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Sustaining a Legacy Across 5 Generations: Q&A With Holdun’s Brendan Holt Dunn

Brendan Holt Dunn, Holdun Family Office

Nov 1. 2019 When Sir Herbert Holt emigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1873, he laid the foundation for what would someday become one of North America’s largest family-owned corporations. Sir Holt’s Montreal Light, Heat & Power Company, now known as Hydro-Quebec, was a trailblazer in Canada’s emerging energy sector in the late 19th Century. By the mid-20th Century, the family business was worth over $3 billion and Sir Holt had served nearly three decades as the Royal Bank of Canada’s President and Chairman.

Today, his legacy is carried by his great, great grandson, Brendan Holt Dunn. The Holdun Corporation now includes a family office and an accelerator for Canadian fintech startups.

Dunn shares the secrets of sustaining a family legacy across multiple generations and the outlook for Canada’s emerging technology startups.

Holdun Family Office is now in its fifth generation. What is the secret to successful succession?
We are laser focused on long-term, conservative investments that have a generational time horizon. We don’t look, think, act or react to short-term market fluctuations. Having this long-term focus and dedication is what has allowed us to grow and prosper across five generations.

What advice would you give other family offices that are trying to transition between generations?
Communication. It is the most important aspect of a family office. Involve multiple generations in the communication process as early as possible.

The Holt Fintech AI Accelerator is currently ongoing. What are the unique challenges of finding and kick starting startups in Quebec or Canada in general?
Quebec, and Montreal specifically, is emerging as a fintech hub, and is well renowned globally, so being based there is a benefit to the Accelerator, and the teams we select on an annual basis. Montreal provides a low cost of living, access to world-class talent, and a great ecosystem that helps teams thrive on a global stage.

What is your outlook for Canada’s fintech and AI startup space over the foreseeable future?
Very bright. The government is doing a great job pushing tech in general and AI, to help try and diversify Canada’s economy. There are numerous grants and subsidies available, and this has helped developed a growing, and successful tech ecosystem across Canada.

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