In the hyper-competitive investment industry, people rarely talk about mental health issues. This is slowly starting to change.
Stigma. Almost every investment professional I interviewed used the term to describe how the industry has made mental health a off-topic. Even though the asset management industry has finally made diversity a priority in recent years, it hasn’t given mental health the attention it deserves. This is unsurprising given the hyper-competitive nature of investing, with few professionals willing to speak candidly about everything from family obligations to disabilities they fear. be seen as a weakness. But ignoring psychological issues never leads to well-being. That is why we must tackle this problem head-on.
“When I disclosed my bipolar disorder in 2006, it was still a very taboo subject,” says Jared Dillian, a former Wall Street trader and editor of The Daily Dirtnap, a newsletter for investment professionals. Sixteen years later, asset managers, institutional investors, fintechs and other financial companies must implement support programs and encourage everyone from junior employees to CEOs to be candid about mental health. and what they need. Providing support isn’t just the right thing to do. Failure to address these issues is costly in terms of productivity, sick leave and the effect on co-workers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused widespread stress, anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in February 2021 that nearly 40% of American adults experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, a nearly four-fold increase in the percentage of adults who experienced these issues between January and June 2019.
Financial professionals were certainly not excluded from the pain, of course. In fact, institutional investors have often had to calm anxious clients in addition to dealing with their own Covid fears and disruptions to their lives. “It can be difficult to keep your feet on the ground when working with people who are experiencing heightened stress,” says clinical psychologist Joy Lere. “It was difficult for most people to maintain emotional balance throughout the pandemic, no matter what profession they chose. Some even began to show symptoms of trauma as the events of the past two years unfolded.
Given the market volatility and economic uncertainty at the start of the pandemic, many investment advisors needed to address their clients’ financial anxiety while preventing them from making investment mistakes. “It can have an emotional impact when you’re able to contain and respond to the fears of others, especially when you’re experiencing a lot of internal distress while trying to communicate a message of reassurance and calm,” adds Lere.
Some investment professionals, especially financial advisers, have struggled to adequately address their own mental health needs throughout the pandemic. “It’s not too late to ask for help. As the world emerges from a state of shock and crisis, it’s a great time to speak to someone who can help you unpack and process all that you’ve been through as a pandemic survivor.” , says Lere.
Mental health issues in the investment industry certainly predate the pandemic.
The investment industry has long been a culture of stress and high stakes, and this challenging environment can cause or amplify psychological difficulties. The simple fact that the markets are always open somewhere makes it difficult for investment professionals to disconnect. “Any culture where someone has to be present 24/7 — whether through marketplaces or through customer requests — is negative for our mindset,” says Denise Shull, Founder of the performance coaching company ReThink Group. The human brain works best when it is resting. A simple good night’s sleep can help us resolve conflict and renew our optimism. Shull says risk management can suffer when mental health declines, a major concern for investment managers. “Risks will not be appreciated for their true character when energy is lacking or pessimism is heightened,” she says.
However, industry culture has long suppressed conversation about these issues. “It’s usually difficult to talk about serious mental health issues in the industry,” says David Humphreys, investment consultant at Northwestern Mutual. He notes that physical disabilities are generally easier to discuss for his colleagues than mental health needs.
Seth Hersch, a quantitative research analyst at Fisher Investments, chose not to widely disclose his diagnoses of autism and work anxiety. “My office doesn’t know I’m on the autism spectrum, and only my immediate supervisor knows that I’ve dealt with anxiety all my life,” Hersch says. “When being a ‘team player’ is so valuable, the last thing you want to do is look like you’re some type of ‘lone wolf’, even if you prefer isolation to company in your life otherwise,” he says. “It’s just a responsibility not worth taking on.” Nobody wants to be an “outcast,” he says.
Businesses are beginning to realize the importance of mental health. Improved employee productivity and improved workforce retention rates offer tangible benefits to investment firms that integrate mental health services and resources into existing wellness programs. . For example, about 86% of employees report improved work performance and lower absenteeism rates after treatment for depression, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Capital Innovations, an investment management firm focused on real estate assets, has created an employee assistance program that includes confidential access to 24/7 mental health services, including up to 20 therapy sessions per year with a counsellor. Regarding mental health, Michael Underhill, CIO of Capital Innovations, says, “A little crack doesn’t mean you’re broken; it means that you have been tested and have not collapsed.
AllianceBernstein has created a comprehensive mental wellness program since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company is integrating resources such as free access to the Calm app and Talkspace — added in 2020 for virtual counseling services — with designated wellness days and mental health training for select managers. More than 600 employees currently use Calm, including Livia Ramirez, chief operating officer for legal and compliance, and Allie Feiner, head of global technology and organizational development. Both women are also mental health first aid managers for the company. “We really act as that conduit to bring all the great resources the company offers to our teams,” Feiner says. She finds that her personal experience with the company’s mental health offerings allows her to better support her colleagues. Ramirez adds that she welcomes conversations about mental health in the workplace. “We want our employees, our colleagues, to be very authentic. We want everyone to be fully invested in the business,” she says.
Employees in the investment industry can, and often should, look outside of employer-sponsored resources and services. It is also important to take care of your psychological well-being before becoming depressed. “The therapy is proactive,” notes Lere. Do not wait to be broken to consult. Rachel Wolitzky, a psychologist in New York, agrees: “What’s the worst that can happen? A competent therapist, believe it or not, will tell you if you don’t need to be there. She also recommends meeting with at least two practitioners before making a decision about therapy. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, practicing yoga or meditation, and reconnecting with meaningful spiritual or religious practices can also improve overall well-being. (Dillian, the investment writer, regularly reminds readers who have been prescribed medication for a mental illness to take their medication and never stop treatment without a psychiatrist’s approval.)
“Leveraging the principles of emotional intelligence is one of the greatest opportunities finance professionals have to boost their mental well-being,” says Ali McCarthy, financial advisor emotional intelligence expert and chief marketing officer at Skience, a wealth management technology company. By delving into your own mind, she says, you’ll be happier and a more effective colleague, too. So, looking after your psychological health can have a high return on investment. When we think about wellness from this perspective, it’s easy to see the value of taking care of our minds.
There is also an important aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in psychological health. The historical lack of diversity in the institutional investment industry can create tension and anxiety in itself. Lazetta Rainey Braxton, DEI expert in finance, says people from underrepresented groups can experience significant stress in workplaces that lack inclusiveness. “The mental energy required to constantly fight for respect and fair treatment of profitable contributions to business results can be overwhelming and debilitating,” she says. A culture of belonging thus improves the environment of mental health in a company. “When employees feel disenfranchised, undervalued and underpaid, culture and performance are severely affected. A threat to his livelihood is also a threat to his life,” she says. Companies need to ensure that all employees know they are valued and valued equally.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues threaten the current and future health of the investment industry, so let’s address them. “Finance professionals who work on themselves have a better chance of bringing the best version of themselves to the workplace,” Braxton says. There’s no shame in admitting you’re struggling! (However, it’s best to seek treatment before a mental health crisis.) In fact, asking for help demonstrates your strength and can inspire others to seek treatment as well. By working together, we can create a healthier future for everyone in the investment industry. How do we start? We stop pretending that everything and everyone on the pitch is fine.
It’s time to talk about mental health.
This article was written in memory of all investment professionals who have died by suicide.
Nathan Yates holds a master’s degree in finance from Southern New Hampshire University and currently works as a research analyst from his home in Virginia.