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Colin Lynch: On Success, Growth and the Importance of Community Involvement

Colin Lynch has not been shy of assuming leadership roles throughout his life. It is the multiple initiatives that he took in forming and leading societies, being involved in extracurriculars, and gaining real-life job experiences while in his bachelor’s program, and, later, gaining an MBA from the Harvard Business School that paved the way for him to be in the spotlight. Today, he leads Global Real Estate Investments for TD Asset Management, serves on the Boards of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Investment Board, and was formerly Vice Chair of the Board of Directors at Toronto Community Housing which are just some of his many achievements. No wonder he made it to the list of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 ® in 2020. He certainly is an inspiration for many young aspirants out there and exemplifies the drive to give back to communities and the society at large.

It was a pleasure for The Edge to interview him about his successes and achievements, how he manages to accomplish so much in a day, and what advice he holds for others to get to know him better and allow others to learn from his example.

Can you speak about a few of your achievements and experiences that you are most proud of?

One was Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. I began 2020 not expecting to even be nominated. Also, Queen’s [University] designated me as Trustee Emeritus of the university, which again, I was not expecting but I have a lot of joy thinking about both of those. Queen’s is an institution I care about and I have a lot of passion for. I think what was meaningful for Top 40 Under 40 was the work I did with Toronto Community Housing Corporation. We kept the organization together through a tremendous crisis in 2019. I’m very happy about my time there and what we were able to accomplish. The same [applies] for Queen’s and the Top 40 Under 40.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work and day-to-day operations?

I have to say that I’ve been very fortunate because I have a job, a team, and an organisation that is able to operate in a virtual environment, and we are in an incredibly fortunate position. Has there been adjustments? Absolutely. For my team, it’s been easier and harder than expected. We generally traverse the world, looking at different opportunities in real estate. Almost by definition, we work virtually because we are very frequently in multiple places as the team is based in multiple cities. This means we have to innovate. We spend a lot more time, like everyone else, on Zoom, looking at Google Maps and virtual walk-throughs. Clearly, there has been a lot more volatility in the markets. Overall, it has been an experience. Fortunately, we’ve come through extremely well, but we also have to check ourselves and realise that we are in a fortunate position relative to a lot of people in society.

What are some elements that you feel have helped you be successful in wealth management and finance?

[Being] goal orientated and having a belief that you can accomplish those goals. I think having great mentors—people that you can go to when things come up and when one gets emotional and want to respond immediately – without taking a second to pause and reflect. Having that group of individuals has been critical.

Passion is important and that goes for a lot of life. I think that it’s important to recognize that not everyone is born in a place where they can pursue their passions; however, if one has the flexibility, one should move towards things that actually make them happy. I’d also say curiosity and being able to move from one industry to another.

What advice would you have for young professionals or others pursuing careers in finance?

Things tend to move less on the basis of the intellect of the individual and more on being proactive. Also [the importance of] networks. If you’re not born with a network, then hustle to actually get in front of people. I just think that, sometimes, one has to persist in one’s naiveté, in one’s curiosity, and in one’s goal setting. The folks who are able to persist eventually get rewarded.

You are involved with many organizations, including co-founding the Black Opportunity Fund in 2019. Can you speak about these varied experiences and why you feel it is important to give back?

There has been the reality of a differential experience for Black people in Canada. Whether it’s death rates for babies, unemployment, policing outcomes, education system streaming, COVID -19 rates or [challenges faced by] Black females and LGBTQ2+ individuals, it’s a lot. The issues are far deeper than I initially realised in Canada.

We have been working on creating the world’s largest endowment for the Black community, designed to be a permanent pool of capital that exists and is able to be accessed by Black charities, non-profits and businesses. We are just trying to do our best to be able to create some positive permanent change to an issue that we’ve seen for so long.

I have a passion for organizations that are at the front lines of helping people. That drives [my involvement with the Board of Directors at] Sunnybrook. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s (TSO) mission is important to me as well. I’m a big fan [of] the arts and making it more accessible. OneEleven for entrepreneurship innovation has also been critical in terms of building the potential for new Canadians and building potential for new ideas. It’s hard for me to say no sometimes, and I’m involved in a lot of different things, but they all are doing fantastic work.

You were recently on Canada’s Top 40 Under 40® list. What are some goals you’re working towards?

In my day job, delivering great investment outcomes and growing global real estate. In 2020, we had a great year[with] nearly 5% return positively for real estate. I was also asked to provide suggestions on improving the Black experience at TD Asset Management and I’ve led that initiative for the last few months.  With the Black Opportunity Fund, we have a goal to raise over $1 billion. With TSO, I’d like to be able to introduce the organisation to tech firms, to entrepreneurs, and to make some of those connections. I think there is a lot to do at Sunnybrook as well with virtual care and mental health. I’ve taken a lot on and driving those things to good outcomes throughout all of those initiatives is a goal for 2021 and beyond.

Stephanie Hawkins | Contributing Writer

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