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Forty Under 40 Award winner Q&A: Salman Ahmed

This year’s cohort of recipients will be celebrated at an event Feb. 7, 2024

BIV is recognizing Salman Ahmed, CIO of Steadyhand Investment Management, and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.

Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.

This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

I quit my job in 2009 with nothing in-hand and at a time when the financial industry was falling apart. I decided to backpack around the world instead. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made. Seeing different parts or the world was exciting. But spending time with people of different backgrounds and hearing their perspectives was even more rewarding. It gave me clarity on what I valued: Using my skills and interests to leave the world better than how I found it. That clarity led me to the work we're doing at Steadyhand today.

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

Firing someone is never easy. It's even harder when you count that person as a friend. I spent many sleepless nights when confronted with this situation until I was reminded by a mentor that one of the responsibilities of a leader is to help the team succeed, not just an individual. It made the decision easier because it was obvious my friend was holding the team back. The faster I fired this individual, the sooner the team could reach its potential. That might mean ruining a friendship, but it comes with the territory when you lead.

How do you lead?

Leadership is being adaptable. Circumstances evolve and people looking at a leader for direction are each unique. So, it makes little sense to use a single style of leadership. Great leaders, in my experience, mold their methods to best suit the situation or people they're working with.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?

Success has two ingredients: Hard work and a lot of luck. I don't know anyone with a successful career that doesn't work their butt off. Unfortunately, I also know many hard-working people that haven't had luck go their way. Luck is more important than people are willing to admit. For every one success, there are dozens that tried something similar, but failed. Luck can come from where you were born or where you grew up. It can also come from working on an idea just before it goes mainstream or being at the right place at the right time.

Best piece of advice ever received?

Spend time on what you can control.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

It won't get any easier, so enjoy yourself a bit more.

What's left to accomplish?

There is still a lot to improve in the investment landscape to give Canadians the investment experience they deserve. Unfortunately, Canada is still behind when it comes to transparency, proficiency requirements, service standards and product quality.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?

My parents gave up everything to move to Canada, so I could have a great education. Their sacrifices made me. Thank you Ammi and Abbu! You need someone in your life that pushes you to be better in all aspects of your life and supports you through your best and worst times. My wife Ashley, my brother Talha and cousin Shehryar have played that role my entire life. I've been fortunate to have amazing mentors whose lessons shape my career and life – Tom Bradley, Scott Mackenzie, David Toyne and Neil Jensen. Thank you for letting me stand on your shoulders.

Read Q&As with all 40 award recipients here. Tickets to the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 7 are now available.