Coronacrash Update: D.A. Davidson’s Michael Purpura & Tony Sirianni
Advisor Hub CEO Tony Sirianni recently had a chance to sit down for a conversation with D.A. Davidson’s President of Wealth Management — Michael Purpura, to discuss what the last months have been like at D.A. Davidson and his views of what the industry might look like coming out of this crisis.
Mike, glad to be speaking with you during this crazy time, are you and yours well? How’s D.A. Davidson holding up?
My family and I are doing well and surviving the transition to our son’s at-home schooling; thanks for asking. We are thankful that we’ve been able to remain healthy. Our hearts and best wishes go out to the many Americans whose lives have been more disrupted.
In the midst of the tragedies of these challenging times, D.A. Davidson is doing well also. Most of us remain working remotely and connecting virtually with clients, but for the most part, it’s business as usual for our firm. We adapted quickly with zero down time and no major hiccups. And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the fact that all of our colleagues across our firm are safe and healthy.
The past two months have been an incredible live field test for firms in terms of adapting to new technology and new processes and procedures, I assume your firm is taking in data on how well new technology systems are serving your advisors and clients?
Yes, we are, and I’m pleased with the results. While the importance of data should not be underestimated as we look to our industry’s future, I’m even more impressed by the stories I hear. Through anecdotal evidence, I can see that our technology, processes and procedures are enabling our advisors to maintain their high-touch relationships with clients.
It’s gratifying that our systems are working so well and that we hear so many compliments about the support our professionals are receiving. Even we have been amazed at how seamless the transition to a work-from-home environment has been for our advisors and staffs.
Sounds like you all are thriving and not just getting by, but how about advisor recruiting? I saw that you recently brought on some big teams. I’m very interested in how that worked, not just that they came to D.A. Davidson, but how did it actually work from a detail standpoint? Did you conduct virtual tours and interviews? Did you do online compliance and book reviews? That sort of thing.
Interestingly, our recruiting process really hasn’t changed much. Because we have major offices and a leadership presence across the U.S., portions of our recruiting have always been completed with video conferencing and WebEx.
As for virtual tours, we’ve found over time that tours may be helpful, but their impact is minimal compared with the ability to really connect on a personal level with the people you’ll be working with. Since cementing a personal connection in a virtual environment is where we have focused attention all along, it’s not a challenge for our firm to continue recruiting advisors that way.
The biggest change for us has simply been an increase in the use of Zoom as a platform. We’ve added more Zoom meetings to our recruiting process to replace those meetings we can’t hold in person.
How about setting up a new office or the actual process of onboarding a new rep, how did it work? What remains the same and what’s totally different?
Typically, we have a solid boots-on-the-ground presence for bringing on new advisors, with a larger in-person approach whenever larger groups join, with the transition team remaining in place as long as they’re needed. Obviously that had to change under the circumstances, so our team did what they do best – transitioning their own work to a remote version of what they normally provide. We’re pleased that they didn’t skip a beat. These latest transitions have been a strong success, despite the unusual conditions.
It helps that we already had a high comfort level and frequent usage of tools such as WebEx seminars, virtual client meetings, employee town halls and other virtual gatherings. In addition, our workflow solutions team has embraced innovation, putting us ahead of the curve when it comes to a number of tools. We already used e-signatures, single signatures for households, the sharing of screens via Skype with our back office and several collaborative tools that have made remote onboarding easier.
During any move there’s a certain amount of handholding, nerves, and excitement, which is usually calmed and made easier by you. I mean sometimes it’s your physical presence or the presence of your team onsite that can make the difference between a good and bad experience. How do you replace that?
I believe the best things we can do today for new recruits are simply extensions of what we have always done. It starts with a strong culture. We take the time to build a relationship of mutual trust and respect. We build upon that by always, without fail, following up on any promises that are made. We’re proactive and not reactive in making sure that new recruits have the tools and resources they need.
To accomplish this, you need a strong leadership team and a transition team of genuinely caring individuals. They need to be people who aren’t afraid to go back to the new recruits and check in with them, listen to them and make sure that they aren’t just doing all right but that they’re thriving.
Let me know if I’m wrong but I feel like while these innovations sound incredible and seem to work very well, you, and all of us probably, wouldn’t be relying on them so heavily if it wasn’t for this crisis. So I guess I’m asking what are you going to take from this — what tech or procedure that you adapted because you had to will become a permanent part of your business process going forward?
That’s an interesting question because I think we’re still far from understanding what our “new normal” might be or when we might get there. A number of the technologies we are using now – the ones that made our transition to remote work a success – were already part of our work at D.A. Davidson. We’ve just embedded these tools more concretely than ever before and increased our usage on a daily basis. I believe our industry will continue to innovate, adapt and adopt new technologies with the knowledge that everything we do may tested by another kind of crisis. Perhaps the biggest take-away from this current environment is the importance to hire the best and the brightest professionals. Advanced thinking and innovation are no longer optional; they’re a necessity for our industry’s future.