June 22, 2020
This year has seen medical and health care professionals around the world become heroes as they have devoted countless hours to saving people’s lives at the risk of their own. The last several months have also seen the emergence of other professions as being critical to our survival. Who previously recognized the vital importance of food delivery, package delivery, and garbage collection? People we might have taken for granted are now being correctly recognized. In a short period of time I have become aware and thankful for all these vital workers as the new world of “Emerging Responders” has expanded.
While not saving lives, there are also other professions which have worked tirelessly to deal with the effects of the stress caused by the pandemic. This has certainly been true for professionals involved in the financial advisory space who have served a role unprecedented during previous financial crises. I have begun to think of these folks as “Financial Responders”.
The pandemic’s effect on the US market began in the on February 20. The S&P 500 was at 3,373 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 29,219. A mere 29 days later on March 20, the S&P 500 was down 34% and the DJIA was down 36%. A financial pandemic was occurring right alongside the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, our team decided that for the safety of our members and their families that we would initiate our emergency remote plan of operations. Was it going to be business as usual? Hardly. Our team relocated to 15 different places, working harder due to remoteness and under more stress due to the unfolding incredible market volatility. While not a life-threatening event, dealing with a market meltdown and its financial consequences can have a similar feeling to being sick, financially sick. The urgency and uncertainty in a field hospital during a battle must be extreme. The real time tension and chaos on a trading room floor when a market is melting down has similarities albeit at a much less fundamental level. I have experienced the trading floor chaos many times and hope to never see another.
The last several weeks we have learned and adapted to our new work environments. We Financial Responders continue to field difficult questions like, “what do you think I should do”, “will it go up”, “will it go down”, “do I have enough liquidity”, “can I afford the risk”? Our world is different from the world of the medical first responder. Our world is not about life or death, but is all about managing anxiety, worry and risk. Our world is one where the questions we are asked most often begin with Can I…, Will we…, Should I…, How long…? Wait, that sounds a lot like the beginning of the same questions we ask medical professionals about our health. We don’t deal in your personal health, but we do deal in your financial health. During these times we are all trying to stay safe.