March 13th, 2020 · 9 min read
We’re in the midst of a pandemic as the latest iteration of the coronavirus (aka “coronavirus disease 2019,” “Covid-19” for short) has spread to humans on every continent except, so far, Antarctica.
By March 11, Covid-19 had infected 126,000 people and resulted in the deaths of 4,615 for a mortality rate of around 3.4%, according to the World Health Organization.
This compares to a mortality rate of 9.6% for the SARS outbreak of 2003, and a mortality rate of no less than 34% for the MERS epidemic of 2012. As is the case for Covid-19, there is so far no innoculation against MERS.
But the biggest difference between these three types of coronavirus — and the reason Covid-19 is so dangerous — is that the new version is much easier to catch. Roughly, it’s as communicable as most airborne influenzas.
We’ll provide more information on Covid-19 shortly. First though, let’s talk about ways you can help clients, colleagues, family and the wider community — including the Chalice community — in the face of widening public-health crisis.
The first thing you can do for others is stay safe yourself. You can do that by:
Taking it seriously. Whether or not you’re in an at-risk category (over age 60, have chronic respiratory or “immunocompromised” conditions), the more you can do to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which will help save lives, lighten the healthcare burden, and get things back to normal faster.
Limiting person-to-person contact as much as possible. Although the degree of vigilance may be informed by how many cases have been reported in your area, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Keeping surfaces under your control clean, especially your hands clean. Handrails, light switches, computer mouses, keyboards. Don’t fixate on hard-to-find alcohol hand sanitizer. The Center for Disease Control says soap and water is more effective against many germs, including viruses, than jelly-bound isopropyl.
Coughing into the crook of your arm where tissues aren’t available (rather than your bare hand). Kindergarteners have been getting this wholesome advice since the eighties.
Avoiding public transportation in big cities. If you can safely drive, walk, or ride a bike, do it.
Sure, everyone is talking about the coronavirus already, so you might figure it’s best to focus on financial matters. That would be an error. Don’t make the mistake of looking like you’ve got your head in the sand. Address it straight-on, now. Don’t shy away from discussing the outbreak itself as well as it’s financial implications, realized and potential.
Stay up-to-date on the pandemic by following credible sources such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local and state health departments. That’s so you can keep your clients informed, and so you can respond quickly as things change.
This past week, for instance, you might have been able to send an email bulletin to clients, updating them on the virus to include news such as:
The Italy’s efforts to rope off Covid-19
US President Trump’s proposal to ban travel from many countries in Europe
China’s success in containing the world’s biggest and deadliest outbreak of the disease
Though it can be hard to discern amid the coverage, there are tendrils of good news in terms of combatting this coronavirus outbreak. Clients will appreciate the fact you’ve taken the time to share facts with them, good or bad.
It may also be useful to provide some brass-tacks intelligence on Covid-19, and post it prominently as a public service on your firm’s website, social-media outlets, email, and even appointment reminders.
Here’s some material for that purpose (in italics), courtesy of Chalice. Feel free to cut-and-paste it.
What is coronavirus? Coronavirus is a respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus first detected in Wuhan City, China. It has now been detected in locations throughout the world, including the United States and [your state]. The virus itself is called “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes is called “coronavirus disease 2019” — shortened to “Covid-19.”
What does the disease look like in humans? Signs and symptoms of Covid-19 include fever and/or coughing and difficulty breathing. Some patients report a sore throat. If you have these symptoms but didn’t A.) recently travel to an area where there is an outbreak, or didn’t B.) have contact with someone known to have Covid-19, you probably have a cold or a flu. If you have questions, contact your medical provider or dial 211.
What is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease? If you are sick you should stay home, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands regularly. If your child has a fever, keep him or her home for at least 24 hours after the fever has subsided without help from fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen).
Besides these efforts, it may be advisable to reach out by phone to your clients, especially your older clients.
Again, it’s easy to assume they’re completely up on Covid-19 — or even fed up with it because of all the media coverage. But that would be missing the point.
Sometimes family members and workmates will avoid discussing such things with people who are at-risk, especially if they’re at-risk because of their age. As their financial advisor, you could be a welcome sounding board for such clients, on the outbreak itself, and on its implications for their portfolios and life plans. They may in fact have no one else in their lives who will discuss the outbreak with them.
Against a backdrop of canceled sports seasons, on-hold cultural events, and quarantined cruise liners — to say nothing of places where students and employees have been ordered to work from home — it stands to reason investment portfolios have suffered under the growing panic surrounding Covid-19.
Largely due to the coronavirus, the S&P 500 has seen a 26.7% decline (as of this writing) since hitting all-time highs in mid February 2020, slipping to levels it last saw in late 2018.
