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McLean Budden Canadian Equity Growth Fund (annualized returns)

1-year 5-year 10-year

MB Cdn. Equity Growth 2.6% 5.3% 11.4%

TSX Composite -0.3% 3.3% 9.2%

Growth investing is no place for wimps. Responsible growth managers aren't daredevils, but they often buy stocks that frighten value managers. Growth managers look for companies that are poised to expand rapidly and post big profit increases. They often buy into industries such as tech, telecommunications, health care and consumer products-sectors that soared in the '90s, then tanked in 2000 and 2001.

Mary Hallward certainly didn't begin her career in a pressure cooker. She started in the early 1980s as a financial services analyst. Hardly heart-palpitating stuff, but Hallward admits she fretted a fair bit. "I had this idea that it was all my responsibility as to how well clients did."

Hallward wanted to manage money herself. In 1992, she left the brokerage firm Nesbitt Thomson for McLean Budden, then primarily a growth-oriented pension fund management firm. In her job interview, an executive showed her a portfolio. "I zeroed in on the growth stocks," she says. Some of those companies were beaten up, but Hallward figured they'd rebound. "Growth managers are the optimists," she says. "Value managers have a tendency to be a bit more pessimistic."

Being optimistic isn't the same as being foolish. Growth tends to beat value in rising markets, but lags behind in down markets. During the 1990s, McLean Budden's growth portfolios soared, "but we also knew that things were crazy," Hallward says, adding that in 2001 and 2002, "growth was the pits."

Things began to turn last year. McLean Budden's Canadian Equity Growth Fund gained 9.6% in the first six months of 2003, making it the top-performing Canadian equity pension fund. One reason: It selectively bought tech and telecom stocks that were out of favour in 2001 and 2002, including Nortel Networks. In June, 2002, the fund bought into a Nortel offering of new stock at $2.40 a share. Nortel then slid to a low of 67 cents last October, but rebounded to $6 recently.

All told, McLean Budden has about $24.8 billion in assets under management, about $6.5 billion of that in growth portfolios. The firm has actually cut off the Equity Growth Fund to new pension fund clients unless they also invest in the firm's global equity, bond and other products. However, retail clients with a minimum of $10,000 can buy the growth mutual fund. McLean Budden has diversified styles since Sun Life bought 55% of the firm in 1997 and combined it with SUNIMCO, its value-oriented pension fund management subsidiary.

Of course, pension funds and other institutions are supposed to be more patient than individuals. That's great in theory, but Hallward says part of her job is managing client expectations. "When you're doing badly, you tell them, 'We didn't get stupid all of a sudden. Our style is out of favour. Be patient, it'll turn.'" In 2003, it has. Good thing some managers remained calm.

© 2007 The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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