Dealing with Bias Against Youth and Gender

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We are a rapidly growing firm. We have an employee engagement role held by a 32-year-old, experienced professional in HR. We have about 80 people with about 80% of us under the age of 45 and 40% of that number age 30 or under. It’s a high-energy and fast-moving environment and we work hard to make the culture supportive and inclusive.

Recently one of our best advisors gave his notice. He is going to a much smaller RIA where most of the advisors are more than twice his age. His reason? He said we don’t “value youth” here. Admittedly, he was a top performer and wanted us to implement a more aggressive sales plan so he could get paid for new business along with client retention. He brought it up several times, but that isn’t our model. We don’t believe we are here to sell our clients – we pay well on AUM and on retention, but we don’t add a kicker for new opportunities.

How do we address this with the rest of the team? I am concerned about his contention that we “don’t value” something when that isn’t true. We had a disagreement with this advisor, which was more philosophical and cultural; we are very saddened to see him go. He was otherwise a top performer and a great team player. He always operated with a great attitude and worked well with everyone. We shared this with him when he told of his upcoming departure. But he kept saying he wanted to go somewhere that he could be more valued, which we interpret as a firm that is paying more aggressively for new business.

We are concerned about the impression other young team members have if they heard him say negative things about our culture on the way out.

Do we address this with the team, or do we hope others can see this was one person’s opinion? If we do address it, how do we message this appropriately without making the advisor who is leaving look bad, but without having his impression of how we have treated him poison the rest of the group? Do we even address it?