The Tough Ques­tions

Change hap­pens when ad­vi­sors ask them­selves what their firms could do bet­ter.

Financial Planning - - EDITOR’S VIEW - —Chelsea Emery

WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD MORE ABOUT SEX­UAL HA­RASS­MENT IN THE wealth man­age­ment in­dus­try?

Amid count­less, heart-wrench­ing ac­counts about the per­sonal an­guish and pro­fes­sional set­backs caused by un­wel­come sex­ual be­hav­ior in the en­ter­tain­ment, me­dia and manufacturing in­dus­tries, I’ve been ask­ing men and women in fi­nan­cial ser­vices this ques­tion.

Many have said some­thing along the lines of what Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning con­trib­u­tor Carolyn Mc­clana­han writes in “Hit ‘Re­set’ on Firm Cul­ture,” on p. 34: Much of the abu­sive con­duct in the in­dus­try was ad­dressed or went un­der­ground after a slew of well-pub­li­cized cases in the 1990s.

But it hasn’t gone away. What’s more, I doubt it ever will. That means it’s more im­por­tant to ask a dif­fer­ent ques­tion: What will we do to as­sure more women and men are treated with re­spect in the work­place? While there is a long way to go, I’ve been en­cour­aged to see some firms and ex­ec­u­tives take ac­tion.

For one, Fi­delity CEO Abi­gail John­son moved her of­fice to the same floor where key equity port­fo­lio man­agers, an­a­lysts and traders sit, after two fund man­agers left fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior.

Ed­ward Jones has set a goal of in­creas­ing its women ad­vi­sors work­force to 50% from about 19%, which, if suc­cess­ful, could help off­set the power im­bal­ances that al­low some ex­ec­u­tives to get away with sex­ual mis­con­duct.

And Ad­vi­sor Group CEO Jamie Price tells me the firm is ex­plor­ing how to share its C-suite level train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion with its ad­vi­sor net­work.

Still, there’s much more progress to be made, and it will come with re­newed, hon­est and un­blink­ing ex­am­i­na­tion.

When you look around your firm, have you done ev­ery­thing you could to root out and pre­vent pos­si­ble sex­ual ha­rass­ment? Ask­ing this and other tough ques­tions is just the be­gin­ning.

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