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Why RBC, JPMorgan are recognizing Juneteenth

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As wealth managers struggle to address civil unrest and internal complaints over representation and racial justice, some financial advisors will get Juneteenth — a day commemorating the end of slavery — as a holiday.

Advisors at RBC, JPMorgan Chase and PNC Investments will get the afternoon of June 19 off as the companies close office locations early in observance of the holiday. Merrill Lynch advisors have the option to take a personal day.

“Closing the branches enables many of our colleagues to join in the celebration and reflect on not only America’s achievements, but also its enduring effort to acknowledge its flaws and become a better nation,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon wrote in a memo seen by Financial Planning.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police provoked international protests and upheaval over racial injustice. Statues commemorating Confederate generals and other leaders have been torn down or defaced across the country. Universities have renamed colleges and buildings named after Southern politicians who supported slavery.

Giving employees part of June 19 is one way some companies are trying to address racial inequality within their own organizations.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Major Gordon Granger delivered the news of freedom to slaves in Galveston, Texas, two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Dimon wrote in his memo that JPMorgan Chase would close its branches after 1 p.m. “out of deep respect for the suffering that the black community has endured over hundreds of years and in recognition of the high esteem in which we hold our black community.”

RBC and PNC will also be closing early, according to the companies, following similar moves made by financial services firms including Capital One and U.S. Bancorp.

“By closing our offices at noon, we hope to provide our colleagues with an opportunity to take part in the many Juneteenth virtual events and reaffirm our collective commitment to support each other, foster greater empathy and solidarity, and show leadership in driving lasting change during this pivotal time in our nation’s history,” RBC Wealth Management CEO Michael Armstrong and RBC Capital Markets COO John Thurlow said in a joint statement.

While not widely taking the day — or part of it — off, other companies say they will acknowledge the holiday in other ways. Bank of America encouraged employees, including Merrill Lynch advisors, to use one of the additional personal days they were given this year if they wanted to celebrate the holiday. TD Ameritrade said it will raise the Pan-African flag in several of their corporate locations and distribute “a variety of learning opportunities throughout the day,” according to a company spokesman.

Black Americans are drastically underrepresented in the wealth management industry. In 2019, only 1,355 of 87,302 — or 1.6% — of CFPs were black, according to data from the CFP Board. Financial services firms, including JPMorgan, have been accused of racial discrimination in the workplace. Firms have also been sued over such allegations; Morgan Stanley’s ex-global head of diversity sued the firm for alleged discrimination and bias. The company disputes the allegations.

Amid recent protesting, companies and organizations are trying to express commitment to their black employees and the black community at large. Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf said the company intended to double the number of black leaders at the firm in five years. Raymond James terminated one of its employees over a Black Lives Matter clash.

“2020 has become a very unique moment in our history,” Dimon wrote in his memo.

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