Ventum Financial Corp. and Echelon Wealth Partners Complete Amalgamation

June 26, 2024

VANCOUVER, BC, and TORONTO, ON, June 24, 2024 – Ventum Financial Corp. (“Ventum” – formerly PI Financial Corp.) is pleased to announce the successful completion of its amalgamation with Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. (“Echelon”), marking a significant milestone that solidifies its position as a leading independent investment advisory, wealth management, and capital markets firm in Canada. 

David Cusson, former CEO of Echelon, has assumed the role of CEO of Ventum. Jean-Paul Bachellerie, former CEO of Ventum, has assumed the role of President and COO of Ventum. This strategic alignment of leadership combines the expertise and vision of both firms to enhance client service and operational efficiency. 

“With offices across Canada, and strong anchors in the east and west, we are well positioned to deliver comprehensive financial solutions tailored to meet the diverse needs of our clients,” said David Cusson, CEO of Ventum. “This amalgamation represents a significant step forward in our commitment to excellence and towards becoming the leading independent investment dealer in Canada.” 

“Our combined Private Client Services and Capital Markets teams provide us with the scale needed for future success, enabling continuous investment in our platform and the provision of leading-edge tools and technology for our advisory teams,” said Jean-Paul Bachellerie, President & COO of Ventum. 

For more information about Ventum, please visit our website at ventumfinancial.com. 

About Ventum Financial Corp. 

Ventum Financial Corp. is headquartered in Toronto, ON with key operational functions in Vancouver, BC, and is a leading independent investment advisory and capital markets firm with fifteen offices across Canada. With a steadfast commitment to integrity and client service, Ventum provides a wide array of financial services to individual, institutional, and corporate clients through our team of experienced professionals. 

Media Contact: 

David Cusson 
CEO 
Ventum Financial Corp. 
Email: media@ventumfinancial.com 
Phone: 416 572 5523 

Is it over? 

June 17, 2024

It seems like just yesterday that you could buy a pint of Stella for $7 or so. Now, more often than not, it is closer to $10. Yep, inflation. It is kind of like a tax on doing things, as just about everything has cost more over the past few years. Hop on a flight, eat at a nice restaurant, refinance your mortgage, the list goes on. With the benefit of hindsight, the current higher inflationary environment can be blamed on a few pretty big factors. Changes in behaviour during and coming out of the pandemic blew up supply changes, as capacity was unable to keep pace with demand. Then, of course, unprecedented money printing magnified the situation, as it made everyone wealthier and more willing to pay $10 for a pint. 

Of course, the textbook solution is to raise interest rates, which is clearly occurring around the world. These monetary policy shifts are effective but do work with variable lags. Making those lags longer, or even temporally offsetting them, was fiscal policy. It doesn’t take an economist to understand if the monetary policy is trying to slow the economy to tame inflation; materially elevated fiscal spending in an economy that is still growing at a decent pace is counterproductive for the inflation fight. 

Despite contrary policies, perhaps motivated by short-term thinking (or upcoming elections), inflation has taken a decent turn down and continues to cool – but clearly, not in a straight line. You can note a quicker decline in the greenish line tracking U.S. year-over-year core inflation with the latest reading after a period where little progress was made. This chart really goes back to show how inflation got started. It was initially called ‘transitory,’ and then, finally, central banks jumped into action coincidentally when inflation had already peaked. Rarely ahead of the curve, those central bankers. Inflation declined a good amount in 2023, but the previous few months in 2024 showed it picking up or being much more sticky. This latest reading has things cooling again, which is good news. 

The above is U.S. inflation, but the pattern is similar around the world for the most part. Inflation and the economy in Canada have cooled enough to open the door for the Bank of Canada to cut. In fact, the number of central banks cutting rates has been on the rise, including some of the biggies like the BoC and ECB. We will talk more about U.S. inflation simply because that is what moves global markets more. 

The fast or early movers in the CPI data have been improving for some time. These are the categories of CPI that simply change faster, as other components are much slower to react to changes in behaviour. Many goods categories, such as hotels, autos, and restaurants, are examples of areas of the economy that change prices rather fluidly. Rent, owner-occupied rent, and insurance are examples of areas where prices change very slowly or are even lagged in their reaction. Rents often don’t reset until the end of a lease and are further slowed by rent controls. Insurance, too, doesn’t reset often, so changes in actual prices take time to show up in the aggregate data. 

This chart breaks focused on a number of early or fast movers vs slower or lagged. Clearly, since the spring of ’23, we have seen the fast-moving components showing some disinflationary pressures. But the lagged movers remained high, owing to their name. Yet of late, those, too, have finally started to turn down a bit. 

