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“Start with a strong foundation.” With Jason Hartman & Brian Paes-Braga

Start with a strong foundation. Consider investing in companies with strong, transparent values. Some of the values I look for are empathy, inclusion, diversity, sustainability and overall corporate responsibility. These are all becoming strong investment drivers in the future economy. Strong company values are simply good for business and often result in sustainable growth. Now […]

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Start with a strong foundation. Consider investing in companies with strong, transparent values. Some of the values I look for are empathy, inclusion, diversity, sustainability and overall corporate responsibility. These are all becoming strong investment drivers in the future economy. Strong company values are simply good for business and often result in sustainable growth. Now more than ever, people want to support, align and invest in companies that meaningfully impact their sectors, teams and communities.


As a part of my series about “Investing During The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Paes-Braga, an entrepreneur, thought leader, and investor. Most well-known for his notable work in founding, developing, and executing the successful sale of the lithium resource company, Lithium X, Brian is currently the principal at SAF Group, a leading structured credit and merchant banking group which builds, invests, finances and advises on high growth companies. He also sits on the board of DeepGreen Metals; is the Chair of the board for Thunderbird Entertainment Group; operates as an advisor at Gold X Mining, and is one of the original investors in Nude Beverages Group. Brian has always recognized the value of hard work and this led him to save up to buy an investment property at the young age of 14. He started trading and investing in the stock market at 17, and his tireless work ethic opened doors to incredible mentorship opportunities and partnerships with notable business executives. Being a big believer in paying it forward, Brian now prioritizes mentorship to others and actively donates time and resources to philanthropic organizations like Backpack Buddies, The Boys Club Network, and Power to Be, both personally and through his family’s charitable foundation, Quiet Cove.


Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance industry?

I’m a university dropout. After I left university at age 20, I worked as a stockbroker and then as an investment banker, helping resource companies raise money for various projects, which was my crash course introduction to the world of markets and finance. Trust me, there were some crashes along the way. However, it was this experience, and a few years spent overcoming professional and personal highs and lows, that guided me to venture out on my own. I worked hard, didn’t sleep, and earned my big break in the summer of 2015, when I risked big, and aligned myself with a brilliant team to help launch Lithium X Energy Corp. I founded and led this lithium resource company for a little over two years, and then sold it in March 2018 for $265 million on my 30th birthday.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

Well, selling Lithium X on my 30th birthday was certainly a highlight! First, I want to make it clear that I didn’t sell Lithium X on my own. I had a phenomenal team behind me. I surrounded myself with incredible people and everyone on that team brought what they were best at to the table. The day I received the call that the sale went through was professionally the most euphoric moment of my entire life, and it was an amazing way to ring a new decade.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’ve been devoting a lot of my time to building a new platform for thought leadership and mentorship. Sharing my story and the lessons I’ve learned with the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs has always been a dream of mine, so it was just a matter of how and when. I’ve re-launched my website, have a podcast that will be launching soon, and I’m writing a book, which is part business and part memoir. It will be released in the winter. I hope that by being open and honest with my life story, and by providing resources for people to connect, learn, and grow, I can help the next era of ambitious and curious business leaders pursue a life of balance and reciprocity.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m a huge believe in mentorship. We can all learn very valuable lessons from the experiences of others, and mentorship has underscored many of the biggest successes in my career. One of my mentors was, and still is, my business partner and very good friend, Frank Giustra. Frank is a renowned Vancouver mining financier at Fiore Group who I partnered with to found Lithium X. Frank is also a major philanthropist, and I’ve tried to emulate his charitable work in my career by starting Quiet Cove Foundation. I hope to make philanthropy a bigger and broader part of my life by following in Frank’s footsteps. I continue to learn from him daily.

Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. Create daily routines for the “new normal” that allow you to be fulfilled. We are universally affected by what’s happening. Our routines will need to be rerouted for the foreseeable future. My new daily routines include exercise, preparing meals, reading novels I have ignored when I’ve been “too busy,” playing board games and catching up on the top 100 movies of all time.
  2. Use this time to find the gift that lets you be in service to yourself and the world. Coming out of this, there is no doubt finances are going to be tough. We have the (albeit unplanned) time now to take a breather and tune into what we are truly passionate about. We all have that one thing that we have always wanted to do but were maybe afraid to. The world is going to look different on the other side of this, so why not allow this to be the time to dig deep and find what your soul’s journey is this time around?
  3. If you are in the position to, think of others facing more difficult conditions than yourself. Perspective is everything and there has never been a better time to think and act altruistically for the better good. If you have food, shelter, and health, even in a small square footage, you’re one of the lucky ones.
  4. Know that you are not alone. We have an invisible enemy and it’s shared globally. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, opportunity we’ve had to come together as a world. Knowing the best outcome for everyone is to overcome the same obstacle, by working together, has the potential to heal international wounds and create a better world.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know the stock market and the economy in general have become extremely volatile and uncertain. Many people “dollar cost average” and put aside a monthly sum into a long-term savings plan for retirement, college, or a home purchase. If a loved one or a client came to you and said, “I have been saving and investing $500 every month in an S&P 500 index fund. Over the next few months until the dust settles, should I be doing something else with my money?”, what would you say to them?

It’s important for me to note that I am no longer a licensed investment advisor, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Here’s what I can humbly suggest. I would advise to only invest what you are willing to keep in the market for many years. The market timing is, understandably, very difficult right now. Practice caution. The S&P is only now down approximately 10% from highs, and the economy and many businesses are definitely down a lot more than 10%. There is a major disconnect here that you need be wary of. Unfortunately, we are a generation used to “V” shape recoveries, but this one may look more like a “W”, and the last part of the “W” may still be many years away.

