Coronacrash Update: Wedbush Securities’ Chris Mone & Tony Sirianni
AdvisorHub’s Publisher & CEO — Tony Sirianni — asked executives from top firms their opinions on the dual management of the Coronavirus and market meltdown crises. Read how leadership is managing one of the most unique challenges we have faced as a financial community.
Here is how Chris Mone, Head of Wealth Management at Wedbush Securities responded.
The last few weeks have been unprecedented and unexpected, a perfect storm if you will, of management challenges both on the employee and client level. You have had to deal with employee safety issues that no executive has training for, and a directly correlated market crash. What have you implemented at your firm to address this dual threat?
Unprecedented and unexpected, to put it mildly. Fortunately, we had activated our Business Continuity Program and team a few months ago, and we were able to react quickly as the Coronavirus pandemic unfolded. As the crisis began to worsen, we created our Pandemic Response and Readiness guide for managers that contains timely advice on resources, action plans and solutions for the challenges we are facing on a day to day basis. This is a living document that is updated as quickly as new developments take place. Before any shelter in place mandates were enacted, Wedbush determined that it would be appropriate to have as many employees as possible work remotely and have colleagues in essential roles only, continue to go to the office. Nearly overnight, we were able to equip every Wedbush employee with the ability to work remotely. Our Co-President, Gary Wedbush, has communicated as a true leader by “making sense of reality and providing hope”. His memos and video communication to all colleagues have given a clear assessment of the challenges we face and the measures being taken to overcome them, ultimately providing a realistic view on what we can expect.
Furthermore, where possible, we have asked essential personnel to rotate shifts of two weeks in and two weeks out, and have been constantly cleaning our facilities. We immediately established a service hotline and service desk for our field personnel working remotely to access and process everything from account documentation to order entry. I am so proud and impressed by our ability to quickly develop so many new practices and procedures in order to continue to serve our colleagues and clients. Although the urge to avoid difficult conversations is human nature, I am extremely impressed by the feedback I am hearing from advisors and clients on how quickly our advisors have adapted to this crisis in reaching out to clients with empathy, reason and a sound capital markets outlook. They have truly helped clients weather this storm.
How about the continuing market volatility? What are you telling your advisors to do and what are you hearing from clients?
Fortunately for me, I have been receiving incredible feedback from our FA Advisory Council and key advisors throughout the firm on what we can do more of, better or differently. We have embraced the new virtual office we are all working from and quickly built a full schedule of Webex broadcasts for our advisors, featuring subject matter experts who provide both a macro view as well as sector and individual equity analysis. In addition to industry experts, we recently hosted Ken Haman of Alliance Bernstein for a webcast on “Managing The Hard Conversation With Clients” that was different, yet extremely well received. Ken’s insights on how to prepare for and structure your client conversations while recognizing the emotional impact on their decision making was an excellent complement to the industry thought leader calls. The combination of market volatility and economic uncertainty can certainly cause fear. The pandemic exacerbated that fear; yet we have seen bear markets, war, health scares, and other causes for economic chaos, that ultimately, through the resolve and strength of our country and our way of life, were overcome. We and the markets ultimately emerged stronger.
What about the economy longer term? Where do you think we will be in 6 months, and how can advisors and their clients take advantage of that long term direction?
That’s a tough one. I don’t have a crystal ball. Neither do any of our award winning equity analysts. What we do have is some of the brightest minds using best in class resources available to them to try and figure out where we are going and how to tailor the advice we provide to meet our client’s needs. Whether it will take six months or longer, I believe the markets will be higher than they are today, before most of our clients will need their capital. Therefore, unless a client has unexpected needs for liquidity over the near term, stay invested, review your portfolio and your plan with your advisor, and add to high quality companies trading at a discount in this market.
What about our business? What do you think the long-term impact of this dual crisis will be on the advisor business model?
You’re not making this easy…I would hope that this nightmare will end without nearly as many casualties as have been predicted. Longer term, I would expect that the use of virtual meetings will increase internally and externally. Advisors and clients have been using Webex, Zoom, Skype and other tele-conferencing tools quite effectively and it is likely that this trend will continue long after the pandemic is behind us. The advisor business model is a never ending transformation. This dual crisis has highlighted the need for more planning based advice and a certain amount of protection planning. There is no better opportunity to articulate your value proposition than being prepared with a plan, and executing on that plan while communicating tirelessly throughout a crisis.
So these things tend to bring out the good and the bad in people. What has most encouraged you and what have you seen that’s reaffirmed your faith in our community and how it’s handling these difficult times?
One of my colleagues shared a video he filmed from his apartment across from a Manhattan hospital, where every New Yorker on 3rd Avenue and all across Manhattan, have been opening their windows each night at 7pm and cheering as the nurses and doctors finished their shift caring for patients. My faith is strengthened due to the bravery of all Americans, regardless of their role, working together to overcome this invisible enemy, the love and care being shown by families to their loved ones, which, is the most valuable commodity on earth. These are a few of the things that keep my faith strong and unwavering as I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we’re going to be ok and get through this together.