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STEPHEN R. BINDER, BA, CPA, CA Senior Private Client Business Advisor at KJ Harrison Investors


When Richard Carlson wrote his best-selling book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff,” he encouraged us to use his strategies to put life’s little stressors into perspective. Although this may be good advice for our personal lives, when we fail to recognize even minor irritants in our business lives it can sour relationships, damage trust, and be a catalyst for clients to abandon ship.

David Maister, former Harvard Business professor and author, once said, “Professionals are NEVER hired because of their technical abilities.” Stephen Binder Senior Private Client Business Advisor at KJ Harrison Investors (KJH), agrees. “I believe that what separates a successful professional from an unsuccessful one is his or her willingness to sweat the small stuff. And, it’s always the small stuff that drives clients crazy,” Stephen says.

Stephen rose in the ranks because he instinctively knew how important it was to focus on the small stuff. And it paid off – by the end of his CPA career, he was a senior partner and the National Private Business Leader at Grant Thornton LLP. “I attribute much of my success to being a really good listener, to focusing on helping people rather than on selling them my own services, and then on delivering what I call awesome client service,” the 45-year financial services veteran says.

Stephen is now a proud partner at KJ Harrison Investors, an independent investment firm located in Toronto, supporting KJH in their wealth management strategies for affluent individuals. His areas of expertise include business strategy, financial strategy, private enterprise tax planning services, succession and estate planning, profit and operational improvement, and liquidity/exit strategies.

Philosophy & Approach

KJH applies all of its efforts towards generating exceptional long-term, risk adjusted rates of return, providing advice around the complexities of wealth, and delivering awesome client service.

The firm works with a limited number of families and individuals. “Job one is protecting our clients’ capital. None of our clients have ever said they wanted more volatility in their financial lives. One of the things that sets us apart is that we offer our clients a smoother financial journey with less volatility. Our philosophy and approach allows clients to feel more secure about their finances, wealth management, and lives,” Stephen explains.

The firm has three components to its structure. Stephen and the KJH Private Client Team work directly with clients on their individual plans and what clients describe as an amazing on-boarding process. The KJH Investment Team focuses on selecting the right securities for each KJH Fund mandate, and the KJH Operations Team is responsible for all reporting and regulatory functions.

As well, as part of the on boarding process, new clients are introduced to key team members. This back-up approach ensures clients always have a senior person they know, if, for any reason, their KJH Private Client Team advisor is not available.

The firm also assists clients with philanthropy and provide education around financial literacy to their clients’ children. “We don’t just manage our clients’ portfolios. We are wealth managers in every sense of the word, and we know that wealth is more than finances. There is, after all, life beyond our investment portfolios.”

Awesome Client Service

Stephen believes clients judge you on two dimensions – outcomes and process – and that ongoing and proactive communication is a key component of the process dimension. This includes being an exceptional listener, responding to client requests or communications immediately, and certainly no later than by the end of the business day.

KJH weekly communications include webcasts, important market updates, tax reminders, client letters, and fund summaries/commentaries. KJH Fund updates are published every month, and detailed portfolio performance reports are delivered and discussed every quarter. The firm also publishes other articles of interest including Wealth, Health and Kids™, Value Wines, and the Art of Investing.

Every quarter, the KJH Investment Team hosts a luncheon to give clients some perspective on the economy and the market and to provide insight on how the KJH Investment Team is allocating and investing capital. At other events, clients hear about the strategies KJH Portfolio Managers are taking to protect their capital.

“My money is invested in our proprietary KJH funds alongside our clients’ money. We are truly partners in that sense. Any difference would be in the fund allocations, which is why it’s so important to truly understand each client’s short- and long-term goals and to understand what financial success means to him or her. This clarity and understanding is needed to create a customized plan,” Stephen says.

“One size fits all does not work for us or for our clients. An ‘off-the-rack’ suit may be adequate, but a made-to-measure garment fits better and makes the wearer feel more confident and in control. We want our clients to feel more confident and in control of their finances, and I believe our philosophy and approach helps them to do so.”

Clients that work with Stephen appreciate his perspective and describe him as a trusted advisor who, “Gets things done, does what he says he is going to do, when he says he is going to do it, and who ultimately is there when they need him.”

Giving Back

KJ Harrison clients have expressed an interest in health, wealth, and children, and this has formed the firm’s community involvement and donations policy. Among others, KJH Cares, supports charities such as Princess Margaret Hospital, Crones and Colitis, Sick Kids Hospital, Red Door, Ronald MacDonald House Charities, Youth Without Shelter, and Second Harvest.

Stephen is a regular speaker and presenter on a variety of financial, strategic, and business topics to a variety of organizations. These include the International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys (FICPI), the Toronto Law Office Managers Association (TLOMA), the Ontario Bar Association (OBA), the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFÉ), Canadian Law Firm Leadership Symposium and the Pharmacy Owners Finance Symposium.

Up Close & Personal

Stephen is an oenophile (wine connoisseur), and plays tennis and guitar – he has played guitar for 55 years. He has two adult daughters, Sarah and Charley, and two healthy, and happy grandsons. Stephen and Carol, whom he describes as the love of his life, are avid travellers, and always have a trip planned , one on the drawing board and one imminent. The couples’ most recent trips include Ireland, The Bluenote Jazz Cruise, Bordeaux, and Nashville.

As a last word, Stephen says, “There are strategic issues in business and in life and insight into both is the currency of a trusted advisor. Trusted advisors don’t make decisions for clients. Rather, they help clients make the best decisions for themselves.”

Suzen Fromstein is the author of Suits and Ladders, Ten Proven Ways to Keep Your Job Safe - with a few jokes thrown in. Suits and Ladders was an Amazon Best Selling Book in the Career Guides Category

KJ Harrison & Partners Inc. · 60 Bedford Road Toronto, Ontario M5R 2K2

877.583.3320 · 416.324.8833

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