Back to Basics

School is done! Which means that I’ll finally have time to dedicate to investing again.

Over the past 18 months I have not been paying attention to my portfolio at all, and as such I haven’t had a chance to revisit the actual performance of the portfolio. Traditionally I have invested in value stocks: good companies with cheap prices, and taking a precursory look at my holdings things have gone well. For example High Liner Foods currently trades at $44.30, compared to my ACB of $15.73. Another strong player has been CCL Industries, which I picked up for $36.66, and currently trades for $107.42. Not all of my picks have been faring as well however: Calian Technologies currently trades at $18.76 from my ACB of $20.29.

But I digress; a detailed analysis of my holdings will come shortly when I sit down to take a look at what I’ve got in my books.

However, before I can revisit my books I’d like to revisit my Investment Policy Statement. I realized that I had a notional idea of what type of balance I would like to have (e.g. 1/3 Canadian Equities, 1/3 Bonds, 1/3 US Equities), but I have been pretty lax in maintaining the balance.

Another issue I had, was in balancing allocations between brokerages and account types. The total complement of all of my securities was held across several brokerages (BMO Nesbitt Burns, BMO InvestorLine, ScotiaMcLeod, Questrade, and some certificated shares where I held the physical stock certificates in my own name), and spanned different categories (margin, RRSP, TFSA). I found that I was spending too much time trying to manage the 3-way split across brokerages and account types. Over the past few months, I’ve cut out my investment adviser (they actually moved from BMO Nesbitt Burns to ScotiaMcLeod, and then back to BMO Nesbitt Burns — which was an administrative nightmare), and moved all investments over to BMO InvestorLine, other than those shares I hold in certificated form. Moreover, I’ve taken a different approach to viewing my portfolio: I now track everything at total fund level vs. individual brokerage house level. This makes the exact allocation across account types (e.g. if I keep a security in my margin, or my RRSP, or my TFSA account) irrelevant, since I now take one snapshot of all holdings.


Taking all of that into account, I am going back to basics and revisiting my investment policy statement (IPS), and come up with a new target asset allocation, as well as some constraints. My target asset allocation is show below.

Asset Class Minimum Allocation Target Allocation Maximum Allocation Notes
Cash -5% 5% 10% We allow -5% for margin exposure, but once we break the 10% mark we should be finding something to invest in; while cash is an “option with no expiry date”, after a certain point it does not make sense to keep it as cash because it is not generating income. At the very least, it should be dumped into an HISA or money market vehicle
Equities 35% 50% 60% Traditional public equities.
Real Estate 10% 20% 25% Real Estate is a long-term goal, but in lieu of bricks and mortar investments (e.g. property), I will fulfill this with REITs for now. In the long-term I plan on keeping my condo as an income property, at which point the condo would fall into this category.
Fixed Income 20% 25% 30%
Alternatives 0% 0% 5% Alternative investments would be things such as collectables (stamps, comics, art).
Private Equity 0% 0% 5% I wanted to ensure I had a line item for this, in the event any private equity opportunities come up; e.g. if a friend had a startup and needed investors.
Region Minimum Allocation Target Allocation Maximum Allocation Notes
Canada 40% 55% 65%
US 30% 35% 40%
Global 5% 10% 15%

From the above, I’ve tried to capture every conceivable investment opportunity. No doubt, the majority of my investing will be in public markets, which is why alternatives and private equity have a target of 0%, but I have the option of having up to 5% in each. I treat REITs and fixed income as income streams, which is hwy they take up a good chunk of the portfolio as well. I am looking at total returns which includes any cash flows, which is one reason I am not concerned with the equity being capped at 60%. Finally, the above mix allows me some latitude in finding securities. E.g. I can purchase a US REIT ETF to (1) give me US exposure, and (2) give me REIT exposure. In this way, a single security can satisfy multiple criteria.

I’ve also tried to diversify geographically; for the most part I am very concentrated in the Canadian market. While this is great because it eliminates exposure to currency risk, it also limits the total universe of available investment opportunities.

The goal of this asset mix is to stabilize my returns over time, provide cushion for market shocks, and to provide a steady stream of income. Between condo payments, car payments, and paying off school, the total amount of income I have available for investing has dropped considerably. Because of that, I am dedicating a larger portion of the total asset mix to income vis-a-vis Fixed Income and REITs.

With regards to investment style, I am going to go back to my roots and focus on value investing. Realistically I have not really deviated from that, but with the number of tech IPOs in the past twelve months, I wasn’t sure if I was missing anything. Luckily, it looks like I haven’t! Initially I was kicking myself at not investing into firms such as Twitter of Facebook, but those firms have been taking a beating lately. Given the focus on value investing, the underlying rationale for any investment decision will be:

  • Good firms with strong historical performance. Those firms with strong management, who have exhibited a good history of producing returns for its shareholders.
  • Firms with a solid dividend history. My own portfolio is geared towards income streams, and as such most, if not all, of the firms I invest in must pay a dividend. This restriction also precludes me from investing in growth companies, since those companies usually divert the majority of their income back into the firm to grow it faster, compared with dividend firms who have stabilized (e.g. not in the “growth&;quot phase any longer) and return cash to shareholders.
  • Firms that are cheap. The foundation of “cheap” will be based off of P/E and P/BV multiples. I have built some good models for valuing firms, and I will use those as well, but for the most part I will rely on P/E and P/BV multiples. The reason for this is that multiples provide a snapshot of historical and current performance, whereas valuation models provide a snapshot of estimates and assumptions of the future, which are inherently subject to biases and misinformation.
  • In lieu of equities or fixed income, I will use ETFs where available to park cash and keep the balance. E.g. if I cannot buy bonds, I’ll invest in a bond ETF such as XBB or HYG. Similarly for geographic exposure; to gain US equity exposure, I will purchase VOO or something similar.

So, where do I sit now?

Asset Class Target Weight Variance from Limit
Cash 5.00% 11.57% 1.57%
Equity 50.00% 78.18% 18.18%
Real Estate 20.00% 4.05% -5.95%
Fixed Income 25.00% 6.21% -13.79%
Alternatives 0.00% 0.00% n/a
Private Equity 0.00% 0.00% n/a
Region Weight Variance from Limit
Canada 90.81% 25.81%
US 8.21% -21.79%
Global 0.98% -4.02%

So… Based on my current IPS I am pretty much screwed for the month of March; none of my asset classes or geographic regions are within tolerance. However, I did execute some trades in April, and when BMO InvestorLine posts my statements I’ll revisit and see how we are doing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *