Lean on me (virtually):

How one group of independent advisors is navigating a pivotal time together

Intro

April 24, 2020

By Meredith Richard, Senior Manager, Communications

Schwab Advisor ServicesTM 2020 Executive Leadership Program (ELP) began in the usual way. Thirty-eight promising RIA firm leaders from 20 states convened for a live keystone event in January in Paradise Valley, AZ. After returning home, they started their first online guided learning course on Positive Leadership and divided into smaller discussion groups to share reactions and insights.

As the 2020 program got underway, the advisors quickly found themselves in an unprecedented situation. By March 9, markets were plunging at historic levels, and the novel coronavirus had infected more than 100,000 people around the globe.

As the pandemic spread and chaos in the markets persisted, Cris Cabanillas, Partner at Monterey Private Wealth in California, turned to his ELP breakout group for advice.

“As we were beginning to phase our staff to working from home and sending regular communications to our clients, I was curious what others were doing,” he said. “The response was amazing. Everyone in my group responded with their plans and offered incredible resources. We have one group member who is based in Seattle, and her wisdom was essential. I felt better prepared from the information she was sending from a pandemic epicenter, and she was so gracious with it.”

Pullout

Schwab Advisor ServicesTM 2020 Executive Leadership Program (ELP) began in the usual way. Thirty-eight promising RIA firm leaders from 20 states convened for a live keystone event in January. 

As the 2020 program got underway, the advisors quickly found themselves in an unprecedented situation. By March 9, markets were plunging at historic levels, and the novel coronavirus had infected more than 100,000 people around the globe.

Article

Ryan Bouchey, Vice President at Bouchey Financial Group in New York, appreciated the opportunity to connect with his ELP cohort during a tumultuous time as well.

“In addition to the lessons we learned through our first course on Positive Leadership, having a group of other advisors and leaders throughout the country has been a great resource during these times of uncertainty,” said Bouchey. “I’ve been in contact with many individuals from the class – checking in and sharing best practices. It’s helpful getting outside perspectives, especially in the situation we all find ourselves in today.”

Joe Martin, Chief Client Experience Officer at Summitry, is another member of the ELP cohort. He said he has immediately benefitted from the course content as well as camaraderie with his peers.

“Having gone through the Positive Leadership course when we did turned out to be so incredibly timely because we all need positivity now more than ever,” he said. “I’m excited about the next course, Managing Innovation, because I anticipate it being so powerful, and timely, in terms of helping us take what we’re learning during this time, innovate around it, and make us that much stronger as firms coming out of this, both for our teams and clients. We also need connection now more than ever, so knowing we can collaborate with Schwab ELP leaders and with our colleagues at other firms is so important.”

Here, the firm leaders share some of their key strategies for successfully managing their teams and serving clients during a time of crisis.

Advisors

  • Ryan Bouchey, Bouchey Financial Group

    Ryan Bouchey of Bouchey Financial Group

    “I’ve been in contact with many individuals from the class – checking in and sharing best practices. It’s helpful getting outside perspectives, especially in the situation we all find ourselves in today.”

    Read his strategies >

  • Cris Cabanillas, Monterey Private Wealth

    Chris Cabanillas of Monterey Private Wealth

    "I was curious what others were doing. Everyone in my group responded with their plans and offered incredible resources."

    Read his strategies > 

  • Joe Martin, Summitry

    Joe Martin of Summitry

    “Having gone through the Positive Leadership course when we did turned out to be so incredibly timely because we all need positivity now more than ever."

    Read his strategies >

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Cris

Cris Cabanillas, Partner, Monterey Private Wealth
Monterey, CA
Firm AUM: $560 million1
Number of employees: 13

  • Leading positively – The way we respond to a situation is often more important than the situation itself. Our response was to lead positively. We were confident our team was already addressing the concerns of our clients, and we wanted to reinforce that by giving them praise and offering flexibility to be safe and take care of their families.

  • Client communication – I made a commitment to call every client of mine on the phone to check on them. To explain the details of the CARES Act to clients and potential clients, my family helped me create a funny video that brings viewers into our daily work from home life, while providing useful information. Along with regular communications with our clients, this is something we are considering doing for another topic.

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Ryan

Ryan Bouchey, Vice President, Bouchey Financial Group
Troy and Saratoga Springs, NY
Firm AUM: $550 million1
Number of employees: 11

  • Technology – Fortunately, one of the changes we made prior to the pandemic was to create more flex-time work opportunities to meet our employees’ needs. In doing so, it was important that everyone was set up to work from home. This past month has been one of our best months in terms of the number of clients we’ve onboarded, and every one of them has been done remotely. From virtual meetings to e-signature capabilities, it’s amazing how much you can get done from home.

  • Client communication – Since the end of February, we’ve held two live webinars for our clients. After the webinars, we follow up with a client email with a YouTube link for those who can’t attend live. Clients appreciate the message as well as the data and reports we use during these webinars. We’ve also averaged about one mass email a week from our team to our clients to keep them informed about the markets, the virus, tax-loss harvesting, and any changes we’ve made to portfolios. When I reach out by phone to most clients there has not been panic or worry because they feel up-to-date with everything we’re doing and thinking and it gives them real comfort.

  • Employee engagement – We make it a priority to check in with videoconferencing meetings every morning. We’ve also engaged an outside meditation expert who joins us every Friday morning to lead a 30-minute guided meditation. We’re trying to be creative to keep morale up and create a positive virtual work environment.

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Joe

Joe Martin, Chief Client Experience Officer, Summitry
San Mateo, CA
Firm AUM: $1.6 billion1
Number of employees: 34

  • Technology - Given the new policy we implemented about three years ago to meet our employees’ needs, we were perfectly set up to work from home. We had the cloud-based systems, we had the videoconferencing, we have our daily situational meetings through GoToMeetingTM – we’re all set up technologically speaking to work from home. We’re all communicating with each other probably more than we do when we’re in the office.

  • Client communication – We’ve been sending two emails per week and hosting a weekly webinar with our investment team to respond to clients’ questions. We gave all of our clients the opportunity, leveraging online scheduling tool Calendly, to schedule a check-in calls and video conference meetings with their advisor to review their plan and investment strategies.

  • Employee engagement We’ve been conducting daily video meetings with each of our teams, we’ve set up groups with common interests (e.g., Peloton riders, meditation group, watercooler chit chat group), and we’ve had virtual happy hours every Friday.

Since 2014, Schwab’s Executive Leadership Program has prepared next-generation leaders to manage and grow their RIA firms through premier academic curricula, in-person events, and coaching sessions. Participants form long-term relationships and help each other think through the challenges and opportunities that face their firms and the industry. Over a third of the more than 200 graduates of the program have formed ongoing study groups to continue sharing expertise after the program ends.

For more recent industry perspectives from alumni of Schwab’s Executive Leadership Program, visit AboutSchwab.com/research.

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1As of April 20, 2020.

Schwab Advisor Services™ serves independent investment advisors and includes the custody, trading, and support of Schwab.

Independent investment advisors are not owned by, affiliated with, or supervised by Schwab. For informational purposes only.>

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