Back down to 3% or so is likely the easy part; then things get a bit less clear cut. Helping out, there remain a number of factors that should continue to put downward pressure on inflation: 

• The nature of the price resetting in the lagged movers should continue to put some downward pressure on overall inflation. 

• Given how much of inflation is services, employment certainly matters. While nonfarm payrolls remain healthy, that is contrary to other metrics. Household survey is less enthusiastic, and temp workers remain on the decline and job openings continue a downward trend. Quitters, too, the quit rate drops should help on wages and the flow through to inflation. 

• Supply chain bottlenecks are very low again. And China PPI, producer prices, remain negative. Given its global manufacturing market share, lower prices for goods coming out of China is disinflationary. 

But don’t get too excited. While we think inflation will likely cool a bit more, there are some counterforces that will probably limit the improvements. 

• Over the past few months, global trade and manufacturing activity have been turning back up. This could just be an echo coming out of the manufacturing recession of ’22/early ’23, or it may have longevity. Regardless, in the near term, rising global economic activity will not help prices to go down. 

• Price intentions among survey data, which improved a lot last year, have stabilized. Companies will charge as much as they can, and given consumers continued fortitude to suck it up and pay higher prices, well, that keeps prices higher. There is some evidence the consumer is starting to change, but for now, they keep hitting the ask for flights, trips, dinners, etc. 

Inflation may fall further, but the gains are likely getting harder to come by. 

We do believe inflation is likely back to being influenced more by the economy and less by the pandemic-induced gyrating behaviours. If the economy reaccelerates, we could easily see inflation pick up again. And if the recent uptick in economic growth proves fleeting, inflation will likely back down. At the very least, this is an easier world to navigate compared to the previous years. 

— Craig Basinger is the Chief Market Strategist at Purpose Investments 

Source: Charts are sourced to Bloomberg L.P. and Purpose Investments Inc. 

The contents of this publication were researched, written and produced by Purpose Investments Inc. and are used by Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. for information purposes only. 

This report is authored by Craig Basinger, Chief Market Strategist, Purpose Investments Inc. 

Disclaimers 

Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. 

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them. 

Purpose Investments Inc. 

Purpose Investments Inc. is a registered securities entity. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment funds. Please read the prospectus before investing. If the securities are purchased or sold on a stock exchange, you may pay more or receive less than the current net asset value. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. 

Forward Looking Statements 

Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections based on beliefs and assumptions made by author. These statements involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Neither Purpose Investments nor Echelon Partners warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. These estimates and expectations involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Unless required by applicable law, it is not undertaken, and specifically disclaimed, that there is any intention or obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. 

The particulars contained herein were obtained from sources which we believe are reliable, but are not guaranteed by us and may be incomplete. This is not an official publication or research report of either Echelon Partners or Purpose Investments, and this is not to be used as a solicitation in any jurisdiction. 

This document is not for public distribution, is for informational purposes only, and is not being delivered to you in the context of an offering of any securities, nor is it a recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any security.

Crisis Alpha 

June 11, 2024

If the wealth advice service were in the manufacturing industry, the portfolio would be akin to what we make. Sure, there are many value-added services in addition to the portfolio, but it’s the portfolio that has to succeed for the client to reach their long-term goals. So, the more we can think about portfolio construction, the better. 

One challenge is that while portfolio construction is often based on as long a historical time period as possible, things never remain static. Markets evolve and change over time, relationships change, and the available tools in the portfolio construction toolbox also change over time. One recent change that has been a challenge is the bond/stock correlation. After a couple of decades of very low or even negative correlations between these two core building blocks, correlations are back to being positive. 

The following chart shows the 2-year monthly correlation between Canadian equities and bonds. It looks rather similar for the U.S. and global markets, but we just thought some Canadian content would be nice. The higher correlation means that, more often, equities and bonds are moving in the same direction. Nobody complains when both are moving higher, like in the past 12 months, but when they move lower together, everyone starts getting grumpy, like in 2022. The 2nd line, beta, measures not just the direction of the two asset classes but the magnitude of the relative move. 

This chart goes back to the 1950s, and clearly, there have been many periods of positive equity/bond correlations. But the recent memory of 2000-2020 was a really sweet spot. Equity/bond correlations were low or negative, which enhanced the benefits of diversification between equities and bonds. Now, this diversification benefit is more muted. As a possible silver lining, given yields are higher now, the return assumption for bonds is higher. So perhaps a bit less useful as a volatility management tool and a bit more on the return side – a decent trade-off. 

