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Bay Street BBS Interview with Hillsdale Portfolio Manager, Alfred Sum, BASC, MASC, CFA, FRM

Interviewers: Joanna Jin and Viki Qi

Mr. Sum is a Portfolio Manager on the team that manages Canadian and Global equity strategies at Hillsdale. As a member of the portfolio management team, he assists in the design and implementation of the firm’s proprietary research. Prior to joining Hillsdale, Mr. Sum was an Investment Analyst at Cornerstone Capital Partners, Senior Analyst at TD Securities and Senior Risk Analyst at RBC Capital Markets. Mr. Sum has over 10-years’ experience in financial and quantitative analysis.

Interview Questions 

Q: What are the key factors you would attribute your success to? 

A: It is important to follow your own passion and do what you like to do. I found investing an interesting career as it’s closely linked to global events and it’s interesting to research companies from different industries. Secondly, don’t give up on learning. Lastly, always remember to be humble, willing to listen, but also able to develop your own philosophy over time. 

Q: What important trends do you see in the industry? 

A: Globalization brings the world much closer. The largest companies now generate more than half of their revenues outside of their domestic markets. The fast-paced technology development has also impacted the investment industry in areas such as high frequency trading, big data analysis and ETFs in both passive indexing and active investment space. 

Q: What are your thoughts on current market valuation and investment opportunities? 

A: The equity market has enjoyed multi-year rallies since it hit bottom in March 2009 during the financial crisis period. Current market valuation is relatively expensive but not outrageous. This is supported by stronger company fundamentals and an extremely low interest rate accommodated by central bank policy. Sectors such as auto parts and lumber should continue to do well as housing and auto markets improve. 

Q: What are the most important skills to develop in order to be successful on the buy side? 

A: Practical skill requirements are very different depending on which type of investment firms you are looking into. In general, an understanding of company fundamentals, strong analytical skills and market knowledge are all important. Some roles will also require strong statistical and programming skills. Don’t overlook soft skills like communication and public speaking/networking capabilities. 

Q: Any other advice for new grads who want to break into the industry? 

A: My first suggestion to new grads would be to open your own investment account and start investing with your own money. It doesn’t matter how much. You will be able to tell if you truly have a passion for investments after a while. Try to read more, learn from other professionals and learn from people’s mistakes. There are many ways to succeed but usually only a few common ways to fail. 

Q: Any recommended reading? 

A: Investment books from famous investors such as Warren Buffett, George Soros and Jim Rogers. My latest read is “The Quants” by Scott Patterson which describes how a group of mathematicians revolutionized Wall Street but nearly destroyed it in 2007-2008. 

About Bay Street BBS 

As one of the largest professional communities in Canada, Bay Street BBS provides career-related information and training for students and professionals working in finance, technology and management. Through successful collaborations with diverse organizations including financial institutions, universities, as well as other professional associations, Bay Street BBS offers an unrivalled platform that helps its members engage in skills and career development. Bay Street BBS has also made significant contributions in the area of social responsibility, having successfully worked with charities in Canada and abroad to raise funds for numerous educational causes. In recent years, Bay Street BBS has expanded at rapid speed through the leveraging of social media and now offers distribution channels reaching over 11,000 professionals across Canada.