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Due Diligence of a Different Sort

Beyond dollars and data analysis… A visit to a children’s hospital reinforces why we do what we do. Sometimes the investment industry gets a bad rap for what can seem like its singular focus on making profit over everything else. While it’s our job to earn the best returns possible for our clients, it’s also important that we look beyond the numbers and really get to know the companies we invest in, as well as the clients who invest in us. We do this, because, yes, Virginia, many investment professionals really do care about more than just the bottom line.

An integral part of our due diligence process is meeting with the management of companies in our portfolios to ensure our interests are aligned. We focus on a company’s operations, long term strategy and competitive dynamics, and we check in regularly with management for clarity that we are indeed allocating capital towards value-creating companies.

Earlier this year, we decided to conduct a different type of due diligence—a meeting with one of our clients, The Alberta Children’s Hospital, to see the great work that they’re doing. As a team, we visited the iconic Calgary landmark with its bright Lego-like exterior of primary colours, designed with the creative input of local pint-sized stakeholders. Once inside we were able to see first-hand, an example of proper allocation of capital in the field of medicine. We observed how investment decisions lead to the purchase of new equipment, research initiatives, new treatment programs, and we witnessed ACH staff helping families and bettering our society in tangible ways that simply don’t get captured in annual reports.

We learned that children’s brains differ greatly from the brains of adults and that the ACH is at the forefront of medical treatment and research into brain rehabilitation. Doctors at ACH are using state of the art machines and technology to test whether networks of nerves in the brain are still able to connect in the event of stroke-induced paralysis. If a device held next to a patient’s ear elicits a reflex response, such as a raised hand, it means rehabilitation could be possible. Examples like this immediately illustrated for us the impact that these health care professionals are having, and will have, on the lives of so many people.

We were also impressed by the amount of care evident in the design of the entire hospital. Walk around the grounds and you’ll find “Healing Gardens” for those suffering with hyperactive brain conditions, a vegetable garden to help educate children with eating disorders, and a dedicated space for family pets to visit their child owners. Inside, you’ll find a day nursery for siblings of the patients, quiet areas for parents to sleep, and an interdenominational prayer room that was created with insight from over sixteen different religions. These elements, as much as the medical infrastructure we saw, are examples of due diligence in their own right—evidence of an organization that implicitly understands who it serves and how best to serve them.

On our way out, a student volunteer played a soothing piece of music on a beautiful piano in the open lobby, which echoed through the hospital corridors. We left feeling inspired, humbled and motivated.

Getting out of the office to see the day to day operations, challenges and triumphs of an organization like ACH puts everything we do as investment professionals into perspective. These opportunities help to remind us why we do what we do. We’re not developing research for the prevention of childhood diseases, but we’re doing our best to offer financial peace of mind to those who are.


Originally posted by Nikki Barczewska, Jason Brink, Mawer Investment Management on July 27, 2016 @ 7:53am In Insight, Markets, Outlook