March 4, 2020
As you probably know by now, Governor Wolf has ordered “Non-Essential” businesses and offices to close to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus. As mentioned in my previous communications, I had already implemented our own “Plan B” and most employees have been working from their homes for over a week now. This was done in an effort to keep our devoted employees and their families safe, while maintaining services seamlessly. Our VPN is working well, and we are increasing capacity and bandwidth to make sure that continues. Our systems have worked beautifully.
It is important for you to know that we are here if you need us. Here is the protocol:
- Phone calls are being rerouted to Susan Frost’s cellphone, and she will be taking messages and contacting the appropriate team member. If you get our voicemail, that means Susan is on another call or unavailable and the call is forwarded to Bernadette’s phone. It might take 6 rings before that happens, so hang in there! Our voicemail system then sends an email to Bernadette’s email address, which many of us have access to.
- If you need to contact us, I would encourage you to send an email. Our entire team is standing by- ready to help you, and many have willingly offered their personal cellphone numbers so that you can get to them directly. In order to respect their family and private time, I am leaving that decision up to each employee. If you need a phone call, feel free to email us first, and we can call you back right away.
- By the way, you have all been incredibly cooperative and understanding – the phone has NOT been ringing off the hook, a very good sign in times like this.
- Each team member has, and continues to proactively reach out to all of our clients, and the feedback I have received has been tremendous. This is not to say you – and many of our clients – are not concerned; of course, you are. This virus came seemingly out of nowhere and the outcomes for all Americans are uncertain. Markets are down 35 -40%, with some individual holdings, hit even harder. Certain areas of fixed income (bonds) are also down, but not nearly as much as equities. I still believe this is very temporary, and understand that each day feels more like a year.
- For the record, we are concerned as well, but not about the longer-term viability of markets to function, and values of corporate America to reflect their true intrinsic value over time. When securities are sold indiscriminately, we do not believe prices are an accurate judge of a corporation’s ability to generate earnings over the long term…10-20 years. There is no question that earnings will take a hit in the near term, and markets may be volatile. To be realistic, I think this will continue to be the case until we get accurate numbers regarding the number of people getting the virus, recovery vs. mortality rates and the impact on our health care system and economy.
On this point let me be clear: Bear markets don’t destroy wealth – it’s how we react and what we do in bear markets that either destroy wealth or create it.
Let’s recognize that we are all part of the human herd. By that I mean that it is human nature to want to sell and get out of the way of whatever the market does in the unpredictable future; that’s our brain’s instinctive “fight or flight” reaction. In fact, you can create certainty by retreating to the sidelines. Unfortunately, acting on that need for certainty creates a certain and permanent loss. This is precisely why investing is not easy, and why I want you to rely on our experience. We’ve gone through other times of extreme stress and dislocation: We know what to do.
- The other thing I am not concerned about is our ability to serve you. Our commitment to you is stronger than ever, and our back up plan is working.
Last but certainly not least: Thank you so much for your messages of love and support. Your responses have warmed all of our hearts and reinforce the feeling that we have the most incredible clients in the industry. (Yes, we are completely biased!). I’ve heard wonderful stories of compassion and helping others, and funny stories about how families are dealing with their temporary reality. One family with four young children told me about the “dorm room” set up in their dining room, with all 4 kids on their computers keeping up with school assignments. I couldn’t help but ask where the keg was hidden.