State Street: We Are The Woke Bae Of Global Finance

Is Boston's biggest finance firm trying a little too hard to make a great point?
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When asked to list the biggest firms in finance, almost everyone will rattle off your Goldman Sachses, your JPMorgans, your Citis, maybe even a Blackstone or a Morgan Stanley. But alas, almost no one will throw out a State Street even though it's a $30 billion company with fingers in every conceivable pot.

StateStreetWoke

In fact for the vast majority of people, the name "State Street" prompts a response of "Who?"

So how does a massive company that is virtually unknown outside finance (BNY Mellon is more famous), distinguish itself? Well, what if we told you that State Street is woke as fuck?

Index-fund giant State Street Global Advisors on Tuesday will begin pushing big companies to put more women on their boards, initially demanding change at those firms without any female directors.
The money manager, which is a unit of State Street Corp., says it will vote against board members charged with nominating new directors if they don’t soon make strides at adding women. Firms won’t have an exact quota to be in compliance with State Street’s mandate, but must prove they attempted to improve a lack of diversity. A firm that doesn’t add women, for example, would have to prove to State Street it attempted to cast a wider net and set diversity goals.

First off, props to State Street. It's hard for even the most dedicated sophist to argue that gender equity is not a distinct problem in the world of American business. By forcing the argument through leverage of its own financial power, State Street is getting out in front of an issue that not many large firms would touch and that's commendable.

However like many entities unfamiliar with publicity stunts, State Street might have gotten a little dramatic with its new proclamation of wokeness.

The world's third largest asset manager just installed a bronze statue of a defiant girl in front of Wall Street's iconic charging bull as part of its new campaign to pressure companies to add more women to their boards.
State Street Global Advisors, a nearly $2.5 trillion investor and unit within State Street Corp., is rolling out the campaign ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.

Yeah, they put up a little girl statue glaring at a charging bull to accentuate a movement empowering women in business. Feels like a bit of a miss.

What exactly are we saying here?

"One of the most iconic images on Wall Street is the charging bull. So the idea of having a female sort of stand against the bull, or stand up to the bull, just struck us as a very clever but also creative and engaging way to make that statement," [State Street deputy global chief investment officer Lori Heinel] said. "Even though it's a little girl, her stance is one of determination, forwardness and being willing to challenge and take on the status quo."

Cool cool cool. See, what we're seeing is a little girl in a dress about to get trampled by a symbol of market forces. And while we appreciate that her body language communicates angry resistance, it doesn't appear likely that she's going to come out on top here, no matter how obstinate she looks. Now, we're neither art critics nor students of symbolism, but wouldn't it have made more sense to have the girl ride the bull or maybe like stand next to it and guide it?

So, again, we're on board with what State Street is trying to do here but like any newly-woke bro trying to impress the world with his enlightened thinking, State Street might want to dial back on the hamfisted symbolism lest it look like a dude in a "The Future is Female" t-shirt hailing an Uber to a Woody Allen retrospective.

State Street to Start Voting Against Companies That Don’t Have Women Directors [WSJ]

A $2.5 trillion asset manager just put a statue of a defiant girl in front of the Wall Street bull [BI]

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