Mark Shulgan Senior Portfolio Manager, Thematic Investing, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Toronto, Ontario, Canada Art by Victor Juhasz
Mark Shulgan

Mark leads the team within the Thematic Investing group that invests in public companies exposed to long horizon structural growth. His team is located in Toronto and Hong Kong and invests globally.

Mark joined CPPIB in 2009 and was originally part of the Relationship Investments team before he transitioned to help start the Thematic Investing group in early 2014. Prior to joining CPPIB, Mark was a Vice President at Fortress Investment Group and McKenna Gale Capital. Mark began his career in Investment Banking at Scotiabank. In 2014, Mark was named “top 40 under 40” by aiCIO magazine. He is also a board member of the YMCA of Greater Toronto and is the Chair of its Investment Committee.

Mark has an MBA from the University of Windsor and a BA from Western University where he graduated with the Gold Medal.


CIO:  
What are the accomplishments you are most happy to have achieved recently, and why?


Shulgan:
My proudest accomplishment is hiring and developing a team of world class thinkers and investors.  Thematic investing is a relatively new concept that requires a top-down (theme identification) and bottom-up approach (investing in the best companies exposed to a theme).  Finding the right mix of people was a challenge but three years in I believe that we’ve assembled an outstanding team that really complements one another by identifying themes and good companies exposed to them.  


CIO: What would you be most excited to accomplish in the year ahead, and why?


Shulgan:
I am most excited about growing our team in Asia and increasing our exposure to emerging markets.  I believe that China and India are two of the most interesting markets to invest in for the coming decade given their demographics and economic growth prospects.  In the future I believe it is becoming increasingly important to understand what is happening in Asia, and China in particular, in order to have a more complete perspective on how global financial markets will evolve.


CIO: 
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being an asset owner?


Shulgan:
I think that investing attracts talented people who are curious and want to figure stuff out.  I find it really rewarding to engage with others who are passionate about both teaching the topics they understand and committed to learning the topics they don’t understand.  I also like that your decisions can be measured and, depending on outcomes relative to expectations, you can change your investment process in an effort to continually improve it.  


CIO: What’s the most challenging?


Shulgan:
Our approach to thematic investing includes taking a long view.  To borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, there are “known knowns” – things that can be forecasted – and “known unknowns” – that cannot be forecasted.  The longer your time horizon the more exposure you have to the “known unknowns”. I think it’s really important to demonstrate agility and be responsive as new information becomes available.  It is nearly certain that your forecast will not be exact but it helps if you can narrow in on a range of potential outcomes and adjust that view along the way.


CIO: What are you most hopeful about in the future of the industry?


Shulgan:
Machine learning and artificial intelligence.  We are in the business of making predictions about expected future outcomes.  Investment professionals need to separate the signal from the noise and that noise gets louder as the amount of data continues to increase.  Machine learning and artificial intelligence can help identify patterns that would be very challenging for the human brain to synthesize. I believe that in the near future this field will generate exciting new insights into how the world and financial markets work.


CIO: What are you most cautious about?


Shulgan:
With more money being invested in passive strategies I believe that alpha is becoming harder to find.  I’ve heard it described eloquently by Michael Mauboussin that the less skilled players have left the poker table leaving only the highly skilled players.  Inevitably that makes it harder to find alpha unless you have a truly differentiated approach and access to the right partners.


CIO: As a leader, what are the most important aspects of the industry you hope to change over your career?


Shulgan:
I think our industry is changing positively to appreciate diversity. When I first started my career nearly 20 years ago most of the people in my training class were very similar to me.  Today, when we onboard a new group of recruits around half are women and many come from diverse backgrounds. I believe that if you want to generate unique insight it’s important to consider a number of potential outcomes that include a diversity of perspectives.


CIO: If you had one piece of advice for your peers, what would it be?


Shulgan:
Stay curious and be a lifelong learner.


CIO: What are the biggest current trends you are seeing that have surprised you?​


Shulgan:
While I think that blockchain has many commercial uses and will cause significant disruption in a number of industries I’ve been surprised by the amount of capital invested in crypto currencies.  Until there is a clear way for governments to regulate and track crypto I think it’s hard to analyze the fundamentals.

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