By Tony Hooker
With COVID-19 continuing to dominate our lives, I thought it would be good to check in with local businesses to see how they’re adapting. This week, we’re catching up with a long time financial services advisor who also coaches a little basketball, Dan Sappenfield of Boyer and Sappenfield Investment Advisors.
How long have you been in the financial services industry?
You’ve seen a few recessions, I suppose?
We’ve seen recessions, we’ve seen “bear” markets in that time period, as well.
Has there ever been anything like this?
In the market itself there have been down turns. This is a little bit faster than normal. In a four-week time period, the S&P 500 lost 30 percent of its value. That’s pretty significant, pretty quick. With the pandemic part, not being able to go out is unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Have you seen a change in people’s planning and savings habits in the last couple of months?
No, not really. Maybe because what we deal with our clients, we always tell them that it’s not a question of if we’ll go through a bear market, it’s a question of when, so we have those game plans already built in, especially for those retirees who are taking income off their portfolios. We see to it that our clients already have a game plan in place especially for that.
So you’ve not had people coming in to invest their incentive checks? <smiles>
No, but the encouraging part is how many people have come in to take the opportunity to put more money in. It was a buying opportunity, because if you liked the DOW when it was twenty-nine five, when it was 18 or 20,000 that represented a buying opportunity. Unfortunately in this business, when it goes on sale, people run the other way. When Kohl’s has a sale, everyone is running up there! <laughs>
There are some really good companies out there that are out of favor right now, just because of the pressure, but they’ll be back. Look at the companies that are tech based, your Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel. Those companies still have great cash flow and no debt. Look at Netflix. You can’t get enough broadband width to support all those kids who are at home watching movies! These are the companies who will bring us out of this.
How have you changed your business practices to face this pandemic?
We’ve had to change a little bit. For the most part, it’s normal business as usual. We don’t have a lobby, so we don’t have to worry about having more than ten people in here. Our staff is practicing social distancing, keeping our separation there. We still have opportunities to meet with our clients, but our meetings are generally by appointment anyway, and if they’re comfortable with a face to face meeting we’ll do it. Of course we can’t shake hands or give hugs anymore like we used to, unfortunately! <smiles> We have also learned to do Zoom meetings. We have a lot of folks who are scheduling their annual reviews. If they want to meet in person, that’s fine, but if they don’t we’ll set up a Zoom.
Do you see any of that moving forward?
Yes. I deal with clients who are not only all over the state, but also all over the country, so that’s worked out extremely well. If anything, I’m probably the one who had to adapt the most, because I’m old school. As long as Drew’s (his son and business associate) here to help me set them up and get through them, I think the clients appreciate it. I think it’s the new wave. We contact our clients by sending out videos, and I’d be lying if I said we don’t get nervous in markets like this. We get uneasy about it, but our job is to stay calm for our clients in these tough time periods. That’s where we help them make the right decisions and make the re-allocations we need to make at the right time.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’d like to see us get through this as quickly as possible, like everyone else, but I’ve been very fortunate with the clients that I work with in that their values are in the right place as far as family. Family comes first and the money comes second, even though I’m dealing with a big part of their life, it’s still about the family. I’m amazed at how many clients have called, concerned about me. I think people think that we’re getting bombarded with concerned phone calls right now, but we have not. Our calls have been overwhelmingly supportive. The clients that we work with are just amazing.