Baltimore violence pushes financial professionals to remote locations

Fires are out but firms including T. Rowe Price and Legg Mason are keeping employees far from the fray

Apr 28, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

By Liz Skinner

The rioting and fires that broke out in the streets of West Baltimore Monday have mostly been extinguished, but many of the city's advisers and financial professionals are working remotely.

At Adams Funds, chief executive Mark Stoeckle put the firm's continuity plan into motion after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard late Monday.

The firm, which manages about $2.5 billion in closed end fund money, is open but everyone is allowed to work from home if they choose.

“We are not interested in putting anyone in a harmful situation,” he said. “The beauty of the technology is that as long as people are comfortable with it, operations are seamless.”

Damian Gallina, a founder of Buttonwood Financial Advisors, said he cancelled one meeting and told his employees to work remotely Tuesday. He said he plans to go into the office Wednesday to evaluate whether he'd allow the rest of the firm to return to the office on Thursday.

“I need to physically get an understanding of what's going on so I know it's safe for everyone,” he said.

On Monday, he and others peered down from their 23rd floor offices near Inner Harbor and watched police cars race to incidents around the city. They left the offices by 4:00 p.m..

Lazetta Braxton, founder of Financial Fountains, said it's probably best for employees to work remotely right now.

A sole practitioner, she moved from Chicago to Baltimore a few years ago.

“The city's experiencing riots in different parts and being out of the fray is probably wise for businesses,” she said. “You never know where things will erupt, tensions are high.”

CLOSED DOWN

Mutual fund company T. Rowe Price closed its downtown Baltimore headquarters and has employees working from home as a result of Monday's violence, which erupted following the burial of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who died while in police custody earlier this month.

T. Rowe, which has about $773 billion in assets under management, moved its trading desk to an office in Linthicum, Md., and is sending its employees in Owings Mills, Md., a suburb of Baltimore, home early because of what it called a credible threat to a nearby shopping mall.

“The safety and security of our associates remains our paramount concern,” said Edward Giltenan, spokesperson for T. Rowe, which employs about 4,300 in Maryland. “These business continuity procedures are working as designed and there has been no disruption in client service.”

The violence Monday afternoon began near a West Baltimore mall after a note calling for chaos was circulated among nearby high school students and on social media. Baltimore's mayor set a citywide curfew for a week.

Legg Mason, another Baltimore-based fund company, kept offices open but the firm's leaders encouraged employees to work from home, said Mary K. Athridge, a spokeswoman.

Legg Mason employs about 300 people in Baltimore, a city of nearly 625,000.

DISTRESSED

Financial adviser Lyle K. Benson, whose firm L.K. Benson & Co. is located in a suburb of Baltimore, said his business hasn't been disrupted by the events, but that he is distressed over the violence.

“It's a very sad day for Baltimore, which has come so far in the past few decades,” he said.

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