This higher correlation has many portfolio construction practitioners looking for different sources of diversification. Of course, the proliferation of different tools has augmented this behaviour as well. Many have lower correlations, but we would caution this as the main driver of a decision. 

Why do we care about correlation? In 2022, you couldn’t go a day or two without seeing an article talking about the 60/40 being dead due to higher correlations between bonds and stocks. And yet, the correlation is higher today and much fewer articles. That’s because nobody cares when equities and bonds are moving higher in unison, only when moving lower together. So, maybe we need some additional measures to augment correlations. 

Here is a good lens. Using data back to the 1950s, we looked at the one-year returns for global equities and broke them down into return range buckets. Truthfully, who cares what their bonds are doing when stocks are up 20 or 30%? But we do care much more when stocks are down -20 or -30%. More impactful – bond returns were further split from periods with negative bond/equity correlations and those with a positive correlation (last two columns). 

No denying periods with a negative bond/equity correlation that bonds are a better stabilizer during down markets. Eyeballing it, one could argue twice as good. But even when positively correlated, bonds, on average, are a decent stabilizer. Of course, these are averages that can hide a lot of information. There were 103 instances in which global equities were down on a 1-year basis simultaneously when the bond/equity correlation was positive. Bonds were higher in 77% of those instances. That hit rate moves up to 86% if you include periods when bonds were down minimally (less than -2.5%). Bonds, not broken. 

Another useful lens is ‘Crisis Alpha.’ This is looking at an asset class or strategy’s performance during periods of stress in the market. Could be a short-term correction or a longer-term bear market. If you can add value during these periods, or at least stability, that has positive attributes for portfolio construction. 

The reason we expand and show all the different instances is because each has its ideal period of market weakness, and each has episodes in which the strategy falls short. For instance, market neutral typically does well but is completely wrecked during the credit crisis. Managed futures (often a momentum strategy) did really well in 2022 but not great in a number of other periods of market weakness. 

Based on this, one could make a case for managed futures, more market neutral, and a splash of gold to better diversify a portfolio. But don’t forget these are crisis periods, and there is a whole lot of time between crises. Global stocks suffer, yet over the past 20 years, they have compounded around +8%. That market neutral index has only grown at a 0.8% annualized pace over the past two decades. And the managed futures index is a bit better at 3.6%. Defence often comes at a cost. 

Investors should start to think differently about portfolio construction and diversification. We do believe correlations may remain elevated for some time (a future edition will tackle this), and looking to expand sources of diversification appears prudent. Call it diversifying your diversification. 

But don’t get too carried away. The simple fact is when correlations are higher, it is harder to reduce portfolio volatility. Something we may have to live with. If you go too far in trying to smooth out the ride, you may sacrifice long-term returns. Would be a bit of a pyrrhic victory to enjoy a vol of 5% if the end nest egg is smaller. 

Everything in moderation – bonds still work, and some defensive diversification is clearly warranted in a more positively correlated world. 

— Craig Basinger is the Chief Market Strategist at Purpose Investments 

Source: Charts are sourced to Bloomberg L.P. and Purpose Investments Inc. 

The contents of this publication were researched, written and produced by Purpose Investments Inc. and are used by Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. for information purposes only. 

This report is authored by Craig Basinger, Chief Market Strategist, Purpose Investments Inc. 

Disclaimers 

Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. 

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Echelon Wealth Partners Inc. or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them. 

Purpose Investments Inc. 

Purpose Investments Inc. is a registered securities entity. Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investment funds. Please read the prospectus before investing. If the securities are purchased or sold on a stock exchange, you may pay more or receive less than the current net asset value. Investment funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. 

Forward Looking Statements 

Forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections based on beliefs and assumptions made by author. These statements involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Neither Purpose Investments nor Echelon Partners warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. These estimates and expectations involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance or results and no assurance can be given that these estimates and expectations will prove to have been correct, and actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed, implied or projected in such forward-looking statements. Unless required by applicable law, it is not undertaken, and specifically disclaimed, that there is any intention or obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. 

The particulars contained herein were obtained from sources which we believe are reliable, but are not guaranteed by us and may be incomplete. This is not an official publication or research report of either Echelon Partners or Purpose Investments, and this is not to be used as a solicitation in any jurisdiction. 

This document is not for public distribution, is for informational purposes only, and is not being delivered to you in the context of an offering of any securities, nor is it a recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any security.