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Fiera gears up for aggressive expansion through acquisitions

Canada’s third-largest independent asset manager is moving its growth agenda forward with acquisitions in several markets.

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Fiera Capital Corp. is forging ahead with plans to aggressively grow its asset management business through acquisitions in both Canada and abroad.

Canada's third-largest independent asset manager, which just hit $122-billion in assets under management, has been rapidly growing its assets over the last several years in Canada as well as in the United States. More recently, it has been growing its presence in the European market.

Fiera's chief executive officer Jean-Guy Desjardins has been touting the company's growth plans for several years now and stated last week at the company's annual general meeting that it is on target to hit $200-billion in AUM by 2020.

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While the surge in assets, up from $98-billion as of March, 2016, stems from the company's organic growth from institutions and private-wealth clients, with additional revenues from private alternative investment strategies including real estate and infrastructure, the biggest driver has been acquisitions.

Last year, the company acquired U.S. investment manager, Apex Capital Management Inc., which added approximately $8.6-billion in assets under management to the platform and more than doubled Fiera Capital's presence in the U.S. institutional and sub-advisory retail markets.

In addition, the firm completed deals with Britain-based Charlemagne Capital (a specialized emerging-markets equity-investment manager), and Quebec-based Centria Commerce (a private investment manager that establishes and manages funds providing construction financing, real estate investment and short-term business financing).

Together, the deals added $13-billion to Fiera's AUM.

"A year ago, I mentioned we were shifting our focus and we added significant depth and breadth to our solutions both from a strategy and distribution perspective, which was a key component of our growth strategy," Mr. Desjardins said at last week's AGM. "As a result, we now have a stronger pallet of solutions for investors to use when constructing their portfolios."

Going forward, Mr. Desjardins will continue to expand the company through acquisitions in Canada and abroad, as well as focus on organic growth within the firms he has acquired over the years.

"We are focused on foraging ahead with our growth strategy and today Fiera Capital is poised to reap the benefits of the multiple strategic initiatives in which we invested in 2016," Mr. Desjardins said. "We are counting on organic growth as well as strategic positions to get there. Our pipeline of opportunity in the U.S. and Canada continues to be robust and we are also well placed to meet increased demand for our strategies in Europe throughout our solid foothold in London."

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When it comes to future acquisitions, Mr. Desjardins has no plans to slow down and says the firm is extremely opportunistic with what is to come in 2017 and years ahead.

Over the next year, Fiera will look at a number of possible joint ventures in the private alternative-investment space. There are already 16 opportunities Mr. Desjardins said he is looking at. Ten of them are in the United States, four are within Canada and two are within the European market.

"Our No. 1 priority when we make an acquisition is to fill up a vacuum that we have in our range of investment strategies," Mr. Desjardins said.

Areas Fiera will focus on include gaining capabilities in emerging market fixed income, U.S. taxable fixed income and alternative fixed income in the Canadian marketplace, such as an infrastructure opportunity.

The firm has also made several executive changes. In early June, it announced its chief investment officer Jean-Philippe Lemay would take over as president and chief operating officer. Mr. Lemay will continue in his role as CIO.

As well, last week the firm appointed Monique Leroux as vice-chairman and strategic adviser to the firm. Ms. Leroux will support the senior management of Fiera Capital, as well as its divisions' management teams, in their development, positioning and strategic planning.

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Ms. Leroux is currently the president of the International Co-operative Alliance , in addition to being the founder and chair of the International Summit of Cooperatives.

With files from reporter Tim Shufelt

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About the Author
Globe Investor Reporter

Clare O’Hara is a reporter at The Globe and Mail. Prior to that, Clare spent eight years as a staff writer at Investment Executive, a national newspaper for financial service industry professionals. More

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