COVID-19 Q&A with B. Riley Wealth Management President Chuck Hastings

March 27, 2020 - AdvisorHub's Publisher & CEO — Tony Sirianni — asked executives from top firms their opinions on the dual management of the Coronavirus and market meltdown crises. Read how leadership is managing one of the most unique challenges we have faced as a financial community.

Here is how Chuck Hastings, President of B. Riley Wealth Management responded.

The last few weeks have been unprecedented and unexpected, a perfect storm if you will, of management challenges both on the employee and client level. You have had to deal with employee safety issues that no CEO has training for, and a directly correlated market crash. What have you implemented at your firm to address this dual threat?

The safety and well-being of our employees, families and clients remain our daily and utmost priority. We recognize the disruption this has caused for our employees and our clients alike, both from a health and financial perspective. Our management team has been meeting daily to monitor developments to ensure our business continuity procedures and processes align with the guidance from health officials and local governments. Our IT and operations teams are working around the clock to ensure that our people are set up with secure access to the systems needed to serve their clients in the event they need to be away from the office for an extended period of time.

As a firm, our ability to help and be there for our clients during the most difficult of times has enabled us to build our firm into what it is today. Our advisors are committed to being available for their clients at any time of day or night. At the same time, our clients continue to have ongoing access to commentary from our Chief Investment Strategist, Paul Dietrich, as well as insights from our affiliated B. Riley FBR, Inc. equity research analysts through their advisors.

How about the continuing market volatility? What are you telling your advisors to do and what are you hearing from clients?

Perhaps due to living through something similar just 12 years ago, it feels as though many are keeping a level head through the current crisis. We recognize every client's situation is different — there is no one-size-fits all strategy. Our advisors are focused on preparing their clients for any situation by helping them make sound investment decisions as they continue to focus on prioritizing their own health, and the health of their families in the near-term.

What about the economy longer term? Where do you think we will be in 6 months, and how can advisors and their clients take advantage of that long term direction?

While the Fed rate cut should ultimately benefit the stock market from a long-term perspective, we expect to see continued short-term volatility until there is more clarity on the full impact of this evolving and dynamic situation. For most investors, the best strategy is not to be panicked into selling but to work with your advisor to figure out how best ride out this three or four-month disruption while you continue to focus on your health and the health of your family.

Paul Dietrich, Chief Investment Strategist, B. Riley Wealth Management, in his report this morning advised clients, "Stock markets have usually begun to recover as the number of newly diagnosed cases stabilized—they do not necessarily have to decline. Some industries where people gather together, like transportation, tourism, retail, airlines, cruise ships, hotels, entertainment events, sporting events, theme parks, restaurants, and bars, will suffer significant declines in revenues and profits over the next two quarters. These are the most visible industries and sectors that are being hurt—but, as a percentage, these are not the largest industries and sectors in the U.S. economy."

What about our business? What do you think the long term impact of this dual crisis will be on the advisor business model?

Volatile market conditions are the true test and proof of the importance of a financial advisor being a part of your life team. As a boutique firm, we pride ourselves on the ability of our advisors to collaborate with leadership and our firm's subject matter experts to best serve our clients and their individual needs. Being able to help our clients navigate challenging times like this allow us to further build trust while cementing long-standing relationships.

So these things tend to bring out the good and the bad in people. What has most encouraged you, what have you seen that's reaffirmed your faith in our community and how its handling these difficult times?

As we are seeing across all businesses and landscapes, people are coming together to help solve this crisis and we are certainly seeing that at our firm. It is very reminiscent of the aftermath of September 11th.