“Building wealth goes beyond simply investing”
Long before Dean Bradshaw began his career in wealth management, he planned to become a professional golfer. Fresh out of high school, Dean left his hometown of Calgary, Alberta for the greens of Victoria, B.C. where he could pursue his passion full time.
But as most golfers will attest, the ball doesn’t always land where you aim it. “My credit card didn’t understand that you don’t get paid regularly when you’re playing competitive golf,” laughs Dean. “So I had to find an interim ‘real’ job.”
Dean became a wire operator at Midland Walwyn in Victoria, starting at the ground floor of the brokerage firm and getting a taste of what a career in the finance industry might look like. Because of the time difference between B.C. and Ontario, he could start work with Midland at 5 a.m. and finish in time to play and practice golf full-time in the afternoon and evenings.
After a couple of years, Dean had gained enough experience at Midland to realize that finance was what he wanted to do full-time. So he moved back to Calgary and focused on becoming an advisor.
“I was a wire operator and floor trader for three years and jumped around with a few advisors – after hours cold call stuff. I learned. And once I decided to start my own practice in 1998, Cresco Wealth Management was born.”
Those early years on the administrative/operations side gave Dean a good behind the scenes look at the finance and investment industry. What he learned in the beginning of his career continues to guide the practice today, 25 years later.
One of his biggest insights: building wealth goes beyond simply investing. For Dean, it’s about getting to know clients on a personal level, taking a holistic view and always being there to support and guide them during life’s biggest moments.
“We gained a lot of success fairly rapidly by just being honest and talking to clients in the way I would want to be talked to,” says Dean. “We say, from the client’s perspective, what aren't you getting that you should be getting? What aren't you being told that you should be told? And what are you buying that you shouldn't be buying? And how are you putting all of this together?”
When he started Cresco, Dean built a team that could help clients through all aspects of the wealth management process. He hired his own insurance consultant, his own financial consultant, tax accountant, and his own estate and trust lawyer. His intent was to provide a truly holistic experience for clients – all in one shop.
Clients are human beings, not portfolios.
“One of the big reasons we joined Wellington-Altus Private Wealth (Wellington-Altus) in 2019 was to continue to build out Cresco for the benefit of the client. At Wellington-Altus we still have bank security, but we have full flexibility for true wealth management. Our industry is full of stockbrokers who are hiding under a dozen advisory titles or wealth advisor titles, but really, it's just about portfolio performance. Most clients don't understand the risk they have until after the fact. I don't think most advisors understand the risk they're putting their clients in till after the fact either,” says Dean. “We're no good to anybody after the fact.”
“Lots of clients call us for many different things, both good and bad,” says Dean. One client was vacationing when his wife died suddenly. “He called me and said, ‘what do I do?’ I said, ‘we’ll charter a private plane so we can get you out of there right away and get you home.’ Clients call us when they're in that kind of position. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say I bawled my eyes out after, because you really get attached to the relationships.”
Not all big moments are as tragic. Dean helped a client access the private wealth he had stuck in a privately traded company. As a senior executive, he couldn’t liquidate. Although his client’s wealth was large enough to allow the next couple of generations of his family members to retire, he felt stuck. Dean showed him that he wasn’t.
“I said ‘you have large blackout periods. If you quit, you have 30 days and then you can sell whenever you want to sell. You can be done and do all the things you want to do and live the life you truly want to live.’ They called me back the next day said they’d put in his letter of resignation. In 30 days we would shop his stock.”
They were able to get liquid on almost all of his position. And within two years the company went defunct. “To this day they never question anything we do. That relationship continues to grow. And that's really our whole relationship with all of our clients.”
Dean doesn’t take his clients’ trust for granted. “Trust is earned. When we moved to Wellington we moved the majority of our clients in a short period of time. We take what clients pay us for seriously. We make sure we can deliver what we want to deliver for them and have the flexibility to deliver it. We don't do perfect. Perfect doesn't exist. We do apologies, we try to have as much fun as we can and we take our job seriously. Clients understand that and treat us like human beings too.”
Today, Cresco is home to a team of 20 people and a client list of about 430 households. With relationships a top priority, any one relationship manager can have no more than 75 or 80 clients. “We structured the business so that we can always call the client. In 2008, I called clients all day every day when the market was going to zero,” says Dean. “We steered them through it by just being real with them.”
Our internal mantra:
We want every one of our clients to be a raving advocate of what we do.
Cresco’s focus on personal relationships works. “Our prospective clients are out interviewing advisors and we win way more than our fair share of the business because people just can't compete with us,” says Dean. Dean and Wellington-Altus also win more than their fair share of awards.
In October 2021, Dean himself was recognized on the Globe and Mail’s inaugural ranking of Canada’s Top Wealth Advisors. It’s a new list that celebrates excellence in the industry and highlights the best financial support available across the country. “We have the large team scalability but with the smaller, more focused client list.”
Dean is in the process of taking Cresco’s wealth management support across the country, adding shops and adding people. Cresco recently opened a satellite office in Grande Prairie, Alberta, with branches opened or soon to open in Vancouver and Toronto under the Wellington umbrella.
Helping people do their best doesn’t end with the workday.
Dean coached his son during hockey and has taken on the role of golf coach for this son, who is in San Francisco on a golf scholarship. He is also part owner of the Global Sports Academy in Calgary, a school for high-achieving athletes that his son attended in grades 11 and 12. His daughter, an aspiring dancer, also attends Global.
While Dean chose finance over the fairway, he continues to golf and has recently started to once again play competitively. And with more than 25 years of experience in wealth management guiding his practice, Dean still hangs onto advice he was given way back in his competitive golfing days. “If you have to tell people you're good, you're not that good.’
“So we continue to let our actions speak for themselves. We're not perfect but we seem to be doing OK.”
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Janice Tuff is a professional writer and communicator who got her start in radio copywriting.
Three decades later, she continues to draw upon the valuable lessons learned in her radio days: grab your audience’s attention quickly and always tell an engaging tale.
Dean Bradshaw, Senior Investment Advisor
222 3rd Ave. SW, Suite 1650,
Calgary, AB, T2P 0B4