‘There’s been a good deal of luck involved’
Wild Geese - Oliver Murray, CEO of Brandes Investment Partners’ Canadian operation, Bridgehouse Asset Managers
Oliver Murray from Crumlin now a high-flyer in Canada
When Oliver Murray first moved to Canada nearly 30 years ago, he struggled to get a job because he didn’t have a degree. These days, he’s a financial high-flyer, advising institutional and private clients on how best to invest.
Murray, who hails from Crumlin in Dublin, is one of the leading executives at Brandes Investment Partners, the investment advisory firm set up by well-known businessman and philanthropist Charles Brandes in 1974. The company currently has over US$28.9 billion under management.
He splits his time equally between Toronto, where he is chief executive of Brandes’s Canadian operation, known as Bridgehouse Asset Managers, and San Diego, where he serves as managing director of portfolio management and client services for the parent company.
Murray left Ireland at the age of 24 in 1986. “At that time the economy wasn’t great in Ireland and my then-fiancé and now-wife was working in Canada as a nanny, so the opportunity to try something different away from home for two or three years greatly appealed. Nearly 30 years later, I’m still here,” he said.
While he achieved success living in North America, he credits his six years spent at Irish Life after he left school for paving the way into his stellar career into financial services.
“There’s been a good deal of luck involved in getting where I am now because, when I first arrived in Toronto, I didn’t have a job lined up and also didn’t have a degree, which was considered a little unusual in Canada in those days, particularly in the financial sector. I had gone straight into the workforce from school after getting a job with Irish Life.
As it happens, his first break in Canada came when he sought out a job at Royal Life Insurance and ended up being interviewed by a Belfast-born man who took a chance on him. Murray worked as a segregated fund salesman with the company for a number of years before focusing more on investment management.
He went on to serve as vice-president of client services at 20/20 Funds before progressing up the corporate ladder and becoming chief operating officer for Toronto-based investment management companies, Trimark Financial and Mackenzie Financial. He joined Brandes in 2002.
“My job is essentially to help large and institutional investors and retail clients achieve their long-term financial goals and aspirations. There’s nothing more fulfilling to me than when I hear from someone who invested with us and is now living the retirement they always wanted. That’s what really motivates me,” he said.
Over the years, Murray has served on the boards of a number of industry organisations in his adopted country and is also past chairman of the board of directors of the Canadian Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC).
He has not forgotten his roots, however, and serves as chairman of the Irish Fund of Canada, as a director of the Ireland Canada University Foundation, and he is an overseas panel member for Enterprise Ireland.
As someone who’s heavily involved in the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre, a not-for-profit organisation that offers outreach and information in areas such as employment, social services, and immigration, Murray is aware of the difficulties some young people face when moving away from home. He believes however, that technology has helped make the world a smaller place.
“When I first moved over, it was very expensive to phone home and we had just one store nearby where you could get week-old copies of The Irish Times at $7.50 a go. That has all changed and I think it’s a great time in history to be an emigrant because you can stay very connected with Ireland through the internet and social media.
“There’s a great Irish community in Toronto, so people living here can get the best of both worlds. The introduction of year-round flights to Dublin last year means it’s easier than ever to get home,” he said.
“I work with Enterprise Ireland helping Irish companies involved in the financial services sector get established in Canada and I’ve been really impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit that remains in the country. It’s that spirit that will help Ireland become successful again,” he said.
As someone who attended all three of the Global Economic Forums held at Farmleigh, Murray is also keen to share his expertise to help get Ireland’s economy back on track. “Tapping into the diaspora and getting help from people who are in influential positions around the world makes an awful lot of sense and it’s something I’m keen to encourage,” he said.