George Frazer, Market-Beating Canadian Fund Manager, Dies

George Frazer, a proponent of dividend investing who won notice for market-beating returns during a seven-decade career as fund manager at Toronto-based Leon Frazer & Associates, has died. He was 86.

He died on Feb. 6 in Toronto, according to Turner & Porter funeral home. No cause was given.

Frazer in 1947 joined the firm that his father, Leon, had founded eight years earlier. When his father died in 1964, Frazer became chairman.

The firm today has 35 employees and about C$2.1 billion ($2.09 billion) in client assets under management, according to a statement from its parent, Toronto-based Jovian Capital Corp. Its strategy is to invest in “good companies that sustain and increase their dividends over time,” the firm said in the statement.

The C$888 million IA Clarington Canadian Conservative Equity Fund, which Frazer managed since its inception in 1950, ranked 18th among 265 Canada-based open-ended growth funds focusing on shares of Canadian companies for the last five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The fund’s average annual return of 5.35 percent for the period compares with the average return for all 265 funds of 0.95 percent, the data show.

According to the firm, the fund’s average annual return since its inception in 1950 as Associate Investors Ltd. is 9.4 percent. In recent years Frazer co-managed the fund with colleagues Douglas Kee and Ryan Bushell.

Beating Benchmark

“With little fanfare, he turned the emotional casino called the stock market into a machine as predictable as a fine Swiss watch,” Bushell wrote in a note to clients the day after Frazer died.

In 2000, the fund posted a 31.9 percent return, more than four times the 7.4 percent return for the Toronto Stock Exchange Composite Index, making it the top-performing equity fund in Canada, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported. The fund was then known as Co-operators Canadian Conservative Focused Equity Fund; Co-operators Mutual Funds Ltd. was bought in 2003 by Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc.

“George Frazer is remembered for his great legacy of total commitment to client satisfaction,” Mark Arthur, chief executive officer of Leon Frazer, said in a statement. “He never wavered from his goal of always ‘doing what’s right for the client,’ and he always urged his team to stay singularly focused on that principle.”

Calming Words

As worldwide equity markets reeled from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, Frazer wrote a letter to clients on Oct. 1, 2008, that drew upon his experience to offer what he called “a voice of reason” to counter fears of another Great Depression.

“Our investment philosophy is unwavering: growth in dividends provides growth in capital and incomes,” he wrote in the letter, which is on the company’s website. “Our disciplined investment process is expressed by investing in core holdings that are solid companies in mature industries that make up the backbone of the economy and that provide an increasing stream of dividends. Our clients’ income from these dividends is not decreased by declining markets.”

George Leonard Frazer was born on April 12, 1926, one of four children of Leonard “Leon” Frazer and the former Helen Greaves, according to information on the funeral home website. He studied commerce and finance at the University of Toronto, then took a job with a chartered trust company, according to a profile on the firm’s website.

Joining Father

Company lore held that when Frazer proposed joining the family firm, his father told him to look at the company books “and see if I can afford you.” The younger Frazer decided he could be afforded, at C$600 a year -- and he lived at home for five years to keep within his means. He left when he married his wife, the former Elizabeth Peacock, and together they had three children, Bruce, Anne and Jacqueline.

In 1952, Frazer co-founded the Investment Counsel Association of Canada, today’s Portfolio Management Association of Canada, a membership organization of investment-management firms.

An avid sailor, Frazer piloted his 14-foot boat in races until the late 1960s.

“Sailing suited my personality because I can never go straight to the point,” he said, according to the firm. “I have to find a way around it.”