Trump's first 100 days a disappointment to financial advisers

InvestmentNews survey shows that more than half disapprove of his job performance

Apr 27, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Financial advisers don't like what they see so far from President Donald J. Trump.

As Mr. Trump completes his first 100 days in office on Saturday, more than half — 51.6% — of advisers in an InvestmentNews survey said they disapprove of his job performance, while 40.6% approve. The online poll of 648 advisers also indicates that 42.8% are less confident in Mr. Trump now than they were when he was inaugurated in January compared with 28.8% whose confidence has increased.

Brett Anderson, a partner at St. Croix Advisors in Hudson, Wisc., voted for Mr. Trump and had high hopes that he would change the way Washington works. Instead, it's more of the same partisan tension, as Republicans and Democrats have squared off on health care reform, among other issues.

"I had expectations that Trump could pull them together," Mr. Anderson said. "I don't see him reaching out. We've got a lot of name calling. I hold him accountable but I hold the Republicans and Democrats accountable, too."

Cheri Young, a wealth manager at Sovran, Dillaman & Young in Brighton, Mich., and one of Mr. Trump's supporters, also wants to see the Republican engage more with Democrats.

"If he's going to be effective, he better learn how to work with both sides of the aisle," Ms. Young said.

Overall, she rates Mr. Trump's performance as just above average, citing the U.S. bombing of a Syrian air base as a positive.

"I'll give him a B-," Ms. Young said. "He failed on fixing health care, but I thought he handled Syria very well."

Advisers who voted against Mr. Trump haven't seen anything in his first 100 days that's changing their minds.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Mr. Trump has handled the job as president so far?
*InvestmentNews asked this same question of readers after Mr. Trump's speech to Congress.
How has your confidence in the president changed since the start of his term?

"His words have proven not to be trustworthy," said Debra Morrison, president of Empowered Retirement in Lincoln Park, N.J.

She criticized Mr. Trump's "JV [junior varsity] approach to varsity world problems. He is in so far over his head."

Another adviser who voted against Mr. Trump is reassured by the resistance he's met in courts over his immigration bans and in Congress over health care.

"He's gotten so little done. That's good news," said Dave Yeske, managing director at Yeske Buie in San Francisco. "I have an increased faith in our system of checks and balances."

Mr. Trump has served 100 days without a major legislative accomplishment but he's also avoided a disaster, which in a way is better than expected for Paul Auslander, director of financial planning at ProVise Management Group in Clearwater, Fla., who voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton "with great reservations."

"The market didn't crash and we haven't gone to war yet — the two things that everyone was worried about," Mr. Auslander said.

Whether they voted for or against him, most agree that Mr. Trump is volatile and unpredictable.

(Infographics: Donald J. Trump's first 100 days)

"He is fearless," said Carrie Fellon, a financial strategist at JoycePayne Partners in Bethlehem, Pa. "He will do what he believes in. He's certainly shaken things up."

Mr. Trump can provide both something to like and dislike for some advisers. Kathryn Hauer, a financial planner at Wilson David Investment Advisors in Aiken, S.C., supports his plans for increased infrastructure spending but bristles at his attacks on unions.

"The right things [he does] are so exciting, and the wrong things are nerve wracking," Ms. Hauer said.

Despite his uneven governance approach and his lack of signature accomplishments, Mr. Trump continues to get a vote of confidence from Wall Street.

"It doesn't seem like his track record matches the capital market reactions to his presidency," said Peter Andersen, chief investment officer at Fiduciary Trust in Boston. "The run up in the market without much evidence is a concern."

The markets would like to see Mr. Trump succeed on the next big item on his policy agenda — tax reform. He introduced the broad outlines of his plan on Wednesday, just before Saturday's 100-day mark.

But advisers are skeptical about what he can accomplish on that issue, too. In the InvestmentNews survey, only 28.4% said they were "extremely" or "very confident" that tax-reform legislation will be approved. Although nearly half — 47.2% — said that tax changes should be "revenue neutral," large percentages want to protect certain tax breaks, such as deferrals for retirement saving.

"It's hard enough to get my clients to save for retirement as it is," Ms. Hauer said. "Please don't take away their tax incentive."

Although there are rumblings that retirement deferrals are on the chopping block, Mr. Trump would have to demonstrate more political acumen than he has so far to accomplish that.

"The odds of that passing are extremely slim," Mr. Andersen said.


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