September 22, 2005

Preparing for Disaster

Advisors should do real-world testing of disaster plans, counsels Schwab's Skiles

The devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina has prompted many advisors to revisit their disaster preparedness plans, but even those with good plans in place should rigorously test them in a real-world manner, suggests Dan Skiles, Schwab Institutional's VP of Technology. That means more than simply visiting the backup site for a few hours, he says, and merely testing that the lights work and the computers boot up. One of the lessons from Katrina, he suggests, is that in an emergency you may have to operate from another site not just for hours, but for a much longer time. Take the staff to the backup site and do business from there for days or even weeks, Skiles recommends, opening new accounts and figuring out where staff will stay for an extended period of time. You may want to form some "quid pro quo" arrangements with other firms well outside your geographical area, he suggests, so that you will have an office to work from, and the other firm will have the same should either of you be affected by an emergency that keeps you from your office for an extended period of time. The object, he says, is to "plan so you don't have to do things on the fly." Some 50 to 60 Schwab-affiliated advisors are in the Katrina-affected areas, Skiles says. As part of its efforts to help its advisors, Skiles says Schwab Institutional is considering producing a Webcast on disaster preparedness for planners.

To offer help to your peers affected by the storm and its aftermath, or to request help, please visit the Financial Planning Association's Hurricane Relief Center for Planners, available through the member portion of FPA's Web site (fpanet.org) at http://aspen16.webcrossing.com/Cafe/Katrina/.

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