In Joplin Tornado’s Wake, BD’s ‘Hell and Frustration’

MidAmerica Financial president credits community, business continuity with path to recovery

Shaun Young was on vacation in Las Vegas on May 22 when he heard the news that an F5 tornado had touched down in his hometown of Joplin, Mo. Jeff Stinnett, his partner, was in Washington, D.C., for the annual FINRA conference when he, too, heard the news. Both men immediately began texting their employees to ensure they were safe.

“We heard back from every employee except one,” said Young, the firm’s president. “Eventually, someone saw the missing staff member walking down the middle of the street with a pile of clothes and her dog. Her house was completely destroyed.”

Not being there when it happened and unable to help was “hell and frustration,” Young says. When he did eventually arrive it was complete devastation on a level he struggles to describe.

“I’ve lived in Joplin only about six months,” he says. “However, I’ve lived in the surrounding Joplin community for 30 years. The high school, one of the largest in the state of Missouri, took a direct hit and is destroyed. We’re across the street.”

Young and his employees found the roof torn off and the interior destroyed. Metal file cabinets with client information, thankfully, survived, but items such as checkbooks, articles of incorporation, personal photographs and favorite coffee mugs were scattered everywhere.

The Legent Clearing-affiliated broker-dealer has 142 reps and operates in all 50 states. Employees in the Joplin office include Young and Stinnett, who operates as the firm’s chief compliance officer; two other full-time compliance staff; a compliance officer trainee, a clerical person and a recently-hired recruiter. They host electronic documents remotely using a local third-party provider and just recently began electronic scanning and imaging through Artisan Imaging.

He was able to find new office space that is partially furnished, reducing the immediate need for new desks and chairs. The aforementioned steel filing cabinets were moved Wednesday.

“We’ll be 85% to 90%, by the middle of next week,” Young says. “My father is sending me something called a ‘MyFi’ which is a portable hotspot which can have five computers attached at once. We’re updating our progress on our website from home computers that were not damaged.”

Young points to friends and neighbors as a major factor in getting back up and running.

“The delivery person for UPS has been a friend for 15 years; the postal worker is someone we give presents to on birthdays and at Christmas. They’re dealing with their own issues, and yet they’re holding our stuff and will make sure it gets to our new address once we’re ready to receive it.”

Although a business continuity plan is required by FINRA, too many broker-dealers and advisors view it as a chore, and do the minimum required. Young formally updates his on an annual basis and will tweak it as necessary and when issues and ideas arise. Along with the close-knit community, it’s something he counts as a major factor in keeping both himself, and the firm, running.

For now he has the task at hand to focus on, which is keeping him busy; but he knows that won’t last and eventually the repercussions of what he has witnessed—and continues to witness—will need to be addressed .

“My father always told me that in moments of crisis, put your head down and work the plan, and that’s what I’m doing,” he says. “I’m also so thankful that I have a business partner who rides my ass and keeps me going, and I wouldn’t get through this without him. But I know that serious emotions will eventually have to be dealt with.”

On Wednesday, he and two employees spent three hours in the afternoon looking for a friend’s son.

“Frankly, I knew we were looking for a body,” he says, before asking that the interview be stopped. “I was praying, in a way, that we wouldn’t find him. I just didn’t want to be the person to find him like that.”

Young asked that donations and offers of assistance go to the Joplin, Mo., chapter of the American Red Cross.

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