It is a rare event that impacts the entire world. COVID-19 has changed our way of life in the short term, with long-lasting ramifications yet to be determined. In the context of our business at Walkner Condon, we have some items that we believe will be permanently affected and some guesses on others.
More Virtual Meetings
We have offered video appointments for a number of years now, and with the exception of Keith (who works with expats across the globe), very few of our meetings have been conducted virtually. We expect this to change, as our clients and prospective clients have increasingly become much more comfortable with Zoom meetings. With the added comfort of our clients, and frankly, the comfort of our advisors as well, we’ve found that we are able to offer a very similar experience to an in-office meeting. We plan on continuing to offer these meetings, and are likely to schedule “home office days” where we conduct our meetings virtually in the future.
Screen sharing allows us to work collaboratively with our clients in many different ways – including administrative tasks where paperwork is involved, as well as sharing financial plans and allocation information. If you haven’t seen us in a while, now might be a great time to schedule that Zoom meeting! Additionally, for those clients that may have been hesitant to recommend us to their friends and family members outside of Dane County, we want to let you know that we are well-equipped to help them as well, and would welcome the introduction.
Increase in Customized Asset Management Offerings
When you are able to take time to work on your business instead of in your business, that’s when we have found unique solutions for client needs. In analyzing feedback from clients and meeting as an investment team, we will be building out customized portfolios using individual equities. Currently, we are looking at developing a few core models, focusing for now on U.S. large cap stocks with strong balance sheets, as well as U.S. small and mid cap stocks. In the future, we anticipate rounding these out with additional models, including a focus on ESG (environmental, social, governance) factors and international stocks.
The barrier to entry on many of these in the past has been “ticket” charges charged by the custodian per trade, as well as fees by outside investment providers for these strategies. Our team, spearheaded by Keith Poniewaz and Mitch DeWitt, have been working on developing these in-house to eliminate those manager fees. Additionally, by lowering trading commissions down to very low in some cases and zero in others, this strategy becomes significantly more feasible.
There is much to write about the benefits of these strategies, including the ability to manage taxation, lower or eliminate expense ratios, and offer greater customization. Keith and I discussed “direct indexing” about a year ago on Gimme Some Truth, and will expand on this topic in a future blog post.
Probable: The Death of the Suit
As we’ve all become accustomed to working from home, the dress code has become increasingly relaxed. It’s certainly not uncommon to see people in sweatshirts and hats conducting meetings, and it’s become an anomaly to see someone show up to a Zoom meeting in something as formal as a dress shirt. While a return to the office will likely send us back to business casual, it’s difficult to imagine anyone reaching for a suit anytime soon.
Possible: The Elimination of Handshakes
Certainly a more minor – but still important – interpersonal moment may be coming to a close. With a greater focus on the communication of viruses, could this be the end of the handshake? As we enter a post-lockdown world, it seems like a certainty in the short term that handshakes will be out of fashion, and polite waves or nods will become the preferred greeting. (Though, if elbow-bumps get too popular, we reserve the right to revert back to good ol’ fashioned handshakes!)
Probs Not: Zoom Happy Hours the New Normal
I’ve been on a few Zoom happy hours, which have been kind of nice to do with people I haven’t been able to see for a while. It’s also brought together family members and friends that live far away. But to think that it will replace your favorite dive bar and those greasy burgers? Doubtful, at least in Wisconsin.