In difficult circumstances, advisers in Boston soldier on

Lockdown keeps many employees at home; manhunt

By Jason Kephart

Apr 19, 2013 @ 11:07 am (Updated 5:44 pm) EST

Boston, bombing
((Photo: Bloomberg News))
Jerry Anderson, president of Boston Investment Advisers Inc., found himself in an unusual situation Friday morning at his office on Beacon Street in downtown Boston. Mr. Anderson, who lives within walking distance from his office, was acting as his own secretary. “I don't normally answer the phones but my secretary isn't here. We're in a state of lockdown,” he said. Like his fellow Bostonians, Mr. Anderson was coming to the end of a stressful week, which started with explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday and ended Friday with the city shut down as police searched for one of the suspects. “People have just been shell-shocked all week,” said Beth Gamel, co-founder of Waltham, Ma.-based Pillar Financial Advisors. “[The week's events] have cast a pall over the city that we're just not used to.” In spite of the difficult week, many advisers found a way to soldier on. John Napolitano, chairman of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts and chief executive of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass., said about half of the firm's employees were working from home, but communication was difficult. “Cellphones are really jammed,” he said. “There's a lot going on in the airwaves and a lot of government intervention. People are having trouble with cells and iPad downloads.” For some advisers, the going was particularly tough, as the tragedies of the week hit close to home. A high school friend of the son of Bill Hayes, principal at Charles Carroll Financial Partners LLC, for instance, was injured in one of Monday's blasts. The young man, 24, is in an induced coma as he battles facial and neck injuries, Mr. Hayes said. “Everyone knows someone or is probably not too far from someone who has been hurt,” Mr. Hayes said. “It's not a huge town.” The traumatic events in the community made business anything but usual this week. “It's been hard to concentrate,” Mr. Hayes said. Mr. Anderson, who was in the office Friday to finish off a quarterly newsletter for clients, knows of someone affected by the bombings, too. A friend of his wife's hairdresser lost both his legs. “It's kind of a six-degrees-of-separation story. Everybody ends up knowing someone who was hurt or killed in this,” Mr. Anderson said. While most Boston advisers struggle with their own feelings about the tragedy, there's also been a focus on keeping in contact with clients. Adviser coach Ray Sclafani, president and founder of ClientWise LLC, spoke this week to many of the hundreds of advisers with whom his firm works in the New England region. They discussed the importance of advisers' reaching out to their clients at this difficult time to listen and empathize. “These kinds of moments are a wonderful opportunity to step up and into the relationship and demonstrate sincere and authentic caring,” Mr. Sclafani said. “Reaching out can really further strengthen and deepen relationships because sometimes showing you care really goes a long way.” The events in Boston this week, as well as the series of crises that seem to come with increasing frequency, show the importance of advisers' being able to communicate with clients during emergencies, he said. “This is the world we live in and you have to have the cellphone numbers of your clients with you,” Mr. Sclafani said. In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission expects advisers to have a full business continuity plan in place as part of their compliance program to address any unplanned disruption in business, whether it's weather-related or a man-made disaster like the Boston bombings. That would include access to and protection of client data and accounts, as well as establishing ways for clients to communicate with advisers. Ms. Gamel didn't have to go far to reach her clients. They were busy checking in on her, she said. “It was very nice to get e-mails from clients in different parts of the country,” Ms. Gamel said. “They were just checking in. It was heartening.” InvestmentNews reporters Jeff Benjamin, Darla Mercado, Andrew Osterland, Mark Schoeff Jr. and Liz Skinner contributed to this story.

Memories raw as stories retold

Meanwhile, some advisers recounted their own harrowing experiences at the Marathon

Phil Stathos, a financial adviser and partner at Mayflower Advisors LLC, cheered on his wife, Alice, during her fourth marathon in Boston. He watched her run by and turn onto Boylston Street for the final stretch at 2:46 p.m. — four minutes before the bombs exploded. After initially thinking a transformer blew up, Mr. Stathos became concerned after the second explosion and panic-stricken when he saw runners fleeing the finish area.

“I knew by the timing that she had to have been nearby the blasts, and I had no idea how powerful they were,” he said Wednesday. “All around me, people were praying and crying and hugging each other, and many were trying to make cell phone calls but none were going through.”

About 90 minutes after he had last seen her, Alice Stathos texted her husband to say she was OK. His relief was overwhelming; he had already begun mentally preparing what to tell their three sons had their mother been hurt or killed.

The experience gave Mr. Stathos some new perspective on life that he expects to share with clients.

“As an adviser, my role with clients is helping them plan for what we hope will be a long life,” he said. “In reality, the only certainty we have is today, and there has to be a balance between saving for tomorrow and living for today.”

He was planning to take today off to be with his family.

Jennifer Hartman, principal at Greenleaf Financial Group in Los Angeles, was running down the marathon's home stretch with two friends when the first explosion sounded.

“From the intensity, I knew people had lost their lives. It was scary, but at that point, as a marathon runner, you're exhausted. Your first reaction is to get to the finish line. But now there's this explosion, so my reaction was, let's go the other way. And the second bomb went off, so then I thought: 'Will there be a third?'”

She and her two friends grabbed hands and made their way safely down Exeter Street.

“Being an adviser played into the situation,” Ms. Hartman said. “We were calm … We made good decisions about what we should do. We used Facebook once we got back to the hotel, and there were people calling, texting and e-mailing.”

Financial adviser Robert Henderson was also at the marathon, proud to see his younger brother pass mile 20. He promised that he, his wife and two young children would meet the first-time marathoner in the finish area.

Running to raise funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, his 37-year-old brother, Erik, was fulfilling a goal pledged two decades ago when the pair used to watch the race together every year growing up near Hopkinton, Mass., where the 26.2-mile race begins.

Erik Henderson, who had trained for three months, was stopped a mile from the end of the race after the two explosions went off.

Following news of the explosions, Robert Henderson, president of Landsdowne Wealth Management LLC in Mystic, Conn., sent his family back to their car in the Boston outskirts while he continued by subway to Fenway Park, about two miles from the finish line.

Memories of 9/11

“Walking through the city trying to find [my brother] felt so much like 9/11,” said Mr. Henderson, who lived in New York when terrorist attacks took down the World Trade Center towers. “It was such a similar, somber mood, with people crying and not a lot of other noise.”

He eventually made it to a gathering area about four blocks from the finish line, and an hour later was relieved to see his brother, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., arrive.

Both brothers were impressed with the number of Boston residents coming out of their brownstones to offer runners food, warmer clothing and other assistance. Financial companies around Boston now are considering how they can assist those who have been affected.

For instance, the charity board of Commonwealth Financial Network met Tuesday to discuss ways to help those in need, Wayne Bloom, chief executive of Commonwealth, wrote in an e-mail. Commonwealth, based in Waltham, Mass., had staff members and advisers running in the race. None of them was harmed.

“Runners, as a general rule, are very resilient people,” Ms. Hartman said. “Everyone I know said they wanted to come back next year; they love the people, the marathon. It's the Super Bowl of marathons.”

City of Boston a 'ghost town' (CNBC)