Jarislowsky Fraser says clients need not worry that Stephen Jarislowsky's decision to step aside as chief executive will alter the philosophy that has guided the investment firm he founded 57 years ago.
"It's a change on the administration for the day-to-day management of the business, not the investment side that concerns the investors," new lead executive Pierre Lapointe said of his mentor's departure in an interview Tuesday.
German-born Jaris-lowsky, 87, will remain chairman of the board of the firm that manages about $37 billion of assets, while management will be headed by a committee of senior executives.
The roles of president and CEO will disappear. A four-member executive committee will be headed by Montreal-based Lapointe, who has been with the company 27 years and has been a member of the executive committee since 1995. Another committee will oversee investment decisions.
Lapointe said Jaris-lowsky will step down from the day-to-day operations of the company but will continue to be active as chairman and manage personal accounts.
"This is basically the first step of a process for Steve's retirement, it's not the final step," he said.
"Eventually he will have to pull out completely, but that's not in the cards right now and he's certainly not pulling out completely."
Jarislowsky said the board's decision to focus on a team approach reflects "our confidence in our people and their deep market and management experience."
"Jarislowsky Fraser and its entire team of portfolio managers and research analysts remain committed to the disciplined, low-risk, bottom-up approach that the firm has taken throughout our 57-year history," he said in a statement.
He was not available for an interview.
Lapointe said the firm has been considering an orderly succession for several years. The departure of senior executives Len Racioppo and Marc Trot-tier, effective at the end of November, accelerated the process but wasn't the catalyst for the change.
Racioppo is president and chairman of the investment strategy committee while Trottier is a member of the executive committee. They are believed to be starting their own investment firm.
Margot Ritchie, at the firm's office in Toronto, will also be a member of the executive committee. She has 32 years of industry experience, including 20 years with Jarislowsky Fraser. Other people joining the committee that oversees the firm's management are Erin O'Brien, current chief compliance officer and chief financial officer, who becomes head of operations, and Chris Kresic, who joined the company two years ago.
Frequently compared to Warren Buffett, Jaris-lowsky is a billionaire investor who has been outspoken about business and political decisions in Canada and has not shied away from criticizing companies or some mergers and acquisitions.
He has opposed foreign takeovers of the TMX, Alcan, Inco and Potash Corp., but criticized suggestions in Quebec that all corporate boards be given a veto to reject takeovers such as a controversial bid for Rona.
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