Timely Interview with Penny Pennington and AdvisorHub CEO Tony Sirianni
Timely interview with Penny Pennington and AdvisorHub CEO 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 Penny Pennington, Managing Partner of Edward Jones 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 CEO has training for, and a directly correlated market crash. What have you implemented at your firm to address this dual threat.
We’ve taken a number of steps to safeguard the health and well-being of our clients and our associates. We’re restricting public access to our branch offices and encouraging our clients to communicate with our financial advisors through other means, like telephone, WebEx, secure text and online access. To ease concerns about possible time off, we have provided up to 10 additional days of paid time off for eligible associates, including the non-licensed client service professionals in our branches, to use specifically in connection with this virus.
To reduce risk to our home office associates and do our part to combat the rapid spread of coronavirus, we’re asking our associates in our home office locations in St. Louis, Tempe and Mississauga, Canada, to primarily work from home. With the advanced technologies we have, the lion’s share of our home office associates can work very productively from their homes. And we’ve suspended all business travel through the end of May while moving all training and firm events to virtual platforms.
We’re committed to being open for business and available to our 7 million clients throughout this crisis. We’re doing a lot of proactive outreach so our clients know how to reach us, and to let them know we’ll be here when they do.
As this situation evolves, we will follow the guidance of the WHO, CDC and local public health officials, and we will reevaluate these measures on an ongoing basis. While this is a time of uncertainty, we are all pulling together to help keep our clients and one another informed, understood, secure and in control.
How about the continuing market volatility? what are you telling your advisors to do/ what are you hearing from clients?
It’s times like these that the empathy and intelligence of a human Financial Advisor makes an incredible difference for clients. As you might imagine, we’re getting a lot of questions from clients, and of course we understand how hard it can be to watch the volatility in the markets. As we always have, we encourage our clients to avoid the temptation to make emotional decisions about their investments and stay focused on the long term, since that’s still the best way to help ensure they reach their goals. Market volatility can make investors want to “time the market,” but it’s nearly impossible to do that. Those who try usually end up missing out on the best days in the market. The right question is “am I still on track to meet my goals”.
The good news is that the vast majority of our clients understand the need to stick to the long-term plans they’ve built over time in partnership with our financial advisors. And because we focus on having strong personal relationships with our clients, they value our guidance. We are confident that we’ll all get through this together.
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?
We believe the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the markets, though substantial, will end up being temporary, and the markets will bounce back in the long term. History tells us that the recovery can start as quickly as the drop itself did. This is why we’re continuing to encourage our clients to stick to their thoughtful long-term strategies. That will be the best way to stay on course and reach their goals through all the current upheaval. We all know the worst 4 words to put together: “This time it’s different”. Everyone is asking that now. There certainly are differences to be thoughtful about – the significant and long-lasting market drop was more singularly financial in nature. This one has us all thinking much more broadly about our well-being, both financial and physical. There will be ramifications of that which are long-lasting, and not knowable today.
What about our business? What do you think the long term impact of this dual crisis will be on the advisor business model?
Edward Jones has been around for 98 years. Our business has been through many times that have challenged our nation, our neighbors and our economy, and we’ve survived them all. The same can be said for the advisor business model as a whole. There are always pressures on our industry, and the environment is always changing, but our industry continues to be stable. It will adapt to this crisis just as it has adapted to others through the years. That adaptability is borne out of a point of view, that at least for us, is not going to change: That clients value trusted professional advice, and the relationship with a human being; and that we will continuously evolve the value we are providing to be truly meaningful to clients. This is an unusual time, but we believe that we and our clients will get through it, and come out on the other side stronger than ever.
So these things tend to bring out the good and the bad in people. What has most encouraged you, what have you seen that’s reaffirmed your faith in our community and how its handling these difficult times?
In response to this question, I’ll share a story from one of our financial advisors. On one of the days of significant market upheaval, a client rushed into this advisor’s branch office and said she desperately needed to see the entire staff. It was very unlike this client to act this way, so the advisor was quite concerned.
As it turned out, the client’s “emergency” was that she was worried about the associates in that branch, and she wanted to buy everyone a coffee to ease their day. The client also asked what else she could do to help, knowing the branch would have a very busy day ahead. She simply wanted to repay the kindness, attentiveness and caring the branch team had shown her over the years.
I think we’re going to hear many stories like that during this crisis. People always come together in the face of a shared challenge. It’s why Italians are singing to each other during a quarantine, and grocery stores are setting aside special hours for older adults, and musicians are recording performances from their homes. When we come together, we rise to the occasion, every time.