntyre relinquished his role as CIO for the first time in 2012 to become Sentry’s CEO and later co-CEO with Sean Driscoll. McIntyre stepped down from that position in January 2015 to focus on guiding the investment team as vice chairman rather than being responsible for day-to-day executive decisions. That comeback lasted until Morphet was hired.

Driscoll, now CEO on his own, describes Morphet’s appointment as “both a passing of the torch and an opportunity for continuity.” McIntyre will remain actively involved with the firm as an executive and vice chairman, providing guidance in managing both the business and the investment approach, as well as imparting his views during educational road shows for financial advisors. McIntyre said last year he hopes to “semi-retire” in a few years.

“Sandy has about 40 years of experience, and I will take advantage of his expertise,” Morphet says. “I have 32 years of experience, but, at this point, have been at Sentry only two days.”

Morphet’s background includes extensive involvement in the financial services sector and in her community. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Western Ontario in 1984, she joined what was then McLeod Young Weir Ltd. of Toronto as an assistant analyst in the research department. She later moved to a position in pension fund management with the firm’s parent, Bank of Nova Scotia. She earned her chartered financial analyst designation in 1992, later becoming head of Canadian equities with Scotia Investment Management Ltd.

“As it turned out, having a degree in psychology provided me with perspective on human emotions and behaviour, and stock markets are a reflection of that,” Morphet says. “It’s been useful in my investment career.”

Morphet subsequently moved into senior portfolio-management roles with AMI Partners Inc. and later with Merrill Lynch Investment Managers Canada Inc., the latter of which was acquired by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in 1992 and later became CIBC Global Asset Management Inc. (All firms are based in Toronto.) She joined Empire Life in Toronto in 2009, and was involved in both portfolio stock pricing and overall asset allocation.

“Throughout my 32-year career, I have worked with various large institutions and many teams, but the one constant has been a disciplined investment approach,” Morphet says. “My career has spanned a lot of market environments, but my track record reflects the benefits of sticking to a style through the various challenges the market has faced. Growing clients’ wealth over the long term and protecting the downside has been the key tenet throughout.”

Morphet enjoys running and is an avid skier. She is also a member of the boards of trustees for the AGO Foundation, the Ontario Science Centre and the Ontario Arts Foundation.

“My work with foundations and boards,” she says, “has allowed me to exchange ideas with interesting people who have a lot of tenure in business or investing.”

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