Meet Tom Bradley:
Bringing his Texas-sized experience to small advisors
March 12, 2020
By Rob Farmer, Managing Director, Communications
Tom Bradley is a known quantity. When it comes to the financial services industry, Tom’s reputation, experience, and affable personality precede him. He’s well-known, well-connected, and much-beloved in the industry, with a career that includes leadership roles with both the retail and institutional businesses at TD Ameritrade. Now the New Jersey native embarks on the latest chapter of his career -- putting down stakes in Dallas to join Schwab’s Advisor Services group in a leading role serving a key client base – independent advisor firms on the smaller end of the spectrum.
But while the firms under his purview may be small, Tom’s is a big task. Clients in Schwab’s ‘Core’ group comprise more than half of all firms on the Advisor Services platform. Ensuring they’re served in a way that continually meets their unique needs will be Job 1 for Tom and his team. His vast experience and leadership will be critical to success.
"One of the things that has impressed me is just how passionate Schwab is about taking care of the smaller advisor. We’ve got 4,500 smaller advisors managing almost $160 billion. And many of the folks that serve those advisors are right outside my office. I can see how passionate they are about it, and I see the effort and the initiative we have going towards smaller advisors."
Tom Bradley, Senior Vice President, Schwab Advisor Services
As he settles into his new role, and new office, we caught up with Tom to find out a bit more about him, his background, and his vision for what’s ahead.
Tell us about the events that led you to Schwab
When I left TD Ameritrade [in 2017], Bernie Clark was one of the first people to call me. I also had conversations over the years with him and I’d bump into him and Walt Bettinger at conferences. So I had somewhat of a rapport with them. We didn’t talk all the time, but we knew each other and I think there was mutual respect. Over the past couple years I’d been working for private equity firms and I joined a couple of boards. But I felt at some point I’d want to go back and do something again in the corporate world. I looked at a number of opportunities and I just couldn’t get excited about them. I said, ‘But if it comes up, I’ll know it when it happens.’
When the announcement came out that Schwab was buying TD Ameritrade the adrenaline started to flow again. So I sent a couple congratulatory notes out, and soon had calls with Walt and Bernie. I knew I could be helpful, but wasn’t sure exactly how. In the conversation with Bernie, it became apparent that I could probably have a real positive impact on Bernie’s team, in the advisor space.
In less than a week we had that arrangement done. I went to Dallas in mid-December, just before the holidays. Within 24 hours, after looking at five or six properties, my wife Sue and I had a deal on a house. January 6 was a Monday. Sue and I flew to Dallas, checked into a hotel, we closed on the property on the 7th. Sue had arranged for all the furniture to come in on the 8th, and I started work the following Monday.
What’s got you most excited about the role?
I think it’s important to understand my background, starting off at a little company called Waterhouse Securities, founded by Larry Waterhouse. Larry was a phenomenal guy, a visionary. He always admired Chuck Schwab. He ended up selling the company to TD Bank in 1996, but Larry really had the same principle as seeing things through your clients’ eyes. Larry would say, ‘Put yourself in the customers’ shoes.’ Do the right thing for the customer. We had an internal newsletter called ‘Shoes.’
And so I always admired Schwab, and in many respects tried to emulate some of the great things Schwab was doing, but also picking our spots on where to differentiate and where to compete. So that’s really how we cut our teeth with the smaller firms, and why TD Ameritrade has such a reputation for being kind of smaller-firm focused. That’s one of the things that really gets me excited about working with the Core advisor group. When I look at Core, when I look at firms under $100 million, I see the seeds for the future of this industry.
What’s your high-level perspective of the independent advisor industry landscape?
When I got into the advisor custody business, we were just getting started. It was in the early ’90s. I can’t even tell you what the size of the industry was, because I don’t think anybody was measuring it at the time. But, today, you look at the pure custody businesses with approximately $5 trillion in assets in custody, and even beyond that, to the wirehouses and the independent broker-dealers, most of the larger firms today, half their business is fee-based, RIA-focused-type business. I think that’s fascinating to see.
It’s also fascinating to see how these fiercely independent firms are at their early stages of consolidation with a lot of [merger-and-acquisition] activity in the industry, and to look at what’s driving some of that activity – private equity firms and others, large investors, institutional-level investors. So we’ve gone from this small band of rebels, where people might have looked out of the corner of their eye and said, ‘Oh, don’t even pay any attention,’ to suddenly, ‘Wow, this is an incredible business. This is an incredible model. The fiduciary, fee-based model is winning.’ It’s the fastest-growing model in all of financial services. There are reasons for that. Everybody understands it, and many people want a piece of the action, so to speak.
"I always admired Schwab, and in many respects tried to emulate some of the great things Schwab was doing, but also picking our spots on where to differentiate and where to compete. So that’s really how we cut our teeth with the smaller firms, and why TD Ameritrade has such a reputation for being kind of smaller-firm focused. "
What’s the one thing you want our advisors to hear from you as you settle into your new role?
One of the things that has impressed me is just how passionate Schwab is about taking care of the smaller advisor. We’ve got 4,500 smaller advisors managing almost $160 billion. And many of the folks that serve those advisors are right outside my office. I can see how passionate they are about it, and I see the effort and the initiative we have going towards smaller advisors. So I think it’s been kind of a surprise to me to see out there in the press that maybe Schwab is less focused on the smaller advisors. My experience is that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Who inspires you on a personal level?
This country is filled with heroes. And you could expand that to the world, but let’s keep it to the United States. From the founders, to the public servants, to educators, those serving in the military. Millions of people every day trying to make a difference and improve the lives of others. And so the way I think about it is we have so many heroes, that rather than just focus on one or two, I like to make observations, and read about history, and look at what’s going on around us today and every day. I can walk this floor and point to folks that have done great things for our clients. To me, they’re heroes. That’s just kind of how I think about it.
What brings you happiness when you’re not at work?
I spend time with family. You know, there’s a work family, and there’s the home family. And because I have a large home family [Tom and Sue have six children], I try and focus on them when I’m around. Generally, you’ll find us either at the beach or in the mountains. We stay fairly active, like golfing, or surfing, or hiking, or skiing, to motorized sports, with dirt bikes and snowmobiles. So generally I’m spending time with my beautiful wife and kids, doing a variety of things that keep us moving.