Advisers prep for Hurricane Sandy to land

Firms put emergency, contingency plans in place for 'Frankenstorm'

Oct 26, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

By Liz Skinner

Advisers along the East Coast, including those in New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., are considering their emergency plans and preparing to deal with power outages and transportation nightmares that weather watchers say Hurricane Sandy is likely to leave in her wake.

With expected winds of 30-50 mph and flooding rains starting as early as Sunday, utilities are warning customers to prepare for possible weeklong power outages in many areas as far inland as Pittsburgh. The storm's timing, close to Halloween on Oct. 31, has been dubbed "Frankenstorm" by the National Weather Service.

“We have a business continuity plan and we're prepared to put that into effect if access to the office isn't possible,” said Ian Armstrong, chief operating officer of Clear Harbor Asset Management LLC in New York. “We haven't, as of yet, canceled any meetings with the clients and companies that are set to come in Monday.”

In Philadelphia, Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, which has about 740 advisers, will post information for clients as soon as there is a more complete understanding of what the impact will be, said Chris Munafo, director of private-client-group administration.

“We don't want a client trying to get to a closed location or calling into a closed office,” he said.

The top priorities are the safety of employees and keeping client information secure, Mr. Munafo said. Operationally, power outages are the biggest concern, and he expects to be busy Monday and Tuesday communicating with branches. About 50 branches were affected by Hurricane Irene last year.

'Smack into New Jersey'

“This one is supposed to make a left smack into New Jersey,” Mr. Munafo said. “We could really be impacted by this, and that's why it's important that we have a plan in place.”

The generator at Convergent Wealth Advisors in Washington is ready, and a plan to post updates to staff through a weather emergency phone number is in place.

“We have an extreme-weather policy here, and when it's bad, we don't ask people to come in,” said Doug Wolford, Convergent's president. “Safety comes first — we want to make sure advisers and staff are safe.”

Also in Washington, the annual conference of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries is set to begin Sunday. So far, the 46th annual meeting plans to go on as scheduled, a note on the association's website says.

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