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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

How BDs Are Stepping Up During the Pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed so many of our routines. For instance, each summer I take a short trip to the Chicago area to meet up with the Broker-Dealers of the Year winners.

Last summer, I arrived in the Windy City only to discover that I didn’t have the right pair of shoes. I went over to a nearby mall to shop. There were busloads of young visiting teens from China, probably several hundred.

I was so overwhelmed by their presence that I thanked a few of them for visiting the U.S. and for shopping (aka supporting our economy). I also took a picture or two of the crowd, while some of the kids giggled.

One year later, most of us are working from home due to COVID-19, few of us go to malls for leisurely shopping or browsing, and the relationship between the U.S. and China is in tatters.

Still, the crisis has a silver lining or two, as some of the BD leaders pointed out. For instance, our two-hour virtual conversation (held on Aug. 4) was extremely focused, as everyone concentrated on packing in as much information and as many insights as possible into the shorter time frame. We usually have a four- or five-hour meeting when we get together in person.

Several times during the terrific dialogue, I asked the BD executives if we needed a break. The answer was always a firm “no,” and so the discussion just kept rolling along.

And this seems to be the exact approach that advisors and firms have had to the pandemic, treating it as a time to test and improve virtual “business as usual” routines and also developing plenty of new processes and procedures as needed.

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Outside of the office, advisors, BD staff and leaders have reached out to their communities. They’re making masks and care packages, as well as helping the elderly in a variety of ways. Some are supporting those in need through local food banks and fundraising.

Like those in the news business, the broker-dealers have found themselves becoming clearinghouses of information as they never really expected. This shift has been tied to all the changing IRS rules and deadlines, not to mention the many details about government-supported loan programs for small businesses and federal stimulus plans.

We’ve all been working longer hours, as the line separating our work and personal lives has blurred. This has involved more productivity and the associated pressure, but it’s also allowed many of us to get a peek into each other’s lives — like when we get to see their children and pets on screen during Zoom calls, for instance, for a few seconds.

As Forrest Gump’s mother once told him, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

It is indeed a special and often challenging time. But as broker-dealers and advisors are showing, there are ways to make it work, often in unexpected ways.

On Aug. 23, for example, I took part in an anniversary-celebration car parade in San Antonio, Texas, which was held in lieu of a big party. There was a mariachi group performing on the lawn — spread out across it, of course, to adhere to social-distancing guidelines — as well as an Elvis impersonator.

It was the couple’s 63rd anniversary. Since they were married in 1957, I put some paper cutouts on my Honda with the lyrics of their favorite song, “Gotta Lot O’ Livin’ to Do.”