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Portfolio > Portfolio Construction

What Leadership Means During the COVID-19 Crisis

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The past month has seen developments many of us never imagined when 2020 began: shutdowns of countries like Italy and Spain, self quarantining and social distancing across the U.S., and a brutal bear market.

As we went to press in mid-March, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was speaking about direct relief payments to Americans. He also said the government may purchase up to $1 trillion of commercial paper to stabilize the markets.

“We are looking at sending checks to Americans immediately … [as] many companies have now shut down, whether it is bars or restaurants,” Mnuchin explained. “Americans need cash now. And the president wants to get [them] cash now. And I mean now in the next two weeks.”

More details on these developments are highlighted in this month’s Washington Watch update in which Melanie Waddell reports on the Trump Administration’s multi-pronged approach to the coronavirus, including a proposed stimulus package.

As for advisors, “This is a very unique circumstance, [since there’s] a convergence of a number of issues at once,” said RIA in a Box President GJ King during a recent webinar about how advisor firms can adjust to COVID-19 and its consequences. (See RIA Lessons & Leaders.)

In the current market conditions, of course, there is no clear playbook to guarantee the success of your business. However, it does give you and your clients a chance to revisit topics like portfolio management, risk tolerance, etc.

In this issue’s cover story written by Ginger Szala, “Portfolio Directions for Uncertain Times,” about a dozen portfolio experts and advisors weigh in on what trends they see as most significant to advisors today. Michael Kitces, the Nerd’s Eye View blogger and head of planning strategy at Buckingham Wealth Partners, points to direct indexing as “the most notable emerging investing trend.”

Plus, Kitces explains, “The trend is especially notable when advisors then begin to adapt the index ‘funds’ they use via direct indexing, such as adapting them for factor investing or to construct ESG portfolios.”

Speaking of Kitces, he recently joined Buckingham after 17 years at Pinnacle Advisory Group. We look at what the Nerd’s Eye View blogger and his colleague Jeff Levine are up to in a short feature story.

Another important industry VIP with a new gig is columnist Mark Tibergien, CEO of BNY Mellon’s Pershing Advisor Services. He’s retiring on June 1, as we explain in RIA Lessons & Leaders.

In this month’s prescient Formulas for Success column, Tibergien writes: “I am intrigued by how people act in good times and bad. Does an individual rise to an occasion or run for cover? Do they flaunt their successes or do they minimize the glory of their accomplishments? Do they insist on being part of every decision when things get tough, or do they empower and enable those around them to use their judgement and insight to produce better outcomes?”

These questions certainly are worth asking of our industry leaders and others, especially at times like these. “We discover what people are made of when they encounter challenges, uncertainty or loss,” adds Tibergien.

I hope we all can rise to the occasion in our professional and personal lives and that we are able to keep our heads clear and our health intact during this crisis.


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