Conrad Black (left) and Peter Brown. [Sources: Penguin Random House  and Peter Brown Capital]

Financier and author Conrad Black, and investment banker Peter Brown, have championed Canadian capitalism in their long and successful careers. Yesterday at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (“VRIC”), the two long-acquainted dealmakers shared career advice to those starting out.

Peter Brown is the co-founder of Canaccord Genuity and was inducted to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame. At a rowdy VRIC panel, conference organizer Jay Martin asked Brown what he would consider for a career if he were 25 years old today, to which Brown quipped it would be impossible to know what to do with one’s life at that early age. He shared his career story briefly:

From Wastrel to Workaholic

“I ended up in investment by complete fluke. I got a firm that wanted to send me to Montreal, Toronto and New York for 18 months called Greenshields. I thought it was a good deal and frankly, I did not have a very high regard for stockbrokers. When I got there I fell under the influence of a mentor who turned me from a wastrel to a workaholic. My feeling is my grandfather changed jobs once in his life. Most of my friends changed jobs two or three times. My grandkids will probably do it five times. You've got to be flexible, open to opportunity when it knocks. I love the statement by... [casino magnate Kirk] Kirkorian, "If you want to win big, bet big." Everyone has to manage their own risk. Keep your mind open to opportunity and when it does knock take a risk... All you risk is a bit of time.”

“The investment business is a much tougher game [today]. It is over regulated. Margins are tougher. I was in the investment business for 50 years and I think those were the best times to be in it.”

Brown complimented Black on his contribution to Canadian journalism as founder of the National Post newspaper.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Black built Hollinger Corporation into the world’s third largest newspaper conglomerate. But Black reminded the audience Hollinger’s roots were in mining.

“I was at one time the largest shareholder of the Noranda Corp which was [Canada's] second biggest natural resources company after Canadian Pacific at the time.”

Then he shared an important lesson about diversification:

“We never had energy, forest products, base metals and precious metals all clicking together at the same time. We had one up, three down, never all of them at once.”

Wealth building career advice from Lord Conrad Black

“Interim finance, however modest your place of entry, at least you've got a window into a lot of different businesses. You will see an opportunity that arises or a type of activity. If your interest is just to make money and you don't mind what business it is as long as it does that for you. The business that does it the best will come up on your radar screen if you are exposed to the alternatives... There's always room for creative financial instruments and new financial techniques. It's a terribly interesting business in itself but it also is a window on every other business. If you get in there and keep your eyes open you'll find something you like and stick with it.”

[LOL - Wall Street career progression in 5 seconds]

Black shared sentiments from his VRIC speech with’s Daniela Cambone: 

Look for Black's full speech and the panel with Brown on Cambridge House’s Youtube channel soon: 

Brown is bullish on copper currently and sees speculative investors returning to mining stocks now.

“Gold has always played a role in my investment portfolio. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not... Where I think we are in the metals market. I think we are in for a couple of years where we could do very well at it. My own view is that copper will... go from artificial surplus to shortage very quickly and I think we are in for good times. There is in the investment world a herd of speculative investors and they move like a herd. They've come out of cannabis now... This pocket of global money in my opinion is definitely moving towards mining stocks, you can see it. So there you go, good luck to you.”

Special thanks to cousin Matthew Nelson, 16, who shared notes from VRIC with me. Follow Matthew's Millions on Instagram.