Weekend Warrior: Wayne Wachell gets into the swing of things

The Genus Capital co-founder and CEO serves up advice on staying active.

Credit: Albert Law

The Genus Capital co-founder and CEO serves up advice on staying active

Wayne Wachell got a bit of a late start with the game of tennis, but he’s more than made up for it over the years. The then–University of Alberta student was 20 when he began watching Argentine tennis sensation Guillermo Vilas. “He was kind of like Rafael Nadal back in 1975,” Wachell recalls. “So I picked up a tennis racket and started hitting with a friend and thought, Wow, I can do this pretty good.”

Cut to 45 years later, and the co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Genus Capital Management admits that he’s probably played “a little more than my wife would like.” But there have been some slight adjustments over the decades. As the Wachell family grew (he now has two adult children), cutting out on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. to return serves wasn’t going to fly anymore.

“I quickly got a new program, started playing at 7 a.m. in the morning and would walk in as the kids were getting up,” Wachell says. “Every morning I’m up at 5:30 because of the markets, and at my age, fitness is everything. Tennis helps keep my muscle mass and my flexibility.”

Though the kids have long since left Wachell’s West Vancouver coop, the man sticks to the early morning routine and now has a long list of counterparts to battle at Jericho Tennis Club.

“I’ve got a pretty big crew that I hit with. People go away, go on holidays, get injured,” he says. “You have to have a set of probably about seven that basically rotate. A couple are more regular in terms of playing once a week. But you can never have enough tennis partners; that’s just the nature of the game.”

Like Vilas, Wachell is something of a baseliner, a player who mostly operates from the back of the court and hits powerful groundstrokes. But he’s also apparently taken some lessons from how the former pro handled himself off the court.

Vilas was famously composed (he wrote poetry and was a heavy reader) in an era known for prickly competitors like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. For his part, Wachell puts a strong emphasis on the concept of flow.

“One of the things that’s really important for happiness is having flow,” he says. “My wife said to me the other day, ‘You’ve got a lot of flow in your life.’ Tennis gives you flow, in terms of your mind focusing on something and being in that space. It’s really a form of meditation, I think.”

Wachell also derives flow from another weekend activity that he’s picked up in the past couple of years: maintaining the creek bed, or riparian zone, that runs through his West Van property.

“I go down there and three hours will have gone by; it’s just sort of a Zen thing,” he says of gardening and preserving the area. “You get the oxygen coming off the creek; it’s really special. I’ll go down there tired after tennis, and after half an hour I’m invigorated.”

Wachell hopes to play in some tennis tournaments in the future but doesn’t appear to be in a rush to change his current routine. “I’m lucky that I have two things that really help me with flow in my life, and make for spending more time outside versus sitting on the couch watching TV. I think it’s going to help me live a lot longer.

“Like Clint Eastwood says: I don’t let the old man in.”

Warrior Spotlight

Vancouver-based Genus Capital Management celebrated its 30th anniversary this summer. The investment firm, which has 34 employees, manages $1.5 billion in assets for individuals, foundations and institutions. Genus has also generated a reputation for socially responsible investing, as co-founders Wayne Wachell and Leslie Cliff have prioritized combatting global warming and moving away from fossil fuels. “That’s been our growth area–clients that are concerned about climate change,” Wachell says. “We have investment solutions for clients that want to meet their financial goals but want to have portfolios that are more aligned with their values.”