LXRY Q&A: Som Seif, President and CEO of Purpose Investments

There are some people who we think live with a lot of passion for what they do. Dedicated to each aspect of their life with the fullest conviction. We feel this way about Som Seif, President & CEO of Purpose Investments.

He is an active CEO and a very active CEO when it comes to cycling, outdoors and enjoying time in nature. The balance between work and life is a responsibility that he carries well. The investment of time and energy into himself and what is important to him is clear and seems to carry throughout with his work with Purpose Investments.

We interviewed Som Seif for LXRY about work/life balance, hidden gems in Toronto, his ideal workday/weekend and life at Purpose Investments:


LXRY: What are some of your favourite things that have a purpose in your life?

SOM: First and foremost, the number one priority in my life is my family – my wife and my kids.

In addition to that, one of the things I’ve always done in my life is structure what I would call my ‘happiness function’ into a set of quadrants. One quadrant is focused around having a very successful family and home life; the second, having a very successful career and business; the third involves maintaining successful friendships and relationships with the people who inspire me; and the fourth is centred around personal health – maintaining a sense of health and comfort and strength.

My life revolves around those quadrants operating collaboratively. They won’t always work function perfectly, but I always try to make sure they’re all working as well as they can given the context of the moment.

LXRY: Describe an ideal workday for you.

SOM: If I could design my ideal work day, it would involve being out in the market with my clients – spending time with investors, partners and really just collaborating; talking about ideas – that’s my favourite thing to do.

The reality of my week is that I spend a lot of time working on building my vision, working with my team, doing a lot of operating – and these are all necessary and positive things, but if I could, I would spend every day of every week on the road, working with my clients.

LXRY: Describe an ideal weekend for you.

SOM: My weekends are spent entirely with my family and my kids. Because I’m up early and work long hours, and generally maintain a pretty crazy schedule during the week, from Friday evening to Sunday night I do everything I can to clear my schedule and balance my time with my family.

My ideal weekend is just getting that time – we’re kind of hermits in that sense; we love spending time together in the city or in Nova Scotia, where we also have a place. Just being able to enjoy the fun of being around the kids and with my wife is all I would ever ask for in terms of a perfect weekend. I try to balance and ensure nothing gets in the way of that and so I don’t like doing conference calls on the weekend, and I don’t like doing meetings, I don’t go out drinking on Saturday nights with friends, and I generally don’t do a lot except spend time with the family.

LXRY: What do you think a hidden gem in Toronto is that more people should know about?

SOM: I think Toronto is one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s home to me; it’s the most pleasant place I could wish to be. I’ll asterisk that with the fact that I also consider about 30% of my home to be Nova Scotia, but in my opinion, Toronto is one of the most amazing cities in the world.

One of the things that everyone talks about, but I think is really important to reiterate, is that part of what makes Toronto great is the eclectic mix of different villages or neighbourhoods. Spending time in each of those little villages or neighbourhoods, and eating different types of foods and seeing all different types of people is awesome.

LXRY: What is your favourite patch of nature in Toronto to go running or walking or biking, and why?

SOM: The Evergreen Brickworks is one of the great areas of the city, to go for hikes and walks and just generally wander with the kids on the weekends.

I’m also a cyclist, so we also spend a lot of time cycling in the city; we have a great route in the downtown core that we use in the mornings.

LXRY: What is something you personally want to achieve this year?

SOM: Every year, the number-one thing I set out to do is improve. Even though I’ve had some great success, I’m an individual who’s always trying to achieve more. Most importantly, I’m always trying to learn more, and so my goal every year is to continuously learn and become better at what I do – become a better person in every way possible, and this year is no different than any other year.

We have a lot of amazing things happening at Purpose Investments right now. We’ve had a very busy 18 months, and I think that the coming 12 months is going to continue to be an extremely busy time and my goals are to really build this amazing organization with the audacious and ambitious business plan we have, and accomplish some really interesting execution throughout the year – and while doing that, make sure I balance the rest of my life properly.

LXRY: What does investing with Purpose mean to you?

SOM: Investing with purpose has two meanings for me:

The first one is that investors need to really think about the idea of investing for a reason, outcome or goal. Overall, people need to move away from the “hope and pray” model of investing. We’ve mostly been able to succeed with this model for the last 30-35 years because it’s been a really unique environment of declining interest rates and generally favourable investing environment. However, going forward, we may not have the same success. To protect themselves against risks that may hinder investing in the future, people should always invest with purpose – build resilient portfolios designed to weather all potential market environments.

The second thing is that I truly believe that to build a really great, resilient portfolio that can withstand all types of market cycles, every component of the portfolio needs to have a purpose, or a reason for being there. So, every investment fund or strategy or asset class has to play a role.

Think about it like this: a portfolio should be build the same way a general manager would go about building a championship sports team. You don’t build a great team by putting five superstar goal-scorers on your team; you build a great team by assembling talented individuals who have specific roles, and each of them, with precision, performs their job, and then maybe sometimes does a little bit extra.

For example, if the defensive players make sure the opposing team doesn’t score goals, then they’ve done their job, and if on top of that they score a few goals in the process, that’s fantastic. If the offensive players score some goals, but every once in a while also play good defense, that’s fantastic. That’s how you build a great team, and it’s the same with portfolios. Each of the products or investment strategies or asset classes you select for your portfolio should have a role and a precise job to do and you can’t judge each of them against each other in the sense that they all have to beat the markets, at the same time. What they all have to do is play their role and do it right and do it with precision.

I think for the most part the financial industry has ignored this principle – and that’s what we’re trying to address with our idea of investing with purpose.

LXRY: What do you wish people knew more of when it comes to investing and investments?

SOM: There are so many things to talk about! That said, two things come to mind.

The first thing I would tell people is that investing is not where you’re going to become wealthy quickly. Investing is about augmenting the wealth you create through your other sources. So, the majority of the wealth you create will come from the investments you make in yourself, in your education, in getting a great job or building a great business – that’s where you create wealth, your income. What you do after you pay all your expenses and save is augment that wealth and build your long-term goals. I think that if everyone could know that 90%+ of the wealth they create will come from what they do for themselves is very powerful.

The second thing that’s really important is that there are some core disciplines that are so important to having success when you invest. First and foremost is having realistic expectations, and the discipline to stay true to what you’re trying to achieve. Oftentimes, people let their emotions get in the way, and they don’t stick to their long-term plans. Investors need to set a roadmap for how they should act in every possible environment, stay consistent and try not to let emotions get in the way.

The Bottom Line

We would like to thank Som Seif for taking the time for this interview. It goes to show you that we all have the same amount of time in a day, however, what sets us apart depends on how you spend that time. It really depends on how you invest your time and energy. Som Seif brings purpose and priorities to the forefront of his life to make sure things that are important to him get his attention, time and energy.

If you would like to learn more about Purpose Investments, be sure to visit their website and follow @SomSeif on Twitter.

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