Entrepreneur of the Year 2023: Danny Popescu plans to grow Harbourfront to $1.5 billion in 5 years

He started Harbourfront with $11 million personal investment

The Kickoff: A love for skiing and mountain biking prompted Danny Popescu to move from Toronto to Vancouver in 2001. He arrived as an experienced bank teller and started working as a financial advisor at an independent firm in downtown Vancouver. “I dealt very closely with clients,” he says, “so I was able to see what their challenges are, what their emotions are and how they react in different market corrections.”

Popescu observed the different ways people interact with money and experience fear around it, noticing that clients with traditional investment portfolios were often too vulnerable to the volatilities of the stock market. To help them diversify beyond stocks and bonds, he launched Harbourfront Wealth Management in 2013 with $11 million in personal investment.

Action Plan: “We specialize in private securities,” says Popescu. Harbourfront has innovated to make investment vehicles such as private equity and private real estate—avenues typically open to large pension funds—suitable for retail Canadian investors.

And even though convincing people to make financial changes remains a challenge, Popescu was able to grow the company’s assets under management from $250 million to $5 billion and its team of six people to almost 300 employees. When asked about his leadership style throughout this journey, he says he’s not very official.

“I can be vulnerable, which allows them to be vulnerable,” he explains.

In 10 years of running Harbourfront, Popescu’s proudest moment is a recent partnership with Boston-based private equity firm Audax Private Equity, which hiked up the company’s value to $425 million.

Closing Statement: Harbourfront has 28 branches across Canada, and Popescu is working to increase the company’s enterprise value to $1.5 billion over the next five years through acquisitions, tech investments and other strategies. Its charity arm, Harbourfront Gives, has donated more than $300,000 to organizations over the years.


Your proudest moment in business:

The partnership with Audax because that truly validated our thesis and the various things that we’ve been doing over the previous nine years.

Do you have any Embarrassing obsessions?

Coke Zero.