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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Raymond James’ Tash Elwyn Is Cooking His Way Through Lockdown, for Charity

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Tash Elwyn, the head of Raymond James’ employee channel, has been an advisor with the firm since 1993.

He’s also a longtime resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, where he lives in a house built in 1923.  

Though busy working from home, and leading a series of charitable cooking events, Elwyn took the time to speak about his life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

THINKADVISOR: What are your clients, and advisors, asking you most about right now?

TASH ELWYN: It’s very inspiring, refreshing and humbling to say that clients of mine, and of our advisors, are … asking about our own well being — along with that of our family members and colleagues.

In this service-leading profession that’s so focused on adding value to clients lives, I find this really heartwarming. It shows the strength of human compassion today. 

In terms of financial concerns, clients are asking for shared intellectual capital. In other words, how does the pandemic [impact] … the economy, the markets and, personally, their ability to achieve their financial goals in the long term.

How are you responding to these concerns?

We are doing all we can to lead through this crisis within our Private Client Group and its support of how financial advisors can lead with their clients. 

One takeaway right now is that it’s almost impossible to over-communicate. 

There should be a consistent cadence of communications with your advisors by providing them with intellectual capital for them to share with their clients. Again, you just cannot overdo this at the moment. 

Our proactiveness, for instance, includes hosting a weekly webinar for [investor] clients led by Larry Adam, our [PCG] chief investment officer, and some other folks on the team. It’s tremendously popular.

Paul Reilly, as always, has been an incredibly compassionate leader in this crisis. He’s very consistent in his focus and in the firm’s focus on the well-being of everyone in the Raymond James family. 

Having that steady, caring, compassionate tone from the top provides … some incredible comfort during these very uncertain times.

How are you working from home? Any best practices?

As creatures of habit, it’s remarkable how we build and perpetuate comfort zones. So, we are several weeks into the successful transition to working from home, and our financial advisors and I have developed new comfort zones with the firm’s technology. 

Voice calls now feel like they’re from the Fred Flintstone era, since I’m now used to video — with my own [investor] clients and for financial advisors with their clients.

This will be a permanent change in how we communicate with each other. It’s a real silver lining.

Video is a game changer for advisors to engage with clients. In the spirit of not letting ourselves be overwhelmed right now, they’ve frequently stepped up — not just in terms of the quantity but in the mode of their communications — with video.

What’s most challenging with working from home? 

It does take some time … to develop new comfort zones. I see the ability to remain connected to our teams being aided and supported by remote-work technologies.

That said, there’s a challenge … as we work from home that some of the boundaries that existed before between work and home no longer exist. Of course, this is tied to us being so service-oriented in supporting advisors and clients.

Boundaries that contributed to a better work/life balance before may have temporarily slipped by the wayside. 

A related focus for us … is to make sure that we don’t forget about self care. This is a marathon not a sprint, so we need to pace ourselves and to make sure we sleep, eat, get out to walk the dog or work out in a makeshift gym in the garage.

What are you doing for inspiration and fun?

Given the importance of having balance in our lives these days, my family and I hatched the idea of finding fun and creative ways to give back to the community. 

For us, that means cooking for our neighbors — so I am not so tempted to work or to watch Netflix. 

We wanted to cook and find other ways to engage, and also serve as a great way to give back to both our friends and our community, especially those in need.

In high school and college, I had a job with Mellow Mushroom Pizza and learned that skill. I developed a love of cooking and vowed to have a wood-burning oven in my backyard, which we put in a few years ago.

It’s a bit of a production, since it takes 90 minutes to get the right temperature. And you really want to do this for a big group of friends, like a dozen or so.

Being the overly ambitious sort, we decided a few weeks ago to [make pizzas] for friends and to raise money for the free clinic of St. Petersburg, Florida. 

It was a bit of a stretch. When I went to an Italian market, they had 44 dough balls, so I cranked them out as pizzas. I’m very glad they didn’t have 100! 

Neighbors came and picked them up at the door. We asked for them to give donations online. People had a blast.

It was an opportunity, big and small, to give back …, and we’ve been absolutely astonished at how popular the [LinkedIn] post about it was.

So, having recovered from that, we did a barbecue last weekend that also was a fundraiser — and I smoked 99.3 pounds of pulled pork. It was a lot of work and exercise, but not quite as hard as the pizza making.  

We took reservations from 30 families and made over 110 meals, which we packaged up and requested the associated donations for the clinic. Again, it was a lot of fun and a great way to give back.

I’m not sure what will be an encore. I need another week or two off to recover. We’ll have to do a family meeting. I’m thinking we’ll probably cook Mexican food. 

As challenged as we are in the financial markets today with the crisis’ effects on the economy and, of course, the human impacts, we all are so fortunate and can find ways — big and small — to give back right now. That’s been the motivation for our family. 

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