Illuminating turning points in the markets, data and client outcomes
By: Lori Landry
Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Institutional Business
I recently sat down with Kathrin Forrest, Portfolio Manager at Sun Life Global Investments to talk about her journey into the investment profession, navigating constant change and the role of mentorship.
What led you to investments as a career?
The short answer is it really happened by accident. It was not what I had originally planned. I had my mind set on foreign service and I was very focused on that entering university. I studied economics and took electives in English, French, Spanish and foreign policy. During graduate school, I stumbled across the CFA program when my roommate needed help studying, and it made me think I should just write it myself. It’s a bit of a case study of blending strategy with opportunity.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
It is a privilege to work in this field, and I really mean that. The most interesting part for me is the ongoing change. Markets change every second with news, economics and politics. Around that, the industry is evolving with changing regulation, competition, technology and, most importantly, clients’ needs and preferences. To solve problems and stay relevant for our clients, we cannot afford to stand still and I find that daily challenge incredibly rewarding.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
There’s no shortage of information. While that’s great on the surface, the challenge is to look through the day-to-day noise and identify trends and turning points underneath all that data.
What about the people side of your job?
From a team perspective, it really ties to the two points just discussed about the ongoing change in the industry and the wealth of information. I could find data to support any point I want to argue. The key is to turn information into insight, and when I look at the team here, what stands out is the diversity in terms of investment personalities, skillsets and way of thinking. It really enriches the debate, helps us look through the noise and makes for more robust decision-making.
All of this is in the context of helping our clients achieve their investment goals, which is at the heart of everything we do. I find that’s an incredibly powerful motivator.
What parts of your role would people be most surprised at?
I spend a lot of time on qualitative research to understand what is driving the daily data. It takes time and a broad perspective to get a better sense of key trends and themes.
What was the last great book you read?
I have a fairly eclectic taste when it comes to books. When I reflect on the books I’ve found most impactful, they are mostly personal reflections around perseverance and purpose – anyone from statesmen to rock musicians. Recently, I read The Strategy of Conflict by Thomas Schelling looking at deterrence during the Cold War. What I find fascinating is that even though the book was written over 50 years ago, its lessons are still relevant today. I also have a soft spot for children’s books – Where the Wild Things Are is one of my favourites.
Do you have a personal motto?
Don’t complain about things you can’t change. On the flip side, change the ones that you can.
Did you have a mentor along your career? If so, what role have mentors played?
I’ve had several mentors and they’ve been hugely important. I’ve been very fortunate in this regard. There are lots of people who have skills and experience, the question is how do you stand out? Not all of that is in your control. Luck is part of it but there are also trust, vision and values – the softer aspects – that are shared. In addition, you might have skill and experience but if you’re not confident or courageous, it’s not going to work. You need someone to help you pull that personal energy out and apply it. I have had some great people help me along the way. I see mentoring as a give and take, where we all have an opportunity to learn, but also to give back and help others along the way.
What advice would you give a younger version self?
She probably wouldn’t have listened to my advice. If she would, I’d say stand up for what you believe in.
In the active-passive debate, why do you believe is hybrid is the best option?
I find the high-level active passive debate is a bit over simplified. I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at active management and be selective in that space. In the end, it’s about opportunity and skill. Can I find that in a specific market with a certain manager?
More importantly, let’s be clear about what we’re solving for. I don’t believe we’re solving for minimizing fees but for maximizing value. It’s about solving for specific outcomes and delivering the most appropriate risk-return tradeoff for each of our client’s savings goals.