But it’s worth remembering we’ve seen similar reactions to epidemics before.
SARS claimed 774 lives in 8,098 cases in 2003, when US stock prices still hadn’t recovered from 9/11. But within months of SARS dominating the headlines and depressing share values, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC were performing in Toronto, specifically to celebrate the demise of the pandemic. And by then the US stock market had already rebounded by 19%.
Under pressure from the so-called Hong Kong Flu in 1968-1969, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 21% of its value before the crisis subsided.
Of course stock markets aren’t economies, and Covid-19’s impact on business — an outcome of supreme importance to your clients, your firm, and you personally — is tough to call at this stage. Despite that, some big players are making educated guesses.
On March 5, the US Federal Reserve signaled a hunch the widening epidemic could dent the US economy. It trimmed the fed funds target rate by 50 basis points to a range between 1.00% and 1.25%. The Bank of England also cut rates, and central banks in Japan and the European Union are expected to take some sort of action, even if rate cuts are off the table.
Meanwhile banking associations have rushed to provide members with information to help them cope with the outbreak.
The American Banking Association promises two upcoming webinars. One is on “coronavirus preparedness” and the other will “give institutions an opportunity to practice and adapt their technology and cybersecurity resiliency plans for large-scale, work-from-home scenarios in the event they are quickly needed.”
UK Finance, a British trade group, recognizes the strain put on small and midsize businesses by Covid-19 and urges these enterprises “to contact their finance providers early to discuss how they can help support their companies through the coming weeks.”
But let’s be frank: none of these are panaceas. Indeed, some critics complain that central banks, under pressure from politicians, seem determined to fight the last war by enacting fiscal and monetary policies perfectly suited to 2008.
And however much trade groups may extol “finance providers,” it’s hard to forget that banks, nurturing their own wounds, left businesses in the lurch last time around.
While governments and business groups strive to keep people calm, another possible effect of Covid-19 is a function not of its virulence, nor of its severity, but of its endurance.
That’s according to Kyle Hiatt, chief revenue officer at Orion, a technology and asset-management provider to financial advisors — and a partner firm of Chalice.
In Hiatt’s view, the crisis could pose significant challenges to client-centric businesses, including wealth-management firms — and show these enterprises whether their technology is up to scratch.
“One of the great virtues of modern, cloud-based adviser tech is the ability to continue running a business in the event of an emergency,” Hiatt writes as a guest blogger for InvestmentNews.
But, adds Hiatt, this conception is typically related to one-off natural disasters — “like fires and floods that might threaten localized data, or slow foot traffic because clients are physically unable to reach the office.”
But what happens if the crisis lasts not days, but weeks, or even months?
“Your clients’ financial lives are about to become even more complicated during a period of tremendous market uncertainty,” Hiatt writes.
To some extent, the complication may be mitigated by accessibility and communication.
Using cloud-based applications means your clients can see their information as long as they’re connected to the internet. And, as noted above, communication between advisor and client can be frequent, with broadcast methods such as email alerts, texts and website updates bolstered by one-on-one tools like screen sharing and video conferencing.
In sum, says Hiatt, with the coronavirus casting a shadow of uncertainty across the globe, now is the time to make sure clients can contact you — and access their own key data — whenever they need to.
Orion is a featured provider in Chalice’s Marketplace, a Chalice-members-only super-store for essential and ancillary services to independent financial-service firms — always at a sharp discount or with a significant value-add.
Without getting too salesy, it’s a simple fact that many of the providers Chalice partners with can either help you keep your clients informed about Covid-19 or help reduce person-to-person interaction.
Besides Orion’s cloud-based service-bureau offerings, some of the companies members can access through Chalice in this time of heightened need are:
TE&A Marketing: Digital lead generation
Snappy Kraken: Turnkey marketing
Riskalyze: Web-based alignment for your clients and their portfolios
Redtail: Cloud-based CRM
QuickBooks: Cloud-based cash-flow management in real time
TwentyOverTen: Professional websites & Content Services
FA Client Machine: Fun and informative subject-matter videos
eMoney: Deeper client insight for deeper relationships
Anchor Point: Weekly video market updates
And that’s an incomplete list. Every last one of Chalice’s Marketplace partners features cloud accessibility or enhances advisor-client communications.
A lot of effort in both the private and public sectors is being expended in efforts to soften the impact of Covid-19, a virulent and sometimes deadly disease. But your clients’ are still going to be feeling depressed and fearful in a period of financial uncertainty — largely because the crisis is of equally uncertain length.
Now think how much you could do to calm those fears by maintaining your accessibility and keeping your communication channels wide open.
We’re here for you at Chalice. Contact us, and we’ll do our level best to ensure you can continue to do your utmost for your clients and your firms.