Mark Mawhinney, Odlum Brown

Mark Mawhinney is an Associate Portfolio Manager and Investment Advisor with BC-based, employee-owned investment firm, Odlum Brown Limited (a Member-Canadian Investor Protection Fund). He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and has previously sat on the boards of the UBC Alumni Association, Destination Greater Victoria and chaired the boards of the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival and the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club.

How is Odlum Brown coping through the pandemic?

We have over 300 people across several offices throughout BC, and we have, for the most part, been working from home since mid-March. We have a robust business continuity plan in place and given that, it has been a relatively seamless transition. We have always been a communicative firm, and that certainly has been the case during these challenging times, even though we are all physically isolated in our homes. Our Senior Leadership Team, led by our President and CEO, Debra Hewson, has been in touch regularly. It’s been great to know that they have both our interests and those of our clients top-of-mind.

How has the crisis affected your business, and how do you anticipate it will continue to affect it? 

It’s been very busy. Naturally, we are acutely studying COVID-19, its impact on the world economy and how to best position our clients through this crisis. But, most importantly, I’ve spoken with all my clients by phone or video call. It’s been rewarding because, while we certainly touch upon our investment strategy in this difficult environment, these conversations have primarily been about seeing how they’re doing and talking about life, kids and family. In some cases, with more at-risk clients, I’ve offered to get groceries so that they don’t have to brave the grocery stores!

What advice are you giving yourself and your team for riding this out?

Our firm is very much about work-life balance, and I’ve been consciously focusing on maintaining balance during this crisis. I definitely feel pressure, thinking about my clients, my family and my friends. To relieve some of that pressure, I’ve maintained my exercise regimen with lots of hikes, runs, bike rides and video strength training with my personal trainer. That said, I’m also eating more and undoubtedly would have put on the “COVID-19 pounds” had I not maintained an exercise regimen!

What is the opportunity in the challenge for you and your business? 

The challenge is ensuring clients are comfortable and confident when it comes to their financial security. We establish investment strategies to withstand crises like the one we are in now. But, it’s easier to stick to a strategy during the good times and it can test one’s resolve during the tough times. The opportunity thus far has been growth. A number of new clients have started working with me during the crisis and I expect that will continue as we emerge from it.

What advice have you applied or are you applying from previous experiences coping through crises?

Stay the course. Money is a highly emotional and personal thing and means different things to different people. A well-thought-out investment strategy, based on sound financial projections, is built for moments exactly like this one. Wealth is generated by buying and holding high-quality businesses, run by great management teams and producing excellent results over time. In the short term, stocks can be very volatile, but over the medium and long term high-quality businesses will perform well.

What are your resources right now? Do you have a mentor supporting you, peer group, books you read?

I am fortunate that I have a number of personal and business mentors, some of whom are BC’s leading entrepreneurs. I lean on them when I have questions or challenges and, fortunately, they give me honest and forthright advice. Relationships like those are golden. One neat development has been the use of video calls. I’m not really a poker player (I’m not a betting personality), but a friend has put together a once-weekly video poker game. My lunch groups have continued to “meet” virtually using video, and it’s been kind of fun.

What advice do you have for others experiencing this alongside you?

I think Dr. Bonnie Henry puts it very well — “be kind, be calm and be safe.” A couple clients of mine who lived in Britain during World War II say the isolation measures we have today feel very much like they did during WWII. I’m a big Churchill fan, read everything I can about him and really like this quote of his, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Point being, we will get through this, and while it may be a “new normal,” it will be normal again soon