As founder of one of the fastest growing independent wealth management firms in Canada, Danny Popescu is perfectly positioned to make a difference in the North American financial services industry — and he is wasting no time in doing just that.
By bringing the benefits of pension-style, private investment vehicles to retail investors, he is opening up access to a much broader range of individuals and institutions in Canada.
Danny launched Harbourfront Wealth Management with an $11 million personal investment and six employees. In 2022, the enterprise value of the firm rose to $425 million, when the Boston-based private equity firm Audax Private Equity Group purchased a stake in the company via a nine-figure investment. Today, Harbourfront Wealth has over 270 employees across Canada and 28 locations.
Recently, Danny Popescu sat down to discuss the financial services landscape and the legacy he is creating.
Q: What was the genesis of Harbourfront Wealth Management?
Danny Popescu: I thought about building a client focused investment firm for many years. What I realized was that investors in Canada are very limited in their investment choices and are typically restricted to traditional asset classes like public securities — stocks and bonds — even as pension plans and institutional investors globally have significant access to other strategies, like private investments, i.e. private equity, private real estate, and so on.
For the best interests of our clients, I decided I would research the pension space to see how I might be able to restructure these investments so that they’re suitable for retail investors. I knew that I simply couldn’t do that running a business at a bank. So, that was the main driver for my firm’s vision – enable access to private securities and power purpose-driven independent advisors to help Canadians to achieve financial independence.
Q: What is your philosophy when it comes to wealth management?
Danny Popescu: The best way to define wealth management is to take the phrase literally. It’s managing your wealth, which means it’s beyond investing in stocks and bonds. Managing your wealth means you manage your tax considerations, your estate, and any trusts’ needs, you need income projections, a comprehensive asset mix which includes real estate, private credit, private equity etc.
Q: How do you go about recruiting? Is there a particular way you find the best talent for Harbourfront Wealth Management?
Danny Popescu: We have a full recruiting salesforce and our “PowerFit Criteria” to ensure potential advisors align to our “Values of Worth” and our mission. Our Advisor Review team builds relationships with advisors and assesses whether they meet our criteria. What we’re finding is that we’re actually getting a lot of referrals from existing advisors given the experience they are having at Harbourfront Wealth.
Q: What would you say is the number one misconception that many investors have about markets?
Danny Popescu: Whether it’s a misconception or just lack of knowledge or understanding, the biggest issue retail investors face is that they allow their emotions to dictate major investment decisions. We’re all guilty of this to some extent; but unfortunately emotion is probably the number one killer of financial success. Your own emotions are often your biggest enemy.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your business?
Danny Popescu: The most rewarding part of our business is knowing that we’re leaving a legacy and that we’re actually shaping the investment industry in Canada. The way investors will invest in ten years will be very different from the way they invest today.
We’ve pioneered the democratization of private securities and coined the phrase “retail friendly private securities”, and Canadian banks are already taking notice. While banks and other large conglomerates move very slowly, they will have to eventually participate or risk losing clients. In the long run, the movement we’ve started will benefit all Canadian investors.
We’re not successful because of one of the things that we do – we’re successful because of the overall recipe. We have a great offering for clients and at the same time, we have a great offering for advisors. On our platform, advisors can truly build wealth for their clients, while building wealth for themselves. I think overall that’s our value proposition, and that’s why people join us.