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Why the Top BDs of 2020 Applaud Advisors' Response to the Pandemic

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IA: What have advisors been telling you about all these challenges, and how have they been responding to them?

John Burmeister, Lion Street: I communicated with an advisor recently about this, and this makes you realize how much of an impact our advisors have on their clients’ lives. They are needed now more than ever. An hour-long financial review meeting is now more of a psychological evaluation of how everything is going.

For instance, Grant Monson [of Alterra Advisors] in Bellevue Washington, said they’ve challenged themselves to do 25 random acts of kindness per quarter, like making quarantine kits for elderly clients who live alone — which they call “boxes of sunshine.”

A firm in Newton, Massachusetts, Sapers & Wallack, has been doing community outreach — making a certain number of calls to check in and make sure [clients] are doing well. This has really turned into counseling sessions and talking to clients about the pandemic’s impact on their lives.

CEO Aviva Sapers has put together care packages … and drops them off at employees’ houses and clients’ homes. There are lots of really cool stories like that coming out of our industry.

Ryan Diachok, Geneos: We’re seeing the same types of things, as our advisors are very invested in their communities. Some are doing mask-making parties and getting them to elderly homes. Communities are coming together right now, and our advisors are at the center of that.

In the last two weeks or so of March, we quickly created a repository where advisors could share the pieces they were using [to address] the extreme market volatility, for example. There were some really good materials.

A lot of our advisors took advantage of this — being able to pick and choose communication pieces and styles they could identify with and to use them with clients. We had asked advisors if they were okay with us putting it into the repository, and pretty much everybody’s fine with that.

Our advisors have good relationships with each other, and that’s what we’ve really been seeing. Communication is key, especially during a crisis.

We all are fortunate to [lead] firms that are just stacked with really high-quality advisors. And those are the ones that do the right things — communicating more, not less, with their clients. We’re seeing that business is increasing for most of our advisors. They’re getting referrals and new clients because of how they’ve reacted and communicated.

Amy Webber, Cambridge: Many of our advisors started on the journey first and foremost by segmenting their clients.

There were certain clients who, perhaps, are busy executives who don’t need anything other than the text message saying, “Hey, I’m here if you need something.” There are elderly clients who maybe need somebody to run errands for them or teach them how to buy groceries online, etc.

The more innovative advisors were converting to digital marketing. They’ve been using Zoom and tools like that to convert client events and seminars to 100% digital. Most of those I’ve talked to aren’t going back. Their clients love to be able to go to the advisor events digitally and not have to drive across town, for instance. They’re still bringing a friend.

All of this is being converted into the digital environment, and it seems to be propelling the growth. We all may have thought at first this would … slow things down. But this is a resilient industry. We’ve been — the advisors have been — able to make this shift really quickly and make sure clients were being taken care of the way that each segment needed.

Lon Dolber, American Portfolios: A lot of our advisors have small businesses owners [as clients], and they were extremely affected by what happened.

We spent a good amount of time educating our advisors on government programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, and making sure that they were somewhat knowledgeable. They had their clients asking them questions, like about where they could get some assistance.

We did a lot of videos and seminars about the government programs and the how, what, why and where. That was helpful for the advisors.

I think a big percentage of all of our end clients are business owners who have struggled tremendously. They call their advisors and ask, “What should I do?” Their accountants call the advisor and ask, “What should I do?”

Educating advisors on the process and some changes, like on required minimum distributions, was very important. Advisors had to have the proper level of education, so we spent a lot of time on that.


For a rundown of what the leaders of the 2020 Broker-Dealers of the Year think about the industry today and other topics, as well as a summary of the Runners Up, please click on these story links: