Friday, May 23, 2008

The Steadyhand Diaries

Financial services might not be the most riveting of diary subjects, and financial services in Canada may be even less so, but Tom Bradley has done a good job in bringing the subject alive. A generous selection of his diary entries have just been published in Globe Investor Magazine, a supplement of Globe and Mail, the country’s largest circulation national newspaper.

In early 2005, Bradley resigned as president of Phillips, Hager & North (PHN), one of Canada’s largest independent investment firms. A year later he wrote in his diary: ‘I want to focus on getting a new mutual-fund company off the ground. Enough dreaming about it. We'll burn through some serious cash and I'll offend a few industry friends along the way, but if we do it right and get a little luck, we can have a real impact. Steadyhand, as I’ve called it, will sell its funds directly to the investor. Our fees will be low - no commissions or trailers. Clients will get simple, straight-ahead service. . .’

Five pages of Bradley’s diary entries - entitled ‘The Steadyhand Diaries’ - were published online by Globe Investor Magazine on 22 May. Starting in 2005, they cover three years of Bradley’s life through to early 2008, the day his old firm, PHN, announced it was selling out to Royal Bank. Along the way, he describes, with a deft touch, how many of the decisions in developing and launching Steadyhand were made (for example, ‘we just hired a CFO who’s six months pregnant. Are we nuts...or incredibly enlightened?’).

The launch of Steadyhand took place in April 2007. A week later Bradley writes, ‘the silence is deafening’, and ‘a few clients are trickling in, but I can tell the team is disappointed’, and ‘Man, it’s tough putting bums in the seats’.

And it was especially tough for Bradley too, because - according to his diary - he’d been seriously ill since the beginning of the year, and by May was on the waiting list for a liver transplant. It came in August, and by October he had officially returned to work, presumably with his steady hand back on the tiller.

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