Business Profiles

Manitoba now and forever

Cardinal Capital Management Inc. blooms where it was planted

As Cardinal Capital Management Inc. prepares to commemorate its 30th anniversary in the financial services industry, the company’s brain trust is setting the table for another celebration.

In another 30 years.

It’s not that people at the Winnipeg-based company don’t like to pop the cork off the occasional bottle of champagne—they do—it’s just that they’re more focused on leaving a lasting legacy for the clients they have today.

And that means helping entrepreneurs and business owners continue to meet their goals now and through to the next generation. And then the one after that.

It also means continuing to build a company based within the confines of the Perimeter Highway.

“Our investment team, the brains of the operation, will always be based here,” says Emily Burt, Cardinal’s executive vice-president. “Why does a financial services firm need its head office in Toronto? It doesn’t. We will be forever based in Winnipeg, and we will continue to grow on a national scale with our business plan.”

It was only 15 years ago that Winnipeg had established itself as Canada’s No. 3 financial centre, behind Toronto and Vancouver. But since then, a number of well-known local firms, such as Assante Corp. and Wellington West Capital have been sold off to bigger Bay Street players, taking the head offices east. Others, like IGM Financial —best known as the parent company to Investors Group—have moved their key personnel to Toronto, further reducing Winnipeg’s influence.

Tim Burt started Cardinal in 1992 because he wanted to create a firm that could offer not only great service to clients but also long-term employment opportunities to employees. He didn’t want them to worry about the company being sold and then having to dust off their resumes.

“My goal was a company that had long-term continuity, which is really beneficial for the clients more than anything else,” he says. “If we sold out, there would be significant changes in who ran the company and its direction, style and philosophy. Clients wouldn’t do well under that kind of turmoil. I didn’t want Cardinal to be built to hit a milestone and then be sold to the highest bidder.”

Cardinal president Evan Mancer says there are two crucial dates in the company’s history. The first is Aug. 12, 1992, when it was founded. The second is March 31, 2019, when the company became employee-owned, growing from seven employee shareholders to 43, forever altering the business plan.

“That allowed us to attract outside (advisor) groups with shares. It also enabled us to answer the biggest question the institutions and high-net-worth clients were asking—are you going to be around in 30 years?” he says.  (The answer, of course, is “yes.”)

Over the ensuing three years, the firm’s assets under management grew from $1.5 billion to more than
$4 billion through the addition of large institutional clients and advisor teams in Brandon, Calgary and Toronto.

“We will be forever based in Winnipeg, and we will continue to grow on a national scale with our business plan.”

– Emily Burt, Cardinal’s executive vice-president

External advisors remain a key part of Cardinal’s business, but Mancer says the bulk of future growth will come from the internal channel.

“We’ve got a lot more in the pipeline with the current strategy. We’re all very excited to keep our antenna up,” he says.

Emily Burt agrees and says having boots on the ground in other cities is an absolute must.

“There will be more opportunities to have a local presence with client-facing personnel because we believe clients will always appreciate having somebody local that knows them. The clients can have a personal relationship with them as the advisors help them and their families with their investments,” she says.

Derrick Coupland, founder of Coupland & Co., a Winnipeg-based branding consultancy, says three decades of growth in an ultra-competitive industry where trust in relationships is paramount, is something to be celebrated.

“Cardinal isn’t just talking about heritage in terms of stability and success, they can demonstrate actual performance,” he says, noting the company regularly outperforms the index.

“That’s a really good way of providing a statement for future capabilities. Cardinal isn’t trying to be all things to all people, which no brand can. They’re showing that a company can have local roots and still be national or international in scope,” he says.


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