Advisers brave polar vortex's brutal cold

But only the temperatures are negative, as advisers shrug off nasty weather and get to work

Jan 6, 2014 @ 11:57 am

By Trevor Hunnicutt

Having a hard time getting up for work after your holiday? Try waking to brutal subzero temperatures like financial adviser Paul Jarvis.

For the Fargo, N.D.-based United Capital Financial Advisors employee, a normally breezy two-block commute turned painful today as the -45 degrees Fahrenheit wind-chill scorched his flesh.

“It feels like your face is going to freeze off,” said Mr. Jarvis, who was born and raised in North Dakota. “The raw temperature has been negative so long. I've had worse weather as far as blizzards and snow, but the consistency of negative temperatures – I haven't seen it this cold.”

Advisers and their clients in more than a half-dozen states are braving a polar vortex this week as an arctic air mass swept over the nation's midsection, sending temperatures in the U.S. plummeting to their lowest point in years in cities and towns from the Western Plains states to the Midwest and even to the South.

In Indianapolis, offices for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management closed and telephones were forwarded to other offices as the city's mayor, Greg Ballard, temporarily restricted driving to emergencies only. Charles Schwab Corp. closed its Indiana service center, suggesting on Twitter that clients who call may have to endure longer hold times. And advisers in other cities were forced to reschedule appointments as parents stayed with children excused from school for a snow day.

But for scores of advisers flung across the West and Midwest, the precipitous drop in temperatures over the weekend meant no respite from work.

For Matthew W. Hatfield, an Edward Jones broker in Ashland, Wis., -17 degrees was far from enough to deter him from what he described as unusually heavy business at the beginning of the year.

“I did have one person not come in because their vehicle couldn't start, but that's it,” said Mr. Hatfield. “Worst-case scenario, I take a snowmobile.”

That is no joke. When Mr. Hatfield showed up to his gym early Monday morning, several snowmobiles were parked outside. Most of Mr. Hatfield's neighbors own the vehicles for exactly this kind of weather.

“That's called winter for us,” he said. And the chilly weather means better ice fishing, he added.

But public officials warn caution, saying the frosty temperatures can easily kill people who are not properly clothed.

Kevin R. Miller, president and CEO of Fringe Benefits Design Inc. in Bloomington, Minn., braved a wind-chill of -25 degrees. He offered practical advice: “Always travel with a lot of winter gear in your vehicle. Wear a good coat and make sure you pay your utility bills.”

Clinton Struthers, owner of Struthers Financial Services, in Midland, Mich., said he made it in to work today, which is a half-mile from his home, despite the fact that it is only 13 degrees and has been snowing for the past three days.

“My God, they've closed everything around here, yet all the kids will still be able to make it to the mall,” Mr. Struthers said. “I've had one client cancel today, but she is 85 years old, so that probably makes sense.”

Joyce Hanson and Jeff Benjamin contributed to this story.

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