Of Spitzer and Picasso

One crisp fall morning I found myself staring at my mother’s face. The lines and circles plainly told the story of a single mother who worked multiple jobs and took care of her family. Maturing in the post-Depression era, her disposable dollars found their way exclusively to U.S. Savings Bonds. Despite the real after-tax erosion of those investments, my mother never gave a serious thought to securities issued by corporate America. Why? The memories of great losses and Wall Street corruption were only magnified by current events. In spite of new government agencies and laws, the savings of U.S. citizens were sifted from their true benefactors under false pretenses and outright theft. Of course, women and the elderly were especially targeted. My stare soon evolved into a glowing smile as I, at that moment, realized the future of my life’s work.

The clock struck midnight as the East Coast transitioned from Friday to Saturday, a decade hence that magnificent fall morning. As a “twenty-something,” instead of bellying up at the next watering hole, I was leaning on another slab of mahogany, absorbed in a book sponsored by The Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts. It was there that my sincere dedication to helping people went beyond my pursuit of degrees in finance and economics. I never once reached out to greed as a motive for flipping to just one more chapter

Today, an amalgamation of passion, cognitive abilities, academic fortitude, hard knocks, and, yes, even mistakes have earned me a position as managing director in a well-respected wealth management firm. My story, the traits that define me, are by no means unique – countless investment professionals in thousands of firms hold close to their hearts the highest ethical standards and a deep sense of integrity. We ground our advice in sound practices designed to fulfill clients’ unique objectives, needs and circumstances.

In June 2001, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York officially commenced an investigation into stock recommendations issued by research analysts at several financial institutions. An onslaught of negative press has ensued since Eliot Spitzer’s well-publicized actions. Hardly a day passes without another revelation of a so-called “alchemist of finance” turned crook. Glib conversations overheard at cocktail parties have turned dramatically from “What’s the hot Internet stock?” to “We should build an island for ALL those Wall Street types and…”

A great many of us financial analysts thoroughly research recommendations, study prior bubbles and economic cycles, and deliver prudent advice. Under the right motivations, we are passionate about our careers and care deeply about those clients whose assets rely on our care. We, too, are embarrassed, angry and saddened as a result of all scandals and criminal activity, past and present.

Please hesitate before painting us with the proverbial brush, reducing and fragmenting our images into expressions of anger. The misdeeds described in the headlines of today will only serve to drive our principled passions into the years to come.

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