Talk about grace under fire.
As blazes continue to rage through a number of areas in Northern and Southern California on Monday, financial advisors are working to address their clients’ issues while tackling both professional and personal challenges of their own.
The Financial Services Network, a large advisor group affiliated with LPL Financial and based in Sacramento, says about five of its offices in the greater Sonoma area are closed and about 12 other locations are being evacuated or affected in other ways by the fires.
“We support about 250 advisors and staff and have been on the phone all day with them” to support their operations, said Daxs Stadjuhar, managing partner and chief compliance officer.
Meanwhile, “We put out a message to our clients … telling them they can use our office for evacuation from the Getty Fire” in Los Angeles, said Danilo Kawasaki of Gerber Kawasaki in Santa Monica, which is affiliated with LPL.
“We have hundreds of clients affected” by the Getty Fire, added Kawasaki, who resides in Pacific Palisades and has been told to leave that area (along with his family).
Adam Spiegelman, CFP, of Spiegelman Wealth in Lafayette — some 20 miles east of San Francisco — says he was not evacuated yesterday, though those living and working nearby were.
His office, an affiliate of Commonwealth Financial, had no power on Monday. “The office is closed, and all staff are working remotely. We had a dress rehearsal for this a few weeks ago when the power was taken down as a preventive measure [by PG&E].”
Some of his clients live and work in areas to the north, like Napa and Sonoma. “There’s lots of smoke [from the Kincade Fire], and people are wearing masks and making sure their pets do not go outdoors.”
With the spate of fires last fall (including the Camp Fire and Mendocino Complex Fire), “We started talking about clients’ home coverage and fire insurance,” Spiegelman said.
His firm doesn’t sell such policies, but he and others “talked about coverage that can bring homes back up to code, with sprinklers and fire alarms and such, if they did have to rebuild.”
The advisor also says he has been giving clients a list of what to take with them in the event of an emergency evacuation. “One client in Berkeley posted it in their kitchen … next to the fire extinguisher.”
The frequent dangers from California fires today, said Spiegelman, make the risk of such danger “the new normal.”
He’s tried to learn from tragedies like having a friend lose two homes in Santa Rosa: “I talked at length [with her] about insurance coverage and that spurred me to reach out to my clients starting about two years ago.”
This topic is now “part of my conversations with clients, as I want to make sure they are absolutely up to speed on everything.”
Many advisors also say they are working with clients to have documents saved to the cloud and kept in fireproof safes. This includes wills, trusts, health care directives and the like.
“We have not had to consider this in the past” but are doing so currently, Spiegelman said.
It’s especially important to help clients who may be less inclined to back up documents digitally or keep copies in the cloud. “Many of my clients … like paper,” he explained, so he works to make sure they have proper document storage.