One of the highlights of our discussion with our Broker-Dealer of the Year winners came not from on-the-record comments, but from a casual aside. Looking to make small talk with Woodbury Chief Pat McEvoy while waiting to snap cover photos, I inquired about his background. After the perfunctory experience-building explanation, he noted he served on a counter-terrorism team and trained with Special Forces in the 1980s (once in, never out, as they say).
He also noted his son was active military, and had completed his third tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. McEvoy hardly wore his pride on his sleeve, but it was fully palpable nonetheless.
So it was with trepidation later that day that Jamie Green, our group editor-in-chief, broached the subject of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. We’d be remiss in not raising the topic, as our October 2001 issue was dedicated almost exclusively to that horrific day and its aftermath.
We sought to relate those events, and what’s since been learned, specifically to advisors; how it’s affected their investing and financial planning philosophies and how they develop business continuity plans.
As much as we tried to keep it about business, emotion won the day. The discussion was professional, of course, but a noticeable change came over the participants, darkening what was until then a relaxed, even jovial, atmosphere.
“The very thing that brought us together is now being used as a political tool to divide us,” McEvoy said with a smile on his face, but with anger in his voice. “I find that very disappointing; not upsetting, but disappointing.”
He added we, as an industry, should never apologize for the profession we’ve chosen.
“What we do is deliver on dreams. We help educate children. We help get money to people who have lost spouses. We help people achieve things that have a lasting legacy and impact. But we’ve got a political environment right now that wants to take Wall Street and, in the broad sense, badger it. I think it’s wrong.”
I was tempted to respond with a full-throated “oorah!” but I hadn’t earned the right.
Demonizing faceless Wall Street will hardly bring us back from the brink. The Investment Center’s Ralph Devito noted independent broker-dealers and their advisors are about as far from Wall Street as one can get, yet they’re largely tarred (and feathered) with the same brush. Anyone want to argue a guy like McEvoy isn’t dedicated to doing the right thing?
Thankfully, there wasn’t an ounce of self-pity in the group. On the contrary, they had specific, actionable ideas for steering clients through the current market volatility, which they share in this month’s cover story and the reason it’s titled “Take Charge.”
If only we could impress upon Washington to do the same.