November 2, 2001

Semper Paratus

Anyone who has ever worked in a high-rise office building knows the fire drill routine. At least in the New York buildings I worked in, this is an annoying monthly exercise where an insistent alarm sounds at ear-piercing level from the building's PA speakers.

Everyone must stop what they're doing and convene at a predetermined location on or near the fire exit, which opens onto an interior stairwell or an outdoor fire escape. Should you wish to remain at your desk because you've got something more important to do than congregate with your fellow floor residents, then the floor fire warden seeks you out and rousts you from your office. (These wardens tend to bear a striking resemblance in appearance and demeanor to the guys who ran the A/V department at your high school).

No one is ever very serious about these annoying drills. At least that used to be the case. Since September 11, I'm sure that these drills are seen as less annoying, and there were reports of fire wardens performing heroic and ultimately doomed service in the Trade Center towers that awful day.

For many of us, Easterners in particular as Andy Gluck points out in his monthly column on the Schwab Impact 2001 show (page 31), the scar tissue hasn't formed over the wounds yet. As Andy tells it, it took some courage to go to the Schwab show. But once there, and despite a lower-than-normal turnout, the sessions were informative and the networking was rewarding, not least because there was a shared sense of purpose among the attendees.

There are many other lessons to be learned from September 11. A major lesson, and the subject of this month's cover story (page 44), is that financial planners and investment advisors must have a disaster recovery plan in effect, now. Senior Editor Cort Smith tells a tale of planners who lost nearly everything in the past thanks to acts of God and acts of man. They have some suggestions for easing the pain of dislocation and disaster that you'd do well to heed. It's less expensive and less complicated than you might think to be prepared, while failing to prepare can be, well, disastrous. Speaking of practices, if September 11 didn't make you start thinking about your own succession plan, nothing ever will.

A second story of note this month (see page 52) comes from New York Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell. Melanie checked in with the major Wall Street firms to see whether they had lost any of their newfound religious fervor for fees. To the contrary, the wirehouses are finding success with fees, even as some other mainstays of their revenue base are faltering in line with the stumbling economy and the lack of initial public offerings. If you're an independent planner, you'd do well to read the story.

It's always good to be prepared, no matter who the enemy may be.

(See complete coverage of 9/11: Ten Years After on AdvisorOne.)

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