An Interview with Bruce Moffatt of Terra Cotta Financial Group About the Importance of Honesty, Empathy, and Self-Determination

A native of Etobicoke, Ontario, Bruce Moffatt has been a repeat entrepreneur from his teenage years onward. He emulated his grandfather, a successful Etobicoke entrepreneur and businessman, by creating and running a number of businesses in his 20s. Eventually, he found his professional calling in the financial industry as an investment advisor and portfolio manager. […]

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A native of Etobicoke, Ontario, Bruce Moffatt has been a repeat entrepreneur from his teenage years onward. He emulated his grandfather, a successful Etobicoke entrepreneur and businessman, by creating and running a number of businesses in his 20s. Eventually, he found his professional calling in the financial industry as an investment advisor and portfolio manager. Bruce Moffatt’s professional designation is Certified Investment Management Analyst. He earned this credential by attending The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in his 30s. He reports it was unequivocally the most challenging academic pursuit of his life, yet also the most intellectually rewarding.

These days, Bruce is the Managing Partner of Terra Cotta Financial Group. He spends his days innovating, growing, and guiding clients toward their financial goals.

When Bruce isn’t running his company and dispensing financial advice, he is an accomplished off-road motorcycle racer, having won bronze and silver medals representing Canada at World Championship Enduro events in Europe and across North America. Bruce Moffatt has been happily married for almost 37 years, and has two sons.

Why did you decide to create your own business?

I was feeling frustrated and limited in what I was able to do for sophisticated clients. I saw the innovation occurring in the US with independent firms (non-bank owned firms), so after 22 years in the investment management industry being employed by big corporations, I had the knowledge, skills, and registrations to be able to step out and create a firm that could be innovative and cutting-edge.

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

I love the creativity needed to develop the ideas and solutions needed to meet the financial goals of clients, as well as delivering those ideas and solutions to clients.

What does a typical day consist of for you?

Wow. This is such a multi-faceted answer. My day consists of analysis, due diligence on new investments, corporate and executive management issues, client conversations, staff oversight and guidance, and welcoming new clients on-board. There are other aspects to my position, but most of my tasks generally fall under one of those headings.

What keeps you motivated?

The freedom to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want.

How do you motivate others?

I think of my role in motivating others as being a “coach”, which incorporates elements of encouragement, training, compensation, and always ensuring they have what they need to be the best they can be. It is also very important to care for each member of my team on an individual level.

How has your company grown from its early days to now?

Adding great people to our team has helped the company in many aspects of our operations, some of which include creativity, networking, as well as diversity of skill sets and lifestyles. Expanding our company on these fronts has grown our revenue and assets exponentially.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

As part of an entrepreneur networking group, I am always inspired and amazed at the confidence, passion, and drive of other business owners toward their personal and business goals.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My role models are all sports figures that have exhibited sheer skill, toughness, and humility throughout the course of their careers. Bobby Orr and Roger DeCoster top my list.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

This goes back to my answer from question four—doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want. It allows me to fit the people, things, and experiences that are important to me into my life.

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

I have always marched to my own drummer. That is, I don’t have a conventional outlook on life and business. You could call it an extreme case of lateral thinking. It got me into trouble when I worked at big corporations, however it has served me well as an entrepreneur.             

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

Start as an intern or associate with a successful advisory team. Although, it should be noted that this industry is tough to break into nowadays. If you do manage to break into the industry, though, I will say this: Forget most of what they taught you in university.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

It’s an “eat what you kill” business. There is no salary, no base. You build it yourself through good times and bad. That being the case, maintaining my lifestyle and looking after my family through tough economic times was an incredible hurdle in the early days. I overcame that hurdle by working hard, serving clients well, and making smart decisions.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

“Be shrewd and prudent—never fall in love with the deal.”

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Getting married at a young age to a fabulous woman who puts up with me and keeps me focused. We still have fun together. This year is our 37th anniversary!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

Remember that you don’t make money, you earn money. Only when you deliver quality goods or services and have satisfied clients have you earned your money, fees, or commissions.

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

There are so many. But I’ve learned that being honest and empathetic are of paramount importance in a general sense. Specifically, I’ve learned it’s unwise to say anything about anyone when they are not present that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

I would like to think that I’m a great father and husband—at least, I try my best. You’ll have to get confirmation on that from my wife and kids. Also, many people find it amazing that I still race motocross. I still head to the track most weekends to compete against guys 20+ years younger than me. Friends and clients comment and ask me about it all the time.

Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?

In 5 years, I will be managing a larger team of skilled advisors, analysts, and support staff, concentrating on executive management functions from my offices in Kelowna, BC—and I will still be having fun. The business will have in excess of $1 billion of assets under its administration and will remain extremely profitable. I will definitely still be racing motocross, as well.

Explain the proudest day of your professional life.

In my early days with a bank owned firm, I was extremely driven. I actually had to set an alarm clock on my desk to stop working, or else incur the wrath of arriving home late for dinner. At that time, I was highlighted in the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business in a February 1994 feature article—picture and all—for being a leader in financial planning using laptop-based planning software. Up till then most of the senior guys in my branch didn’t even know who I was.

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