Coronacrash Advisor Insights: Great Diamond Partners’ Steven Tenney & Tony Sirianni
AdvisorHub’s Publisher & CEO — Tony Sirianni — asked top advisors from leading firms their opinions on the dual management of the Coronavirus and market meltdown crises. Read how these advisors are managing one of the most unique challenges we have faced as a financial community.
Here is how Steven Tenney, Founding Partner & CEO of Great Diamond Partners responded.
So we’re in a new and challenging dynamic, where not only do our clients need us more than ever, but we have to change the tried and true way that we have always interacted with them. How are you handling the challenge of working remotely and managing clients? Is video conferencing effective?
While not immune to the challenges we all face, the Great Diamond Partners team is operating very well in this environment. We have daily video calls so the team connects — it’s important to maintain cohesiveness and to address any client or operational issues that arise. Video conferencing has been effective however it can lead to far too much screen time. Zoom-fatigue is real, so we also encourage everyone to take breaks from their screens.
How do you maintain a sense of normalcy personally and professionally?
Normalcy isn’t easy when nothing around us is normal. I therefore control what I can control — when I get up in the morning, my exercise, diet, and work schedule.
People who have never done this job don’t really understand how much psychiatry we do every day, how close we have to get to our clients to get them to tell us about their hopes and dreams and plans, nor do they realize how closely the physical fears of coronavirus and the all too real fear of financial ruin are so closely related. How are your clients reacting to the dual threat of covid-19 and the market crash? What are you telling them?
As advisors, our focus is on empathetic client communication and providing perspective and advice. While nearly everyone is rattled by the crisis and what it means for the future, our clients have been incredibly resilient. Many of the clients of our current firm, which started in 2019, have worked with our advisors for decades and have experienced difficult periods and subsequent recoveries before. We want them to know we are looking out for their best interests and remind them of the basics like cash flow and asset allocation.
In response to the crisis we also initiated a weekly client letter that provides perspective on the environment. It acknowledges things are hard for everyone, injects a bit of humor, provides historical perspective and looks into the future — all in a way that our clients can understand.
What about your business? Are you just “maintaining” or are you growing?
We are growing from two perspectives. First, we are engaging with new prospective clients that have been referred to us. Second, the firm is evolving, getting even stronger for when we emerge from the crisis. We hired a new associate, refined our lines of communication and further integrated technology.
How do you prospect without traditional client interactions during a market climate like this?
In addition to our normal prospecting, I am reaching out to other business leaders to simply see how they are doing and asking what they will do when we all emerge. This is a difficult time for leaders, and we appreciate sharing situations with each other. Being there for them at this time only strengthens relationships for the future.
While we didn’t do it for the purpose of marketing, we also launched a fundraiser for Maine’s largest food bank called Great to Good. So far, we have raised over $13,000! You can see our two minute launch video here.
Things are down, but somebody must be making money. Where do you see opportunity in the market? Are you recommending any investments right now to clients, or suggesting they exit certain investments or sectors? Do you have any sense of where to invest post crisis? Or are you riding out the storm?
We are taking several actions. Many accounts were rebalanced in late March, adding to stocks and reducing bond allocations that had appreciated beyond targets. For those holding U.S. Treasuries in taxable accounts, we trimmed positions and added to municipal bonds to increase income and reduce taxes. Finally, we are continuing to favor those companies that regularly increase their dividends — even in the middle of this crisis.
What’s been the most useful piece of technology or advice that you could suggest to other advisors who are trying to cope in these circumstances, particularly some technology or business practice that you have discovered or rediscovered during this crisis that you will use in your business going forward?
We accelerated the previously planned integrations of Calendly and Zoom to be more available to clients. They are already having a positive impact and are here to stay.
I’ve got a feeling that we are getting to know each other a little better these days. Whether we hear kids and dogs in the background of a conference call, or see some interesting choices in clothing and grooming on Zoom, we are “getting real” with each other in an out of the corporate world type of way. I’m seeing the best advisors create truly holistic experiences for their nervous clients, and helping folks in ways above and beyond what a “traditional” financial advisor would normally do. What’s happening in your world during this crazy time that you will take with you into the post corona world that will help you grow your business and deepen your client relationships?
We have an even greater appreciation for meeting our stakeholders, including clients, “where they are.” Being empathetic to the situation is critical. Everyone worries about the “how long” and “how bad” of this crisis. We certainly offer guidance when appropriate, however a simple friendly conversation is often the best medicine. That’s an approach that we should all keep in mind when things return to normal.
Great Diamond Partners is a member of the Dynasty Network.