Is Dave Nugent still Chief Investment Officer of Wealthsimple?

OPM 4 min read

Let me start by telling you about a pivotal event that happened at the foundation of Wealthsimple. In Canada, in order to have a license to manage discretionary money, you generally need two things: real experience in the field and an educational certification (either the CFA or a more local, more expeditious title called the CIM). When Michael Katchen started Wealthsimple around 2014, he had neither qualifications, so he started cold-calling anyone he could find on LinkedIn who fit the bill. Unfortunately, no one wanted to work for a non-entity that hadn't even started or raised money. Katchen got rejection after rejection after rejection. That is, until he found Dave Nugent, who was then working as a financial advisor at RBC and had a CIM. Dave Nugent immediately got what Wealthsimple was trying to do. He cared about enabling investments for the masses. So Nugent left RBC, where he was in a group managing $300 million, to join a company that didn't even have a name yet. Shortly after he was on board, Wealthsimple raised $2 million and they were off to the races.

Dave Nugent is therefore the original Chief Investment Officer of Wealthsimple. (He was also the Chief Compliance Officer, another crucial contribution.)

Now, I don’t know David Nugent, but it's my business to get into the minds of leading Bay St executives and so I have created this imagined essence of him, using FBI-style profiling techniques:

-His friends call him The Nooge, sometimes The Noogester

-His favorite expression is "That's what I'm talkin about!"

-His hobbies are weightlifting and volleyball

-He gets along with everyone, he was the student union president at his school, Huron College, where he graduated in Pol Sci

(That last point is factual. Katchen also studied at Huron College before graduating from the fancy-schmancy Ivey School of Business).

Now, I don't get the impression that Dave Nugent spends his weekends reading up on the history of the Austro-Hungarian monetary union, but that's OK. Bay St has plenty of brainiacs, where does that lead them? Warren Buffett has said that temperament is paramount. Long-Term Capital Management had several Nobel Prize winners, how did that go? Dave Nugent is relatable: if there was a survey for the CIO you would most want to have a beer with, Dave would win hands down. Runner-up would be no one. Dave has empathy for how bewildering finance can be, he probably still remembers the rigours of studying for the CIM.

Dave Nugent - we thus imagine - is a "one-pager" kinda guy. As he should be - Warren Buffett has said the best investment ideas can be explained in a single paragraph.

This is why I was so alarmed when I came across a 33-page "Investment Methodology White Paper" released by Wealthsimple in August of this year announcing the addition of some supposedly more sophisticated asset classes. I thought the whole point of passive investing was to pick a plan and stick with it for decades? This document is full of big words and numbers and pie charts and graphs. And did I mention it runs to 33 pages! And it has three of whatever the plural of "appendix" is. And what exactly is a "white paper"? I do not believe for a minute that this incendiary document was written by The Nooge and I wonder if he even approves of it. This document appears to me like an attempt by an intellectual faction within Wealthsimple to wrest control away from The Nooge. This document, with big words like "inflation-linked bonds" and "minimum-volatility indices" is pure provocation. Blasphemy in the cathedral The Nooge built.

I have tried to identify who could be behind this intellectual insurrection within Wealthsimple, and so far have only identified one spokesperson, a certain Michael Marco in their New York office. So this Marco fellow is a graduate of fancy-schmancy Yale. He worked for Bridgewater Associates, the hedge fund that has made the most billions in history and Cravath, which is the Goldman Sachs of Law. So now that Katchen is palling around with the Desmarais boys, with their fancy Harvard and Goldman pedigree, suddenly Huron College is no longer fertile ground for hiring the leadership at Wealthsimple? I see how that works. Bridgewater means nothing to me. Ray Dalio's technobabble on economics is ridiculous. Bridgewater publishes every day - nothing intelligent can be said about the markets every day (see David Rosenberg / Denis Gartman, etc.). As for academic credentials, did you know that Warren Buffett finished his undergrad at the University of Nebraska and got rejected from Harvard Business School? He jokes that the football players at Nebraska think the N on their helmets stands for knowledge.

And consider the Oracle of Timmins, legendary midriff-baring Ojibwe-Canadian-Swiss songstress Shania Twain, when she said:

Okay, so you're a rocket scientist
That don't impress me much!
So you got the brain, but have you got the touch?
Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're alright
But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night

When winter comes to the markets, this “white paper” and all its formulas and mumbo-jumbo won't keep me warm in the middle of the night. When winter comes, I want to be able to nestle my head in Big Nooge's manly bosom and be comforted by his powerful embrace all night long.

I am not speaking metaphorically.

Skinny geeks won't do!

If you look at early slides of Wealthsimple, Dave Nugent is pictured right next to Katchen. But today, he is not even mentioned among the 9 members of the leadership team listed on their website.

As I explained, No Nooge, No Wealthsimple. What happened to "Dance with the one who brung ya"?

I have studied Shania Twain like some people study Sun Tzu and there's an episode in her life that provides a useful lesson here. Shania's husband had an affair with her best friend, a Ms. Thiébaud. Two years later, Shania married Mr. Thiébaud. What does this mean? The answer is obvious: The Nooge needs to have a fling with TD Bank CEO Bharat Masrani. That’ll teach Katchen. Or maybe a PR-savvy competitor - if any - should pull a Shania and hire The Nooge away?

One thing is for sure, there is a battle going on for the investment soul of Wealthsimple. Either you're with The Nooge or you're with the Excel terrorists.

OPM Wire is the only reputable news organization that is covering this ideological war that is tearing apart Wealthsimple. And the reason for that is simple: we have the lowest journalistic standards of any of them. We try to stay objective, but in the face of such profound injustice, we cannot remain silent. We're on Team Nooge all the way.

You’re still the one for us, to quote Eilleen Regina Edwards.

Better known as Shania.

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