Steven Scott Bradley honored with 2023 Diversity in Business Lifetime Achievement Award
Steven Scott Bradley jokes that one of the best things to happen to him early in life was getting cut from the basketball team his freshman year of high school. It led Bradley to channel his energy into school, a move that would ultimately lay the groundwork for a successful nearly 40-year career in the insurance industry and one that would set him up to make a major impact on the African American community in Greater Philadelphia.
Bradley’s brand of leadership isn’t unique, but it is one he believes in so deeply and has deployed so effectively that its ripple effects have been felt throughout the region for decades. His leadership style, in essence, is quite simple: build genuine and meaningful relationships and invest in the causes and people you care about – both financially and through volunteerism.
There’s no doubt that Bradley has done both, through his corporate work, nonprofit work and as the longtime chair of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Throughout his career, he has sat on countless boards, been a guiding voice for the community, and a resource for those coming up behind him, with a goal of shining a light on underrepresented communities.
It is for his work and advocacy that the Philadelphia Business Journal is proud to honor Bradley as the 2023 Diversity in Business Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. The award is given annually to leaders in the community that have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to equity and inclusion.
The longest serving chair of the African-American Chamber in its 30-year history, Bradley – who became chair emeritus in November – held the role for 13 years, including through some decisive moments in Philadelphia.
He and the chamber were a voice for Business Income and Receipts Tax, or BIRT, reform. Last year, in part because of the chamber’s lobbying, Philadelphia cut BIRT from 6.2% to 5.99% of net income for businesses, the first time the rate has dipped below 6% since 1988. The measure was lauded by the business community as a signifier that Philadelphia would become more business friendly.
“I really wanted the chamber to be relevant, whether it was politically, whether it was taxes, whether it was the Sixers stadium, those kinds of issues – I wanted us to be in a room and be part of those discussions,” Bradley, 60, said.
The chamber, under Bradley’s leadership, also supported Mayor Jim Kenney’s controversial soda tax bill. Between 2017 and 2022, the Office of the Controller for Philadelphia reported the tax has generated $409.2 million. Of that, $158.1 million went to pre-kindergarten spending and $19.1 million to community schools. The potential positive impact on education was part of why Bradley and the chamber supported it.
Education is something dear to Bradley. The Delaware County native graduated from Darby Township High School, where he was student body president and salutatorian. He then went on to study economics and mathematics at Fisk University, a historically Black college in Tennessee.
Looking to learn new skills, Bradley participated in the Outward Bound program at Swarthmore College during his high school years before getting involved in Inroads while at Fisk. The program was designed “to get more minorities in corporate America,” he said. It would prove pivotal for Bradley, who up until that point didn’t have a career in insurance on his radar.
Historically, the industry has had little diversity, though that is slowly changing. In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the insurance industry was comprised of 77.9% white individuals. Black or African American individuals made up the next largest portion of the workforce at just 13.2%.
Bradley began his career at Continental Insurance in Philadelphia before working at Hanover Insurance, Cigna, and Watlington & Cooper. In 2001, he struck out on his own, launching Bradley & Bradley Associates in Philadelphia.
He began the firm with just one other person and though headcount never swelled – the firm has never employed more than five people – his big clients are a testament to Bradley’s ability to build and maintain relationships. Bradley & Bradley counts the likes of Brandywine Realty Trust, the City of Philadelphia, the Urban League of Philadelphia and Urban Affairs Coalition among clients.
In December, the company was acquired by the fast-growing Atlanta firm OneDigital.
“It’s been a great career, to build something from scratch and to get bought out was a rewarding experience,” he said.
The mentorship he received early on is something he has paid forward. “I’ve always tried to motivate and bring [in] young people, whether it was summer internships or speaking engagements in high schools to tell them this is an option,” he said.
More than exposing Bradley to the insurance industry, his time at Inroads taught him a bevy of skills he wouldn’t learn in the classroom. “One of the best things about this program is they taught you soft skills,” he said. “…They assigned a mentor to you every summer whose responsibility was to take you out to lunch, take you golfing and take you to baseball games, so that by the time you graduated you not only had the technical skills, but you had the social skills and networking skills, the business development skills.”
Those are the same skills he still leans on today and has used to effectively impart change on Philadelphia.
His community involvement extends beyond the chamber, serving on the boards for Foundation for Delaware County, the Philadelphia Foundation, the Urban Affairs Coalition, and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, among others. Through the World Trade Center, where he today is vice chair, Bradley has been carrying his mission across the globe. He was first tapped for a trade mission by former Mayor Michael Nutter in 2013 and has served on missions to China and South Korea, the United Kingdom and Israel, Germany, and this summer to Ghana.
Bradley said it’s been satisfying to meet with others and show them that “Philadelphia is progressive.” That’s a message he believes is integral to helping the city compete on the global stage and letting the “world know we are competitive, that we have resources and let the world know that we’re diverse,” Bradley said.
His experience promoting Philadelphia on the global stage made him a natural fit for the board of Philadelphia Soccer 2026, the organization that led the bid for the city to host the FIFA World Cup in three years. As plans continue to progress, Bradley is one of the voices ensuring diverse businesses will be as much a part of the games as possible. The World Cup is expected to draw some 500,000 visitors and give the region’s economy a $460 million boost.
As impactful as his career has been, Bradley said one of his biggest points of pride is the ripple effect it’s had, supporting and creating space for other diverse leaders who are shaping the city and in turn doing the same for generations to follow.
“I hope that’s a reflection of my leadership and making sure that once I got in, I opened the doors so that other people can be invited in and can be prepared to contribute,” Bradley said.