Friday, December 11, 2015

My Self Enforced Gag Order

Streaky, non-existent and absent. These are just a few of the words that can be used to describe this blog over the last few years. And now I am finally ready (and not under a watchful eye) to pick this little blog back up with regular postings.

But what happened?

This piece of the story goes back a few years and needs some background. I work in finance, specifically in operations for large, and when I say large I really mean behemoth, global financial institutions. After several years of service at a US based firm, I left for a certain Swiss one that may or may not have three keys ;) Now based on the type of work that I do and certain industry intel that I am privy too, it is perfectly understandable that in this line of work certain restrictions and monitoring of employees needs to be in effect to prevent insider trading. To be in line with regulations and internal standards, my then new employer required me to report any non-retirement investment accounts to their firm, allow them access to monitor my account for activity and sign off on quarterly affirmations that state I was not engaging in insider trading.

But with so employees across the US, let alone the world, my employer at my time of hire, required me to also move my non-retirement investment account to one of a select list of approved firms. Thankfully my account in question was already at a firm on their approved list, so when the job offer came through I happily signed away.

Fast forward a year into my employment and the rules changed. Now I was required to report all investment accounts within my household, including those of my wife, to my employer and transition these accounts to a single approved firm: theirs.

Surely, I thought, there would be a discount offered to employees. There was no discount. The decree would mean that I would move our brokerage account, my traditional IRA (rollover of 401k from previous employer), my ROTH IRA, my wife’s ROTH IRA, my son’s ESA and a few ESAs that we have setup for nephews and nieces, from a provider that charged 0 fees to one that would begin charging monthly fees for the pleasure of doing forced business with them.

Needless to say I was not happy about the situation. I appealed to HR stating my investment portfolio consisted of open-ended mutual funds, I do not own and have never owned single stocks, and I have only bought, never sold any funds. Surely they would grant me an exception based on my plain Jane investments. They did not, and between you and I, they could not have cared any less about my personal scenario.

So I began interviewing at other firms and quickly learned that this policy my employer implemented, of forcing employees to (financially) buy from the company store was not the norm. I received several offers from other potential employers, along with sign off from their compliance departments, that I could work for their firms without needing to consolidate my portfolio (based solely on my holdings and transaction activity) to their firm.

I was ready to jump ship at the drop of a hat but my wife really helped me see the light. At that time we were trying for what would become our first born. And my better half reminded me that, depending on the timeline, if I left, even to a large company that was legally obligated to provide FMLA, there was a chance that my tenure would not qualify me for taking leave.

So I was faced with a question: what’s more important, spending time with my baby or paying fees on my investment accounts? Needless to say I sought out the third alternative because I absolutely hate the thought of paying unnecessary fees, especially on my investments. In the end of this delightful dilemma I did not move any accounts to my employer and my wife and I (may or may not have done some account title) maneuvering (while not incurring any tax implications or penalties) and stayed in compliance with their revised policy. But I had one loose end, this blog.

What if my employer came across this blog while I was employed for them and read about investment accounts that I may or may not have trading authority/access to, that are not on file and held at their firm? So instead of rocking the boat I stopped complaining about the policy change to my managers and HR, I may have or may not have changed some wording on our account titles, I stopped writing new entries on this blog, I kept my head down and I shut up.

But thankfully this has only been for a short period of time as now I can bring my head back up and continue my musings on this blog, oh, and maybe or maybe not rename some account titles :)

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