Ashley Madison drops a bomb on wealth management industry

The hack heard round the world hits the big brokerage firms hard putting into question the integrity of brokers everywhere

Estimates from AdvisorHub puts the number of financial advisors using their corporate email to register with Ashley Madison at more than 1,500, a majority of whom (88%) are men.

According to the data collected by the gossip website, Merrill Lynch leads the list of offenders with more than 371 email accounts originating from the brokerage house. Following close behind are LPL Financial and Wells Fargo at 201 and 190 respectively. The saints of the group, if you can call it that, are Robert W. Baird & Co. at 71 and Stifel at 59. Presumably all American, by the way.

The use of corporate emails for this type of activity, which is clearly a human resources no-no, suggests a corporate culture exists at many of these firms that turns a blind eye to this type of shenanigans. It also calls into question the common sense of these offenders who could just easily have used a third-party email account such as Google or Yahoo.

The big problem with the numbers provided by AdvisorHub on the Ashley Madison hack is that they don’t delineate between advisors and other personnel at those firms so it’s possible, although unlikely, that many of those email accounts identified don’t belong to advisors. That’s because advisors are the perfect target market for Ashley Madison -- mainly male, averaging 59 years of age, married and financially comfortable.

Also, where there’s smoke there’s fire. If 1,500 corporate email accounts were identified, think how many advisor Gmail accounts exist. That number could be exponentially larger.

Should Canadian advisors be worried?

We’ll know soon enough.