Editor's letter: Insights, not just information

This year's I-500 includes more voices, options and perspectives than ever on the world of investing.

A friend of mine asked me recently why Canadian Business still publishes its annual “reference book” on the Canadian market. At first, I didn’t know what he was talking about. “You know,” he said. “The Investor 500. Do people still read that issue? I mean, the Internet has made all that information pretty easy to find online.”

I suddenly realized what he was getting at, and I did my best not to sound too much like a salesman when I corrected him. “The Investor 500 isn’t a reference book at all,” I explained. “It’s a guide to the market.” (I resisted the temptation to add – “the best guide to the Canadian market there is.”) And with all of that information and raw data spinning around cyberspace every second of every day, a guide to the markets has never been more important.

The mistake that my friend made is understandable. What he didn’t realize is that we are not in the information business, we’re in the insight business. Information is the 10-ton slab of coal. Cheap, ubiquitous and useful only to a point. Insight is the rough diamond trapped somewhere inside. We’re living in a world that is inundated with coal, which only serves to reinforce the value of the diamonds.

This year, we expanded the scope and mandate of the I-500 to include even more voices, more options and more perspectives on the world of investing. Our 2010 market guide runs more than 45 pages, packed with ideas, predictions, warnings and insights from Canada’s best analysts, economists, money managers and financial journalists.

In the pages ahead, six of Canada’s premier fund managers share their favourite stock picks for the next 12 months; Jordan Timm examines some of the world-changing scenarios that could change the complexion of the world markets overnight; Thomas Watson takes a hard look at whether collectibles like art, wine and stamps are really worthwhile investment options; And James Cowan’s feature story on psychologist Kathleen Gurney attempts to answer the question of why investing is so often an angst-ridden and unpleasant experience for many of us. Plus, Gurney identifies nine different investor personalities and helps you identify yours.

Those are just a few highlights. A package this expansive relies on the hard work of a large group of people whose names don’t often appear on the stories. The Investor 500 is based on the market data compiled and analyzed by our indefatigable data manager Phil Froats. The project was shepherded by our western editor Michael McCullough and managing editor Duncan Hood. It’s designed by our great team of artists, particularly designers Brianne Collins, Glenn Taylor, Eric Legge and Scott Gibbs, photo editor Ronit Novak, and photo contributor Anna Lisa Sang.

As you will see, there is little consensus on what the next few years will hold for the global economy. That presents both massive opportunities and nerve-jangling risks. I wouldn’t recommend wading into that market with just a reference book. A guide is essential.