Now’s the time for advisers to think globally, but act locally


The financial advice industry prides itself on its service to, and engagement with, its community.

A quick stroll through the mission statements of the major wirehouses, IBDs and RIA networks invariably presents the reader with a variety of statements about the importance of relationships and personalized support. The opportunity is always available to the adviser community to think globally — but act locally — and current events provide us all an opportunity to execute that mantra in a meaningful way.

This week’s cover story by Mark Schoeff Jr. highlights the long-term efforts advisers make to provide clients with opportunities to support charities and manage their assets in a way that enables long-term, responsible charitable giving.

Mr. Schoeff reports that donor-advised funds have seen significant growth, particularly since new tax laws came into effect in 2017. Total contributions to DAFs grew by 20% in 2018 to $37.12 billion, according to the National Philanthropic Trust. Those donations represented 12.7% of all individual giving. A total of $23.42 billion was granted from DAFs in 2018, up from $19.7 billion in 2017. The total charitable assets in DAFs was $121.42 billion in 2018, up from $112.10 billion in 2017. The community’s broad philanthropic efforts cannot be denied.

The topic was chosen well before any of us gave social distancing and COVID-19 a moment’s thought. But now, amid the reality of a unique global challenge, the chance presents itself for advisers to take that global commitment and act locally. As UBS chief investment officer Mark Haefele tweeted last Thursday: “In Europe and the United States, it is now our turn to step up and follow the advice of authorities to protect our communities.”

And we have seen the financial advice community begin to step forward.

Supplying food

In Missouri, RIA Creative Planning increased its gift to Harvesters to $1 million. Harvesters serves a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, supplying food to more than 760 not-for-profit agencies, including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and children’s homes.

XY Planning Network organized a pro bono effort to help those struggling as a result of COVID-19, and its effort drew 50 volunteers in the first hour. The group is offering free emergency financial advice to those who have lost income due to reduced hours or taken unpaid sick leave as a result of COVID-19, with all advisers on the platform available to meet virtually.

Similarly, Kevin Mahoney of the financial planning firm Illumint made an offer in a video posted on Twitter to provide pro bono advice to anyone who’s been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Severe personal impact

On a more personal but no less important note, Kitces.com senior research associate Meghaan Lurtz shared an exquisitely detailed look at the severe personal impact that crisis situations can have on advisers and clients. The research paper, available on the site, notes that a key to managing yourself and your clients lies in providing self-care and self-compassion while still caring for your peers.

A final example that stood out was Downtown Josh Brown’s tweet last Thursday morning in response to reports that the government will write a check to each U.S. adult: “Many of my followers do not have an immediate need for this cash right now. Please reply with the best place to donate that money to that will have the most IMMEDIATE positive impact.”

Five hours later, that tweet had generated 400 comments offering alternatives.

As Coretta Scott King said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Given the good fortune many in our industry have enjoyed, now is time for the advice community to help fill a gap that is having a massive impact on entire communities, not just those who might be clients.

Written by Investors Wallets

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