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Strong Ethical Core Key to Finance Industry’s Positive Impact

Published April 24, 2018

While trust in so many institutions and professions is on the decline, whether for valid reasons or not, I think all of us in finance need to remind ourselves why our work is so important and what each of us must do to strengthen the industry’s positive impact. Finance is a noble profession, providing the essential capital allocation and growth mechanism for building the future: from retirement savings, cutting-edge research and philanthropy to improvements in communities’ social and economic development. The vast majority of investment professionals strive every day to do right by our clients, who in turn value the experience and guidance of their trusted advisors.

Yet 10 years on from the global financial crisis, the finance industry is still recovering from the damage inflicted by a few bad apples who took too much risk with other people’s money. In a 2017 Gallup poll, for example, only one-quarter of Americans believed that bankers had high standards of honesty and integrity.

Regaining Trust

I believe that negative perception is mostly unfair, but it will take constant vigilance on the part of our industry — and the work of organizations, like the CFA Institute, which uphold standards of ethics and professionalism — to regain that trust. I applaud the CFA Institute’s willingness to take bold stances in policy papers on market structure, capital requirements, derivatives, corporate governance and crypto-currencies.

And at a time when the finance industry has seen its share of bias and discrimination, gender pay gaps and sexual harassment cases, I am proud that State Street Global Advisors placed the Fearless Girl statue near Wall Street to draw attention to our campaign for more women and diversity of thought on corporate boards.[i]

It is up to every one of us to rededicate ourselves to the ethical standards that are central to the positive impact we seek to have on our communities.

Reflecting on a Life in Finance

My own experience illustrates what women can do in finance. With my newly minted BA, I stumbled into investment banking, expecting only a two-year stint on my way to business or law school. That first analyst position has stretched into a rewarding career, offering me opportunities for continuous learning as I took on roles from manager to strategist to leader, while applying new skills to trading, product development, client service and advice, research and wealth management.

Along the way, after an MBA and a decade of work experience, I endured three years of self-directed study and rigorous exams covering a wide-ranging curriculum and emphasizing ethical decision-making — all so I could earn the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, the pre-eminent accreditation for investment professionals. Now when spring rolls around every April and May, I still get a feeling of relief that I’m not sequestered away, prepping for test day in June.

Generating Enthusiasm for the Future

For me, finance has been a great fit — often challenging, even frustrating, but never boring. Professions like technology and consulting now claim many of the top students who used to gravitate to Wall Street. But I think that could change as three key trends in finance lead to greater dynamism, innovation and creativity — enough to challenge the best minds for years to come.

1.       Vast arrays of data and advances in artificial intelligence will require those with hard quantitative skills, along with intuition, skepticism and rigor, to devise new investment signals based on insight rather than statistical noise.

2.       Nonfinancial value drivers — monetary, fiscal and trade policies, intangible assets, cyberterrorism, shifts in global alliances and demographics — need careful attention to distinguish short-term disruptions from long-term secular or structural change.[ii]

3.       Evaluating the environmental, social and governance (ESG) footprint has become a third dimension, alongside traditional risk and return measures, that can influence security and manager selection — with the distinction that different investors bring their own individual values to the ESG decision.

Finance will continue to be the lifeblood of our communities and economies: as much as 20% of global GDP is attributed to finance, with asset owners and managers controlling nearly USD 100 trillion in investable assets around the world. Our industry is key to the efficient allocation of that capital and the positive impact it can have on our future. Just as I have done in a career of lifelong learning, solving problems, taking a stand and having an impact on important issues, I am confident that many more generations of investment professionals will bring their intellect, energy and enthusiasm to work with purpose and meaning.


Disclosures

The views expressed in this material are the views of Lori Heinel through the period ended April 16, 2018 and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This document contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

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[i] See “Where Are the Women?” by Rakhi Rumar, State Street Global Advisors, March 8, 2018.

[ii] See IQ Magazine, State Street Global Advisors, Spring 2018.