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Post-Harvey, How Broker-Dealers Are Supporting Their Advisors

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Geneos Wealth Management’s web-based approach to operations helped mitigate some of the business disruptions caused by Hurricane Harvey. Its offices didn’t come through unscathed, though.

“We definitely have advisors affected by the storm. We’ve been in constant communication with them. All the advisors, all their staff is safe and not in harm’s way at this point,” Geneos President Ryan Diachok told ThinkAdvisor on Thursday.

(Related: Determining Business Interruption Losses After Hurricane Harvey)

Geneos, winner of the 2017 Broker-Dealers of the Year in Division II, is based in Centennial, Colorado, but has two offices in the Houston area, and others in Rockport and McAllen, Texas.

The Rockport office was hit especially hard, though Diachok noted the team is already up and running again from an alternate location.

“Their office is destroyed because they were right where the peak winds hit,” Diachok said. “In talking with all of them, they’re all up and operational from a business perspective.”

Diachok said the web-based technology solutions and business continuity planning Geneos provides enabled advisors in the Texas offices to get back on their feet quickly.

“You never want to have to enact your BCP,” he said, “but these offices are putting those plans into place so they’re able to service clients 100% and be operational even going through all of those.”

He added, “It’s very different from some of the other natural disasters years prior, when everything wasn’t as web-based or cloud-based.”

Now, advisors are focused on serving clients. As of Thursday, Diachok said they hadn’t heard from any clients who had been harmed other than property damage. “They’re working hard through all that and we’re providing anything we can to them.”

Geneos is putting together a plan to help with the relief effort, including donations to the Red Cross and a matching program for advisors’ donations.

Austin-based Lion Street Financial was mostly spared from the storm’s damage, firm President John Burmeister said. “We prepared for the worst and it wasn’t the worst,” he said, noting there were some trees uprooted and branches downed in his area.

Lion Street won the 2017 Broker-Dealer of the Year in Division I.

However, as a nationwide insurance broker-dealer, some of its offices were in the path of the storm. Burmeister said he and the executive team took steps ahead of time to understand who was in harm’s way and what they needed. It also relied on business partners like Pershing to support clients while employees and advisors were focused on more immediate concerns caused by Harvey.

Lion Street compiled a list of its offices that were in the hurricane’s path. Prior to the storm making landfall, CEO Bob Carter reached out to those offices, and as the storm progressed, relationship managers kept in contact with offices being hit.

“As a broker-dealer and an insurance company, you go through all those motions. As the storm’s approaching, you say, ‘How bad is it going to be?’ We have our continuity plans in place. Are we going to be able to work remotely for those employees that are even further remote, know that they may have to pick up some of the heavy lifting to support the daily operations [of other offices]?”

As the storm progressed, Lion Street kept a running tally of each firm and the impact on it. The firm’s offices were all OK, but “where we saw more of an impact was to personal homes,” Burmeister said, noting that the impact on employees ranged from “no flooding, everybody fine to home flooded, home destroyed.”

Now the firm’s efforts are focused on how to support its employees. “We know we have the process and the business down; that’s under control, but what can we do to help?”

For example, some employees in the Austin office have family in Orange, Texas, a county neighboring Houston that was ordered to evacuate on Thursday. “We’ve gone through, ‘how can we help donate? How can we contribute to them, letting them go off work to go to the area impacted to help out?’” Burmeister said.

Because Lion Street is so close to the area, it has access to “a lot of different outlets where we can contribute, whether it be monetary donations, collections for supplies, even individuals going on location to help.”

“Processing the business is the easy part. Now it’s helping our firms support the clients and start thinking about the impact to the client,” Burmeister said. “They’re financial advisors, they’re insurance advisors, so they’re now focused on how do you help the clients rebuild? From a financial standpoint, people are going to be taking distributions, they’re going to need access to funds. It’s doing what they do best in guiding and providing support for clients.”

— Read 3 Ways Harvey Is Touching the Life and Health Community Now on ThinkAdvisor. 


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