Bay Street Bohemian

The following was published in Enroute, the official magazine of Air Canada.


By Padma Viswanathan

At any given point in the business day, is your investment adviser most likely to be:

a)  Squinting at a screen and number crunching?

b)  Reciting dialogue as he revises his newest play?

Accepting a 10-week consulting gig in Nepal with a poverty-alleviation organization?

All of the Above?

If you answered
d, chances are you’re taking advice from Benjamin Gallander, whose approach to the stock market has the blue-suit set buzzing. Gallander established his reputation with his quarterly investment newsletter,
Contra the Heard, which advocates classic contrarian techniques like “concentrating on stocks that are currently unpopular but likely to regain lustre in the near future. “This can mean a slow ride, especially in bull markets, but his 1,000 lucky subscribers know that patience pays off. Investing in markets in Canada and the U.S., Contra boasts a 10-year annualized return of 24 percent, compared to the TSE’s lowly 9 percent and the Dow’s 19 percent.

Standout Contra picks include Navistar, bought in 1996 for US$9.38 and sold recently at US$45.50, InterTAN, bought in 1996 at US$5.75 and sold last summer at US$21.19; and Royal LePage, bought in December 1998 for $3.11 and sold last March during a takeover bid at $5.45. And though Gallander invests in American markets he is buying up more Canadian stocks because he expects the loonie to get stronger very soon.

Don’t think this success means Gallander is putting 15-hour days at a desk with four telephones. “People are often surprised that I’m so laid back,” he says from his Toronto home. “I tend to ask more questions than I answer. I’ve always been interested in how other people think. And if you can see things from many angles, you do have an edge.”

While other investment gurus might churn out books to enhance their cachet on the speaking circuit, Gallander wrote his latest tome, The Uncommon Investor: A Contrarian’s Guide to Investing in the Stock Market, “because I love writing!” And the book is “uncommon” in other ways too: the “plot” revolves around a group of friends who talk investments while cheering on a team during a fictitious game seven of the World Series. However implausible this imaginative premise may be to baseball fans, readers from the novice to the stock savvy will learn something about the ups and downs of the stock market.