On April 19, 2017, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce inducted seven Omaha-area business leaders into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees included Edson L. Bridges II, founder of Bridges Investment Counsel, Inc., Bridges Investment Fund, Inc. and Provident Trust Company.
Edson’s life has been defined by several pivotal moments: his coming to faith as a child, his years at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, and summers spent working on a Vermont dairy farm. “That gave me an insight into the fact that you can work hard and still enjoy life. … It’s a foundation stone that came into play later in life,” he said.
After earning his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska and M.B.A. from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, Edson returned to Omaha to begin his career in the wealth management field in 1959 when he joined his father’s investment advisory business. “We had maybe 10 or so families that dad had as clients, so maybe there’s 20 portfolios, but the total fee income in 1959 was $8,000. The next couple of years were $13,000, $19,000, $24,000 and then $33,000.” he said.
In 1963, Edson successfully organized and launched Bridges Investment Fund, the first Nebraska-based mutual fund to be registered under the Investment Company Act. “That’s an important piece of work,” Edson remembers, “because we had to do it on a shoestring.”
He went on to receive his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1967 and has served as President of Bridges Investment Counsel, Inc. since 1970.
In 1990 Edson saw the need for an independent Trust Company to provide trust services in and around the Omaha area. On March 11, 1992, through Edson’s hard work and vision, Provident Trust Company was chartered by the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance to conduct business as an independent trust company.
Faith, honesty and integrity have been the cornerstones on which Edson built his business. “To be able to earn people’s trust, you always have to be sure you tell them the truth,” he said. “And you also have to be in a position where you can go the extra mile.” The result of that dedication has been incredible growth. Today, Bridges Investment Counsel and its affiliated entities provide investment management services for nearly $1.7 billion in assets for clients in 26 states.
Edson credits his son, Ted, President and CEO of Bridges Investment Management, who joined the firm in 1982, with much of the success the Bridges companies have enjoyed. “He’s really the boss now and wants to be the boss,” Edson said. “You have to feel good about that.”
Although Edson remains active in the business, he describes himself as 5/8 retired now. An active philanthropist, he finds time to serve as a director or member of various boards and organizations, including Nebraska Methodist Hospital, the University of Nebraska Foundation and First Covenant Church of Omaha. “Volunteerism is a big thing,” he said. “I feel so privileged to be on the boards I’ve served on.”
As for his greatest personal reward? That, he says, is being married to his “honey,” Sally, for 61 years. “So that’s the most important thing,” he said. “I think the other reward is all of the people I’ve been privileged to meet and all of the opportunities people have given me.”
Omaha Business Hall of Fame inductees are community and business leaders, past and present, whose work stands as a testament to their innovative thinking, business leadership, and never-say-never commitment to their industry and community. Edson joins a prestigious list of past inductees, including, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffet, Nebraska Furniture Mart Founder Rose Blumkin, Boys Town founder Fr. Edward Flanagan, and former Peter Kiewit Sons’ Chairman and President Walter Scott, Jr.
For more information about the Omaha Business Hall of Fame please visit the Omaha Chamber of Commerce website at www.omahachamber.org.