Finra diversity event closed to the press

Mar 9, 2014 @ 12:01 am

Iwould like to point your attention to another “proud editor” moment that occurred last week in our newsroom.

For those who aren't aware, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. held its second diversity conference last Tuesday in New York.

The event went largely unnoticed. Why? Because the conference, which featured a number of key industry speakers, including Sallie Krawcheck — one of the most influential women on Wall Street — was closed to the media.

That's right. Closed. Locked down.

Imagine the indignity within the editorial ranks at InvestmentNews — which has long been a huge proponent of industry efforts to promote diversity, especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining more female financial advisers — when we learned that we were persona non grata at Finra's confab.

But we weren't deterred.

Reporter Mason Braswell immediately floated the idea of writing a blog post about the conference on InvestmentNews .com. In that post, Mr. Braswell, who joined InvestmentNews as a wirehouse reporter late last year, opined that the closed-door event “shows that the industry still isn't capable of having the conversations and making the disclosures necessary to tackle its diversity problem.”

He got that right.

In his post, Mr. Braswell also quoted Lazetta Rainey Braxton, founder of independent advice firm Financial Fountains, who attended the Finra event.

Ms. Braxton, who is black and is a former chairman of the Financial Planning Association's Diversity Committee, weighed in on what she thinks is an obstacle to any sort of meaningful diversity in financial services.

“What I would like to hear is more white men talking about how this conversation rests with them, because I think this whole fear element of feeling displaced — when you have not had to deal with that as a population — is a challenge that is going to keep stifling this transition,” she said.

Although we weren't permitted to cover the event in person, we did let readers know that it was taking place, and we took Finra to task for not being more open about the industry's struggle to deal with this major shortcoming.

And what was Finra's rationale for keeping the event closed to the media?

“It was our goal to provide a venue for presenters and participants to freely discuss issues of diversity and inclusion without concern that their comments may be misinterpreted or not presented in context by journalists reporting on the discussions,” Finra spokeswoman Michelle Ong told Mr. Braswell.

That's all fine and dandy. But until the industry worries less about how it is perceived and more about the actual problem, nothing is going to change.

Visit InvestmentNews.com/diversity to read Mr. Braswell's entire post.

fgabriel@investmentnews.com, Twitter: @fredpgabriel


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