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John Robertson, 31

The portfolio

TD e-series funds (Canadian, U.S, and International), Veresen Inc., Inter Pipeline Fund, General Electric, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Walgreen Co., Superior Plus, Canexus Income Fund, Husky Energy, iShares S&P/TSX Capped Energy, Capital Power Income Fund, Crescent Point, New Flyer Industries, Canadian Helicopters Group, Chemtrade Logistics, Berkshire Hathaway, Daylight Energy Ltd.

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The investor

A PhD candidate at the University of Western Ontario, John Robertson is doing research into the advanced use of MRIs. And he's bringing his understanding of the value of sophisticated, granular analysis to the stock market.

Lessons from Dad

Mr. Robertson's father was a chartered accountant who ran his own business, retired early, and now spends eight hours a day actively investing. "That, combined with lessons on being frugal and the downside of high-cost mutual funds, got me into active stock picking."

How he hedges

Mr. Robertson uses index funds for all his registered investments. "I try not to be too smart. It's protection against hubris, and thinking I can always beat the market."

Crash-time investing

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During the subprime-sponsored market collapse, everything started looking cheap, he says. On the trusts and REITs front, Mr. Robertson says many were spinning off 10 per cent to 15 per cent in cash flow, looked cheap, and in particular, "it didn't look that bad for commercial REITs compared to residential housing."

Bank buying

Early in the crash he also started buying the banks, but a little too early. For example, he bought TD at $65 in early 2008, and watched it sink to $40. But he didn't panic and sell, he says, because he kept going back and looking at his initial analysis, which told him there was still nothing fundamentally wrong with the bank despite the share price drop.

Best move

Mr. Robertson bought into Canexus Income Fund at $3, $5 and $6.50; only now is he starting to lighten his position. Shares in the company, which makes chemicals out of natural gas, last traded at $7.05.

Worst move

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Mr. Robertson bought into several trusts after they had been hammered by the tax changes, and early on into the financial crisis. For example, he bought both Yellow Media and Priszm Income Fund, after they were down some 20 per cent; he thought all the damage had been done, but they went much further south.


"Buy when others are fearful and sell when others are greedy. And when everything goes down, that's fear in the markets rather than specific company issues."

Special to The Globe and Mail

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