Advisor faces scrutiny for alleged discrimination

July 8, 2016 | Last updated on July 8, 2016
4 min read

A Waterloo, Ont. advisor is facing an investigation and allegations of racism because of an email he sent an unsuccessful job applicant.

In spring 2015, Jama Hagi-Yusuf, who was graduating from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor’s degree in science, applied for a job as an investment advisor’s assistant at Integral Wealth Securities’ Kitchener, Ont. branch.

A few hours after applying to an online job posting, he received a rejection email from the branch’s advisor, who referenced Somali culture (Hagi-Yusuf is Somali), and said Hagi-Yusuf didn’t have the “enthusiasm in past experience for entering [the investment industry’s] subculture.”

“I don’t know how to reply back to that email,” Hagi-Yusuf told CBC News. Hagi-Yusuf has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and wants an apology from the advisor.

The alleged letter CBC News says Hagi-Yusuf received on May 8, 2015 reads:

“I have read stories about how Somalia has a culture of resistance to authority. Such a culture would be quite different than the Canadian culture sees makes cutting ahead in a lineup as a great social error.

“The investment industry is a subculture with its own rules and traditions. It is normal for people to train for entry into this field. While your academic career suggests the training would be well within your competence, there is no demonstrated enthusiasm in past experience for entering this subculture.

“Due to lack of background, I must decline your application.

“Good luck with finding a suitable position.”

It was signed by J Sandy Matheson of Integral Wealth Securities Limited.

When tried to reach out to Matheson today, we were told he was out of office until Monday. When reached, Integral CEO and founder John Gibson declined to comment.

Matheson did speak to CBC News about Hagi-Yusuf’s allegations. He says he spoke to the graduate on the phone — something Hagi-Yusuf says didn’t happen — and that he was trying to offer helpful career advice.

Matheson told CBC News he wasn’t aware that Hagi-Yusuf was Somali, and that he had only mentioned Somali culture because he’d recently read a newspaper article about it.

“The email was about how the person misunderstood the culture of the financial services world,” Matheson told the broadcaster.

Integral’s chief compliance officer, Michael Bignell, told in an email that Matheson “will not be commenting further on this matter as it is currently under investigation.”

Matheson’s biography on his firm’s website states he has more than 30 years of industry experience, and has been working at Integral since 2007. He’s a registered financial planner and a Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute. He holds IIROC dealing representative licenses in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.


The email Hagi-Yusuf received implied he was “cutting ahead in a lineup” and that people entering the investment industry usually have training. While the original job posting is no longer publicly available, Integral is currently hiring an entry-level assistant at its Toronto office.

Under “Required Skills,” that posting makes no mention of industry credentials, and says the role is an “ample career opportunity beyond the initial role.”

The successful candidate would have attention to detail, a professional attitude and ability to multitask. One year’s experience in an office environment is also required.

Hagi-Yusuf, reports CBC News, was involved in many extra-curricular activities while he was at the University of Waterloo. He was part of a team that designed a synthetic organism that fights an antibiotic-resistant superbug. The child of Somalian refugees, he was also part of Somali campus clubs, and he co-ordinated a group that tutored students who were refugees. He says he’s proud of his culture, but he’s taken his Somalian ties off of his resume since this incident. He says it’s not the first time he’s been discriminated against.

Industry reacts

One advisor from HollisWealth tells, “The reply is simply horrible and totally unprofessional.”

When asked if his firm has a subculture that new hires need to be aware of, he admits there are two subcultures that a bank-owned shop like his has. The first is that of the dealer/bank, which is “to grow the bottom line.

“The culture is of fear of not meeting the obligations,” says the advisor. “Do not do more than you have to an if it does not fit your standard process and do not step out and go beyond you parameters and help someone. You might make a mistake and get in trouble and be held accountable.”

The second, he says, is at the branch level. “The culture here is one that says, ‘Do what is in the client’s best interest at all times.’ […] You adapt your practice to be liquid and flowing with the understanding the everyone is unique and there is no set process.”

More to come…

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