Networking – when were your Glory Days?

Social and professional networking has very few hard and fast ‘rules’ but there are a few odd behavioural patterns that have emerged.  Did you ever notice that in an elevator people will move around to maximize the distance between one another, or a man will seldom use the urinal right next to another dude if he can avoid it?  Despite the fact that Linkedin is considered to be a ‘job networking’ tool, most of the discussions in groups seem to be tips by folks that recruit, or advise those looking for work (ironically, these people actually HAVE jobs).  Other postings are discussions that are quite interesting – promoting ideas and concepts to like-minded professionals which is cool.  Still others promote a company’s or consultant’s services – some of these are frowned upon by selected groups but like emails, its easier to skip over those than have them censored, and somehow prohibiting anything on the Internet (unless it’s in really bad taste) seems silly.  The whole point is to promote and share…..yourself, your expertise, your ideas. 

Human nature being what it is, there’s very little (if any) promoting of the ‘self’ on these networks.  Bad form?  Not proper etiquette?  Too much like occupying an adjacent urinal when others are available?  Like repositioning when a new person gets on or off an elevator….its just the way we are.

I’d like to take this opportunity to defy this silent code of conduct, and put something about “ME” right out there.  Andy Warhol said everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame and I’m proud of mine.  Maybe I’ll inspire others to do the same?  Here we go…. 

Be sure to have the video playing while you read…will help create the mood!  If you’ve no sense of humour, you might want to pass!

Not your average money manager

Malvin Spooner shows up for work in T-shirts, and he jams with his band in the office. That doesn’t mean he isn’t serious about making money

Gigi Suhanic

Financial Post

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The 49 -year-old co-founder of Mavrix Fund Management Inc. is clearly in violation of Bay Street dress code — at least on the day of this interview.  Instead of the standard uniform of suit and tie, Malvin Spooner,  Mavrix’s president and CEO, is decked out in Harley-Davidson boots, jeans and belt. His long-sleeved T-shirt sports the logo for a new Toronto
motorcycle shop called Wildside Choppers. His fringed Harley-Davidson leather jacket
hangs across the back of a chair in his office.

And in case anyone thinks he is merely a poseur, today he rode to work on his Electra
Glide Ultra Classic, a Harley touring bike with a base price ranging from $26,519 to $27,679.

“Our approach to life [at Mavrix] is loosen up. You can still work hard and have a good time,” says Mr. Spooner, relaxing his six-foot -plus frame into an armchair in his downtown Toronto offices. “Rather than hide in the closet with your hobbies, around here we’re proud of them. My rock band practises on the seventh floor in our offices.”

Mr. Spooner’s unconventional dress and workplace philosophy aside, Mavrix appears
on a roll.  The relatively new mutual fund company, which also provides consulting and portfolio management services to specialty funds and third party
administrative services, was founded in August, 2001, by Mr. Spooner and a group of colleagues from Toronto-based money manager YMG Capital Management Inc.

Mavrix went public last summer with an offering of five million shares that raised $18.75- million. Despite the fact that Mavrix shares have trended downward from their initial
sale price of $3.75, investors have not been deterred. Assets under management and administration have grown from almost $500-million in 2004 to $735.5-million at the close of the first quarter of 2005. Net sales in the first quarter of this year were $66-million, half of 2004’s total.

Among the 18 mutual funds, three limited partnerships and one closed-end trust
offered by Mavrix, the Mavrix Explorer Fund is personally managed
by Mr. Spooner. (He is also on the management team for some other offerings.) Among its all-resource holdings, according to the 2005 quarterly fund roundup, are: Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Trust, Western Canadian Coal Corp. and Stornoway Diamond Corp. As of March 31, 2005, year-to-date returns were a less-than-stellar negative
3%; however, looking longer-term, the one-year and two -year returns were 11.1% and 38.4%, respectively. The fund has returned a stunning 44.1% since its inception.

In Mr. Spooner’s estimation, his way of dressing and bullishness for resource stocks
fit together.

“It’s firmly embedded in my lifestyle,” Mr. Spooner says. “Trying to do what [other]
people aren’t doing.”

And resource stocks, Mr. Spooner says, aren’t what others are doing. Ongoing skepticism about the sector has locked resource stocks — except for gold, crude oil and
natural gas — in a 20-year slump.

“Teck Cominco, Inco [base metal producers], all these companies
are reporting outstanding earnings and stocks are down.
That’s skepticism hard at work. They made money. It’s over. For this industry
in the last 20 years that’s been correct. But we didn’t have the developing world sustaining that demand,” he says.

