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John Nicola’s enviable schedule

Is John Nicola working hard or hardly working?
OPM 2 min read

I started out with the background of an insurance salesman and I’ve acquired some expertise over a certain period. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. Going forward, maybe it’s time to look for people that specialize in a particular area.

-John Nicola, founder, Chairman, CEO and CIO of Nicola Wealth

Warren Buffett made his initial fortune managing other people’s money and then spent decades contemplating the great mystery of what makes for a “wonderful business.” This has been rather hit-and-miss (textile is bad, insurance can be good). Meanwhile, the very best business was right under his nose: other people’s money. Nicola Wealth founder John Nicola had no such misapprehension: he just ran with advising others for a fee. I agree with this: there’s no business like the business of other people’s money. One of the many advantages is what a great lifestyle it affords: being paid for just thinking.

Nicola clients might be interested in knowing the exalted lifestyle they are subsidizing. I came across this “day in the life of John Nicola” from Business in Vancouver from Oct. 13th, 2015.

A day in the life: John Nicola describes his typical timetable

6:30 a.m.: Starts day with a quick breakfast, reads newspaper

7:30-9 a.m.: Goes for a walk or jog

9-10:30 a.m.: Works from home office, reads and responds to emails, reviews upcoming meetings

11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Time split among meetings with advisers, clients and management team

5 p.m.: Goes golfing with his wife, attends family dinners

8 p.m.: Reads, watches old movies

If he starts his day at 9AM Pacific Time, wouldn’t that be well past the market open? In any event, that’s not a very demanding 9-5 schedule. And this was in 2015. Now, John Nicola is on the verge of retirement. He has announced he’s stepping down as CEO within the next two years. His family’s stake in the business is now down to 45%.

Nicola continues to have business momentum, but I remain convinced that between the high fees and questionable investments, its clients will continue to meaningfully lag their God-given right to average market returns. You can judge the caliber of their investment thinking by following their Tweets full of banalities about market noise.

I previously wrote that John Nicola is a physics grad. That might not be true:

A 2012 profile of John Nicola in Business in Vancouver opens with:

As a fresh University of British Columbia (UBC) graduate with a degree in physics and mathematics in hand, Nicola was still trying to figure out what he wanted to do in the next stage of his life. Until then, he had paid his way through university as a bass guitarist in a local rock band started with a few friends when he was 16.

A 2015 article in Business in Vancouver says John Nicola studied math and physics at the University of British Columbia for three years before dropping out.

In actual fact, a non-demanding schedule is entirely compatible with good investing. Since the job is mostly about reading and thinking. But Nicola is juggling a lot of balls.

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