For Byron Ellis, hurricanes are old hat. The managing director in United Capital’s The Woodlands office, about half an hour outside Houston, told ThinkAdvisor that Harvey is the fourth or fifth hurricane or tropical storm he’s endured, but it doesn’t matter how a storm is rated. “Both can be equally as bad, whether it’s rain, or electricity is out, trees getting blown down,” he said.
Ellis lives on a creek and decided not to leave when officials instituted a non-mandatory evacuation for his area. “People were saying, ‘Just go, get out, don’t take any chances,’ but the fighter in you wants to say, ‘No. I’m going to stay,’” he explained. “I’m going to make sure if there’s a chance for me to save anything, I can.”
Ellis didn’t suffer any water damage at home, but did get a little water in his office.
“We have a continuity plan set up, and we used it this time a lot,” he said. His firm keeps a list of employees’ cell phone numbers and addresses so they can communicate following a natural disaster, and has an alternate location to do business if the office is unusable.
“We didn’t have to this time,” he said, though there was some cleanup needed.
Amber Roberson, the director of operations, kept in constant communication with employees to make sure everyone was accounted for. On Tuesday, Ellis and his team took advantage of a reprieve in the rain to get everyone on the phone for a meeting. “We did a roll call. ‘Tell me what’s happening. How’s your family?’” he said.
Ellis officially opened his office again on Thursday.
“What we’ve learned in the financial business is that when this stuff is going down, there are not a lot of money emergencies,” he said. “People aren’t thinking about that. They’re thinking about their lives, their pets, their friends, their loved ones. It’s not really until the dust settles … do our clients need our help.”
In fact, prior to the storm making landfall, Ellis sent an email to clients with contact information for the national office and a cell phone number for a contact in his office.
“We got zero calls. There’s not one person [who called] to the national number, to the cell phone,” Ellis said.
Part of that is due to the planning that Ellis has already done for his clients. “Because of the fact that they have financial plans in place, because their cash reserves are intact, because they have insurance, there’s not a big financial concern,” he said. “There’s going to be some cleanup, but it wasn’t an emergency when we didn’t see the sun for four days.”