An engineering graduate from University of Toronto, Bryce studied economics at Cambridge (under J.M. Keynes) and at Harvard. He joined the federal Department of Finance in 1938, and over the next decade his abilities contributed significantly to the department's pre-eminence in Ottawa and to its concentration of power there. He was appointed clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the Cabinet in 1954.
He served there throughout the Diefenbaker government and was remarkable for his ability to win the trust and co-operation of an often difficult PM. In 1963 he became deputy minister of finance, and in 1971 Canadian executive director to the International Monetary Fund. His last major position was the chairmanship of the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration. Appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1968, he was the author of Maturing in Hard Times: Canada's Department of Finance through the Great Depression (1986).