Eventually the economy will recover and rebound. Certain sectors, like travel and hospitality might be hurting for a while. But other sectors, like technology and healthcare, might do very well. If someone wanted to prepare today to take advantage of the future recovery, what would you suggest they do?

Think about what the new economy will look like and what new human behaviours it will evoke. Home entertainment is a good example. People are consuming more and more content at home, and less and less at movie theatres and more traditional media outlets. There are many large streaming companies to consider, and where I’ve had success in my investing career has been sometimes finding the smaller companies that work with these bigger companies like Netflix and Disney. Thunderbird, a public company in Canada at which I am the Chairman and a meaningful shareholder of, is an example of this. Sometimes these companies can “fly under the radar” for a long time before getting the investor awareness and traction they deserve to achieve full value.

Also, with all the money printing happening now, look for hedges to inflation like gold. As governments around the world, led by the US, print trillions of dollars at a rate never before seen to create new debt and monetize existing debt, investments like gold as a hard asset and store of value should perform well.

Are there sectors that provide exciting and lucrative investment opportunities today, specifically because of the volatility and uncertainty?

I would advocate for a cautious approach as there is a lot of uncertainty in our current landscape. Governments, mostly in the US, have taken a very aggressive stance on printing money to combat the negative affects to the economy due to this generational event.

With this in mind, I would be very careful until the dust settles. This is not a good time to be a hero. The best thing you can do is take this time to educate yourself on investing, and read as much as you can to learn about past stock market corrections and how things went then. Then you’ll know what to look for in the recovery of this one

Are there alternative investments that you think more people should look more deeply at?

I’m not sure if you would consider gold as an alternative investment, but it’s something I personally have a deep interest in, and meaningful exposure to. Gold typically does extremely well coming out of major money printing events like the one we are going through right now. However, what we are experiencing currently is also unlike anything we have before, which is why I am advocating for a cautious approach.

If a person in their thirties and forties came to you today and said that they have $10,000 that they want to put away today for a long-term investment what would you advise them to do with it?

Again, I’m not a licensed investment advisor but I will suggest some important points and share my opinion. The first and most important point is to educate yourself! Time is on our side right now, and many of us have gone from being “too busy” to having the time to learn. I recently wrote a blog post outlining some routines and resources that helped me learn the language of money. Secondly, and what I’m currently looking at, is waiting to see where the dust settles. I am personally concerned that the recent rally in the S&P is more of a “relief” rally than a sustained rally due to the disconnect between the economy and the long-term effects and changes that will occur from this. I would suggest that during times like these, to be extremely careful and don’t invest all at once. Invest 10–20% at a time over the next many quarters.

Ok, thank you! Here is a more general finance question. You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

  1. Get up, grab a coffee, and spend at least one or two hours reading articles on financial publication websites. My “go-to” publications were, and still are, Bloomberg.com and the CNBC app. Now that I’m involved in businesses around the globe, it’s part of my practice to scan through local and national news in addition to these. When I literally knew NOTHING about money, I would take the time to Google every single word I didn’t know and build a digital vocabulary bank. Slowly but surely, I had built a powerful vocabulary list on what all these finance words meant. This didn’t take weeks, it took years.
  2. Keep learning and never stop. I look at training my brain the same way I look at training my body. It’s the same as going to the gym or meditating to calm my soul. Only the reward in this arena is money itself. People in finance, if they’re doing it well, make lots of it and are in constant pursuit of “financial innovation.” Why do I mention this? It’s because I have personally witnessed immense innovation since I got into investing 15 years ago, and it’s a testament to how continued growth and education in this sector can make a difference.
  3. Talk to your friends and support group about it. If you don’t have an existing support group that talks about money, build one. This is key. I have learned so much from my support network. It has evolved over the years, but so much is gained through talking openly and vulnerably with friends that may know more than you.
  4. Avoid emotional decisions. While investing can feel like an emotional experience, it’s vital to not let an emotional decision or “panic buy” drive an investment strategy. There is an ebb and flow to investing. Developing a long-term plan that proactively addresses and mitigates risks, while safeguarding investments, is the best way to go.
  5. Start with a strong foundation. Consider investing in companies with strong, transparent values. Some of the values I look for are empathy, inclusion, diversity, sustainability and overall corporate responsibility. These are all becoming strong investment drivers in the future economy. Strong company values are simply good for business and often result in sustainable growth. Now more than ever, people want to support, align and invest in companies that meaningfully impact their sectors, teams and communities.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.”
-Aristotle

Creating a new discipline is challenging. However, I do believe bad habits can be changed — and it’s never too late, or too early, to begin. Bad habits often create obstacles to reaching our goals, while good habits help us reach them.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Without wanting to sound like a broken record, I cannot stress enough the importance of mentorship at all times in our lives and all arenas. A mentor can help guide you in innumerable ways, only some of which are apparent at the beginning of your relationship. I would inspire a movement of connection and a bridging of the gap between thought leaders of the present and thought leaders of the future. It’s a human rite of passage to share knowledge that shapes a better world for the next person in line. That’s what I’m trying to do through my work and creative pursuits, but I don’t think it stops there. I envision a technology that seamlessly connects us to the people we need to inspire us, motivate us, and challenge us, and a digital space where we can explore greater professional and personal goals, and ultimately find balance. This might look like a “dating” app for mentorship. It might look even bigger than that. Only time and tech (and a lot of hard work) will tell.

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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