Business 'almost as usual' for advisers — despite Sandy's wallop

Firms relying on smart phones and the Internet to stay in touch with clients; not possible 10 years ago

Oct 30, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

Hurricane Sandy
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Trees were downed in New York's Central Park ((Photo: Bloomberg News))

Financial advisers in the path of superstorm Hurricane Sandy communicated with clients from wherever — and whatever way — they could on Tuesday.

A number of advisory offices along the northeastern coast stayed shut for a second day because of power outages, including Regent Atlantic Capital LLC in Morristown, New Jersey. With about half of its employees lacking power at home, those advisers relied on cell phones charged in their cars to make sure they were available to clients.

Most of the firm's clients live within a 45-minute drive of the office so many of them are likely to be without electricity too, said Chris Cordaro, the firm's chief executive. He emailed all clients this morning from his home, which does have power, to inform them that Regent was closed. The email provided cell phone numbers for all its wealth managers.

“The biggest thing clients could need today or in the next few days would be cash, and we could transfer money between their accounts or do whatever they needed in that respect,” Mr. Cordaro said.

The cell networks in the region are operating slowly, he said, because so many people are depending on their wireless devices for communicating.

In New York City, which is facing the worst power outage in its history, financial adviser Karen Altfest walked two miles to her Manhattan offices where the lights were working.

All of the firm's staff that lives outside the city were working from home, however, because most roads, bridges and public transportation lines were closed. About eight of Altfest Personal Wealth Management's staff made it in on Tuesday, which is an improvement over Monday when only one “intrepid soul” made it in, she said.

Client meetings have been cancelled through tomorrow, though planned calls with clients are still happening and internal meetings were going on through conference calls, Ms. Altfest said. Remote communications technologies were helping advisers do business “almost as usual” from their homes, something that 10 years ago would not have been possible.

“It's amazing how well it all works,” she said. “We're getting more than 20 people working together in synch remotely.”

As superstorm Sandy hit Washington, Philadelphia and Boston with a less severe wallop, many advisers in these cities opened offices, even if a limited number of employees could get in due to transportation issues.

With the U.S. markets closed for a second day, advisers said most clients were quiet. The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq have announced plans to open on Wednesday.

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