Certainly, resource sector scandals like Bre-X, haven’t helped with the sector’s image.
Bre-X stock grew from pennies a share in 1993 to more than $286 by 1996, following reports of a potential blockbuster gold deposit in Indonesia. The stock crashed
and the company collapsed into bankruptcy after exploration results were revealed to be fake.

“You don’t want to destroy the entire mining industry because of Bre-X,”
Mr. Spooner says. Which brings us to his book Resources Rock, a primer on investing
in the resource industry written with the help of journalist Pamela Clarke. The book was initially published last year but is now available in paperback.

Mr. Spooner believes the time is ripe for investing in resources given
the general attitudes toward the sector and the burgeoning growth in so-called
developing countries including China and India. Mr. Spooner is calling for this global
growth to continue over the next decade. Although some experts are now predicting a cooling of China’s economy sooner than expected, he notes China isn’t the only piece of the growth puzzle, naming Latin America and Brazil in particular.

“What they require today is pretty much what we in the Western world take for
granted,” he says. “It’s hard for us to believe someone needs more steel or a refrigerator or an air conditioner. The reality is they want those things for the first time.”

Mr. Spooner isn’t convinced investors realize the enormity of this opportunity.”In the next three or four years I bet you [nickel producer] Inco will be a household name again just like Nortel was when it was [$120 per share].”

In writing the book though, Mr. Spooner has also tried to convey the importance of taking
profits and not getting snared by hype. “Those small lessons I’ve learned over 20 to 25
years of managing portfolios are difficult to convey at the best of times,” he says.

But Mr. Spooner’s in-your-face ways don’t end there.  Where corporate
governance is concerned, he believes increased vigilance and policing in the
financial services industry has become too overarching, despite scandals such
as Enron and Canadian hedge fund company Portus Alternative Asset Management Inc.

“Ninety-five per cent [of companies] have good corporate governance but nobody is going to talk about them,” he says. “What’s happened today is that unfortunately … thanks to campaigns by politicians, press and regulators, people no longer trust anybody.”

While criminal activity and fraud are a different matter — “I’m not talking
about that at all” – Mr. Spooner advocates “if investors get sucked into something that is ridiculous, buyer beware. It’s like that in every other walk of life.”

Which swings Mr. Spooner around to what he sees as the danger of jumping to conclusions. For instance, he finds that when he is out touring on his bike he gets
“stopped a lot” by police who ask for identification. “My favourite line is ‘routine,’ ” he says of the reasons for being stopped … most people expect you to look like them.

“It’s very dangerous to make assumptions that aren’t based on any concrete fact. In the
investment game it’s even more so. If you assume that the newspapers are right, that you
have to have oil and gas stocks… you are setting yourself up for potential disaster. That’s why you shouldn’t assume anything. Same when you meet people. You should never assume he’s more important or she is more important because of how they are dressed. It’s just kind of way of looking at the world that has served me
well.”

MAVRIX FUNDS BY THE NUMBERS:

– Assets under management, 2004: $500-million

– Assets under management, as of the close of the first quarter, 2005: $735.5-million

– Number of investment products offered: 22

– Return since inception of the Malvin Spooner-managed Mavrix Explorer Fund: 44.1%

– Mavrix Explorer Fund year-to-date return, as of March 31, 2005: -3%

© National Post 2005

So there you have it…my fifteen minutes relived.  Yes Mavrix is no longer, and I do expect to have a few more “Glory Days” before I call it quits, as I’m sure everyone does.  Why not share your ‘fifteen minutes?’  It may impress nobody at all but you just might have turned your 15 minutes into 15 + an additional 5 minutes = 20!  It’s easier to be humble, but not nearly as much fun.

About Mal Spooner

Malvin Spooner is a veteran money manager, former CEO of award-winning investment fund management boutique he founded. He recently authored A Maverick Investor's Guidebook which blends his experience touring across the heartland in the United States with valuable investing tips and stories. He has been quoted and published for many years in business journals, newspapers and has been featured on many television programs over his career. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, and known across Canada as a part-time musician performing rock ‘n’ roll for charity, Mal is known for his candour and non-traditional (‘maverick’) thinking when discussing financial markets. His previous book published by Insomniac Press — Resources Rock: How to Invest in the Next Global Boom in Natural Resources which he authored with Pamela Clark — predicted the resources boom back in early 2004.
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One Response to Networking – when were your Glory Days?

  1. Interesting post about LinkedIn. I genuinely have to wonder how much business it actually facilitates apart from networking for job seekers.

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