This Month in Reputation: Doing Good is Good for Business (and Countries), Sexist Jokes are Not

Blog Post08 Nov, 2019

Sexist jokes cost money manager Ken Fisher some major clients

The state of Michigan pulled $600 million of its pension fund out of his wealth management firm following reports that Ken Fisher made a sexist joke—similar to jokes he's made in the past—at the Tiburon CEO Summit in San Francisco in October.

While the Summit has a "no media" policy, and speakers are not to be quoted without their permission, attendee Alex Chalekian was outraged enough to recount the joke in a video on his Twitter account. According to Chalekian, Fisher compared soliciting new clients for his mutual fund to picking up a woman in a bar.

Fisher eventually apologized, claiming that such language has "no place" in the financial services industry, yet this wasn't the first time he had come under fire for using that kind of language. He was banned from the Evidence-Based Investing Conference in 2018 following similar remarks.

Fisher's travails show how far the industry has to go to get away from its back-slapping, old boys club image. If it wants to hang on to its clients, it'll have to clean up its act.

As of this writing, Ken Fisher's bad jokes have cost his company more than $3 billion.

The Swedes show up traditional superpowers as Most Reputable Country

For the second year in a row, Sweden has taken the top spot in our Country RepTrak, while traditional superpowers Russia, China, and the U.S. were rated with weak reputations thanks to poor showings in transparency and corruption.

Sweden was joined in the top 10 by fellow Nordic countries Denmark, Norway, and Finland as well as current and former Commonwealth nations New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. The Netherlands and neutral Switzerland rounded out the top spots.

Sweden's sterling reputation comes from its commitment to sustainability, with the country producing less waste and fewer carbon emissions than other countries and its generosity: Sweden welcomed 163,000 refugees from Syria in 2018, more than any other European country.

"Sweden's excellent reputation is a tremendous asset," said Madeleine Sjöstedt, Director General at the Swedish Institute, a government agency that generates positive awareness about Sweden outside of the country. "The more positive associations others have of Sweden, the better conditions for trade, international cooperation, investment, attraction of international students and tourism."

Greta Thunberg turns down major award and the prize money that comes with it

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg said "thanks, but no thanks" to the Nordic Council and its $52,000 award.

"I want to thank the Nordic Council for this award. It is a huge honour. But the climate movement does not need any more awards," she wrote in an Instagram post. "What we need is for our politicians and the people in power [to] start to listen to the current, best available science."

By turning down this award, Thunberg joins other activists and artists who rejected recognition from the establishment: Rocker David Bowie declined to be awarded Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; Jean-Paul Sartre rejected a Nobel Prize in 1964, and physicist Stephen Hawking refused a knighthood in the 1990s.

Greta, like these other thinkers, sees the power of refusing such prestigious honors. It shows her commitment to principle above all else, and a refusal to be satisfied by mere flattery.

Read what Greta Thunberg can teach us about corporate reputation.

Detroit has the best drivers, while Portland brings up the rear

If you find yourself out in Oregon, be sure to buckle up: According to QuoteWizard, Portland has the worst drivers in the United States. If you're cruising through Michigan, however, you can rest easy: Motor City leads the pack in driver safety (with some admittedly major caveats).

Using millions of insurance quotes from around the country, QuoteWizard ranked America's cities using four types of "incidents": accidents, speeding tickets, citations and—yikes—DUIs.

Joining Detroit in the "nice" list were Louisville, Chicago, Miami, and Grand Rapids, MI. Virginia Beach, Boise, Columbus and Sacramento joined Portland on the "naughty" list.

One big caveat about Detroit's safety supremacy: Due to its methodology, QuoteWizard was only studying insured drivers, and Detroit reporting has a super high uninsured rate—anywhere from between 40 and 60 percent!

Wells Fargo appoints its fourth CEO in three years

Charles Scharf has a big job to do. He's the company's fourth CEO and, critically, the only one from outside the company.

In his first statement to employees, Scharf showed that he has a keen understanding of what matters to reputation, and how CEOs should view various stakeholders including regulators, who have imposed an assets cap on Wells Fargo since 2018.

"We should recognize that what we want and what regulators want are not different. We are responsible for our actions, and they are responsible for ensuring our actions are consistent with a clearly defined set of standards, he wrote in a letter to employees. "It's our job to run the company such that we fulfill their expectations and those of the public in the U.S. and in other countries where we operate.

He also recognizes that the past—and Wells Fargo's once "sterling reputation" won't save the company now.

"While respect for our past is critical, evolution, transformation, and change are our only options as we look forward. History is filled with companies who were industry leaders at one time but did not change and were left behind.

Melanie LoBue  Senior Director of Global Marketing The RepTrak Company [email protected] @melanielobue

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