One of Culver Academies’ many success stories, E. James Breech ’61 brought his story of innovation and financial success to students in Andy Dorrel’s Entrepreneurship III class on May 2.
Breech is the president, CEO, and Chief Investment Officer of Cougar Global Investments of Toronto, Ontario. His main responsibility is for developing the company’s global asset allocation model each month. He is ultimately responsible for determining the optimal asset allocation each month for the firm’s clients.
Cougar Global is a pioneer in exchange traded funds (ETF) portfolio management and ranked seventh in managed assets by Morningstar, a provider of independent investment research, with $2 billion in assets at the end of 2012.
Breech said ETFs combine the key features of mutual funds and individual stocks. Like index mutual funds, ETFs represent diversified portfolios of securities that track specific indexes. Like stocks, ETFs can be bought and sold on an exchange throughout the trading day
Dorrel wanted students in a course titled The Launch to be better informed about one of the most rapidly growing investment models. “It is imperative for students to understand the value of saving at an early age. Dr. Breech’s remarks informed them on the strategies and opportunities associated with ETFs, especially in comparison to traditional mutual funds.”
Breech’s background is as diverse as the portfolios he creates for his clients: He has an undergraduate degree in English language and literature, an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in religious studies from Harvard.
He told students the key to Cougar’s success has been separating financial planning from investment management and controlling risk through global diversification.
Cougar Global’s philosophy is one of adapting and changing. “We acknowledge we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Breech said. “We try to capture and manage the uncertainty. Over time, you will receive the results you want.
“Understanding history and interpreting data is important,” he said. “We never believe the future repeats the past.”
The company began in 1993 when Breech was given an opportunity to buy the equity in his own concept from the new owner of the firm he worked for. Investors, who were also his clients, helped raise $2.3 million to fund a limited liability partnership (LLP) and all partners were repaid in January 2013.
The name Cougar was chosen because, like the “reclusive Ghost of the Rockies” is protective of her cubs, the firm “surveys for threats to and opportunities for its [customers and their] valuable assets.
“Now we’re big time. We’re rock stars,” but, Breech added, “We are slow thinkers at Cougar.
“The math of losing money is punishing” he said. In finances, as in life, “losing is so much more painful than winning is pleasurable.”