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Money for something: Steadyhand Investment Funds Inc.’s Tom Bradley is taking on the big banks

Tom Bradley broke into the investment game in 1983 as a stock analyst at Richardson Greenshields. Bradley is currently the President and co-founder of Steadyhand Investments.

Tom Bradley wakes up some mornings “scared shitless.” In those moments, the president and co-founder of Steadyhand Investments Inc. wonders how his firm’s mutual funds may possibly compete against the dominance of Canada’s biggest banks.

“It seems like they could just crush us,” he explained. “They are so powerful and also have their hooks within the client in a lot of ways.”

But Bradley is quick to remind himself every time this sense of dread overcomes him that Steadyhand’s success since opening its doors in 2007 is largely because it isn’t good quality way as Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank or the Big 6.

In many different ways, its resolve for investing – not marketing or moving product out the door – has positioned the Vancouver-based company in a completely opposite fashion. And by staying centered on clients who want an alternative, he’s seeing less reason to worry and more reason to believe his firm will keep up with the large guys.

Veteran manager Tom Bradley explains the case against index-linked GIC\’s

Tom Bradley has been in the investment industry for more than 3 decades: he has been a equity analyst, a portfolio manager, a professional (he was the chief executive at Phillips Hager & North, one of country\’s oldest institutional money managers that was sold to the Royal Bank in 2008) and the founder of another money manager, Steadyhand Investment Funds. Read on

“We\’re ambitious. We believe we can be considered a significant player in Canada,” Bradley said, adding the firm recently passed $500 million in assets under management.

“Whenever we started, we thought we would be more of a niche firm for real keeners and investment geeks, but we\’ve evolved and with the service platform and advice and also the lineup we have, we don\’t know why 80 per cent of Canadians couldn\’t be clients of Steadyhand.”

That, of course, would be a tall order for even the biggest bank, not to mention a smaller firm such as Steadyhand, but Bradley has been around long enough to be aware what it takes to achieve success.

Bradley broke into the investment game in 1983 like a stock analyst at Richardson Greenshields, the previous investment dealer bought by RBC Dominion Securities in 1996. He stayed there for nearly a decade before joining the equity research team of Vancouver-based Phillips Hagar & North in 1991.

Bradley climbed the ranks at PH&N within the next eight many in 1999 was named its leader, a role he held until his resignation in 2005.

“We weren\’t throwing chairs at one another, but I had some differences with the board and stepped aside and then decided to leave,” he explained.

Bradley spent a lot of the next year relaxing at his family cottage in Northern Ontario, but he seemed to be on the lookout for his next opportunity. Through the spring of 2006, he and his wife Lori, alongside Neil Jensen, who\’s now chief operating officer of Steadyhand, go about launching an investment firm.

One year later, in April 2007, the task was complete, but simply weeks before Steadyhand’s doors opened, Bradley fell ill from a liver disease first diagnosed in his late 20s and was told he needed a transplant.

In early May, Bradley officially went on the transplant list and couldn\’t travel. He was then put out of commission for around a month as he finally got his new liver that August.

“I began coming back in to the office after 8 weeks,” he said. “Describing it now, it appears ridiculous that we didn\’t pull the plug, but I was very optimistic about the operation and that we were all pumped about Steadyhand.”

Bradley hasn’t missed a number of days since then. Under his watch, Steadyhand has continued to expand its presence within the five provinces it operates in, although British Columbia and Ontario account for close to 90% of its total assets under management.

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“They’ve passed an essential milestone,” said Dan Hallett, a vice-president at Highview Financial Group, a boutique wealth investment counselling firm in Oakville, Ont. “Most of us are rooting for him to really make it a success. He is very smart, very knowledgeable and something of the most upstanding people I have met in the market in the 20 years I have been inside it.”

Not surprisingly, Bradley believes much of this success is due to the team surrounding him, including co-founder Jensen, who runs the firm on a day-to-day basis and whose tech savvy and entrepreneurial spirit have been integral.

“Neil made it happen. He’s a doer,” he said. “I had no entrepreneurial bones within my body, so his \’do what it takes to get it done\’ and willingness to bootstrap in the past was invaluable.”

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