Adding It All Up

Benoit Bourdages’s experience in almost all of Montrusco Bolton’s departments has allowed him to add automated solutions that speak to all parts of the business. Here, the vice president of operations discusses his problem-solving skills and what they bring to the investment firm.

Photo by Brian Rotsztein

“In high school, my favourite subject was mathematics, and so I started college in that field. I realized pretty fast that it was much too theoretical for me, and the job openings were limited—actuary or mathematics teacher. I wanted something more applied, so I chose business administration, with finance as a specialization.

My first real job was in a bank called National Trust, in the pension administration department. I was in charge of a client named Bolton Tremblay, an investment management firm. Two weeks after I started, the bank announced that it was concentrating its activities in Toronto, and my department was going from 35 people to 4. I met with people at Bolton Tremblay, the interest was mutual, and I eventually started working there.

“Operations are the mechanics of the firm. Projects are brought to us, and we figure out how to make things work on a practical and daily basis.”

Bolton Tremblay merged with Montrusco and Associates in 1999 [Montrusco Bolton Investments], so all my work experience has happened mostly with the same firm. From 1995 to 2001, I occupied practically every position in portfolio and fund accounting—NAV [net asset value] calculation, market events, performance calculation, pricing. This was possible because management was very open to giving me new challenges. Working on the merger gave me a lot of insight into the different tasks involved in operations. In 2001, I started working in the IT department as a business analyst to improve processes in the firm. In 2005, I was promoted to vice president of operations. I covered all areas of the departments I am managing now. It helps a lot—understanding the challenges of every position.

As vice president of operations, I’m in charge of all portfolio accounting activities, performance and attribution calculation, fund operations, IT development, and technical support. My mission is to provide clients and managers with reliable information as well as to assist managers and colleagues in their work by providing them with tools that enhance their productivity. My added value is that I’m in charge of IT along with operations. That way I am more aware of automated solutions that can improve processes. Operations are the mechanics of the firm. Projects are brought to us, and we figure out how to make things work on a practical and daily basis.

Our main project for 2015 is to claim GIPS [Global Investment Performance Standards] compliance. This designation gives prospective clients a higher level of confidence in the performance figures you’re providing. GIPS is becoming more and more important; for some RFI [requests for information], it can even be seen as a showstopper. Getting the GIPS-compliance designation is an arduous process that involves an external audit of your firm. This project is still in its early stages.

The last major project we completed was the sale of our high-net-worth division to a Canadian bank so that we could concentrate on our institutional business. The transfer of clients to the bank took well over a year. In all, $500 million of assets in more than 1,000 portfolios were transferred. There were a lot of challenges involved with this project. Small firms and banks serve their clients very differently. We had to adjust the initial plan to arrive at solutions that fit everyone.

In terms of the future, we’re finally starting to break into the US market, so there will hopefully be a lot of growth there. In the local market, we’re looking to expand our alliances with distribution networks such as banks and insurance companies.

What’s most rewarding about my job is improving actual processes by implementing automated solutions. We are handling the same amount of work, if not more, than 15 years ago, with maybe 25 percent of the resources.”