Timely interview with John Peluso and AdvisorHub CEO Tony Sirianni
AdvisorHub Publisher & CEO Tony Sirianni is asking 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.
Today’s interview is with John Peluso, head of Wells Fargo’s First Clearing.*
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 executive has training for, and a directly correlated market crash. What have you implemented at your firm to address this dual threat? Take coronavirus first.
Of course, the health and safety of our team members and our client firms has been our number one priority.
The financial services industry as a whole hasn’t been known as particularly flexible or innovative; and so working remotely is still a pretty novel idea. We’ve been incredibly successful at running this business from our various remote locations with minimal disruption and I couldn’t be more proud of my team. But I’m also impressed with the leadership of our client firms and how they’ve been able to adapt to such extremes and continue to serve their clients and families, despite the odds.
Overall, I think it’s a testament to the close relationships we have with our client firms, and that my team is empowered to do what they need to and support them from wherever they have chosen to work.
One thing I’ve heard my team comment on is how those relationships have changed over the last four months. We’ve always been there for them, advocating for them and providing solutions for their unique needs, but I think we’ve seen those relationships deepen even more and grow beyond the business at hand. I feel like we’re listening to and caring for each other just that little bit more. It’s been an interesting experience, and one I feel confident that we can continue to do for as long as we need to.
How about the continuing market volatility? What are you telling your advisors to do? What are you hearing from clients?
We’re certainly in unprecedented times. But the reality is, this isn’t new for our industry. We’ve weathered lots of crises over the years. I have experienced many ups and downs and challenges in my 30+ years in this business.
What we’ve learned from this one in particular, is that staying connected to clients is “job one.” Relationships have always been a core component of our values. And now, more than ever, that’s proving out to be true.
While we don’t always have the answers to what’s coming next, we are able to provide our client firms with resources and access to expert market strategists and analysts for robust market research and strategies. Their advisors are empowered to tap into them and share that perspective with their clients. But more importantly, that they’re able to provide that empathetic ear, really listening to them and giving them space to share their concerns and questions, helps them better manage the emotional impact of uncertainty. It’s really not about just providing answers.
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?
Well, I’m not an economist, so I don’t think it would be fair to say much about where I see it going long term. It’s a little dangerous to try and predict the future, especially given how rapidly things are changing.
But what I can say is that as a client and a consumer, I’m preparing myself for a continued period of uncertainty. As a client, I’m seeking out the guidance and advice of my own advisor to help me temper any fears or anxieties. As a business, we’re helping prepare our client firms and their advisors for that uncertainty as well – whether that’s sharing the research and resources I mentioned earlier, consulting on ways they can help their clients get comfortable with uncertainty, or things like Merger & Acquisition opportunities, recruiting or business optimization.
What about our business? What do you think the long term impact of this dual crisis will be on the advisor business model?
Like I said before, this business has certainly weathered its fair share of crises. This industry and the role of the advisor continues to be a critical part of our resiliency. If nothing else, it solidifies the significance of the advisor’s role as experienced guides for clients and their families. Right? They’re helping to provide a steady perspective and much needed empathy in the wake of volatile markets. And it’s allowing them to serve as a stable presence in the middle of the panic, uncertainty and misinformation.
Our belief for a number of years has always been that a successful advisor-client relationship is grounded in client well-being; the client is more than their balance sheet. I recently came across Genworth’s COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Survey (June 2020). More than 70% of the respondents said that the pandemic is changing their attitudes about planning for the future. Let that sink in for a minute. Before this crisis, it was often challenging or an uncomfortable place to go with clients – to get them to think about more than just retirement, asking the hard questions to help them discover what’s most important to them.
Clients are ready and looking to their advisors more now than ever to help them think through those big life questions and redefine what it means to have an investment plan. They’re hungry for more and looking for strategies to help them navigate this period. Advisors just need to lean in to it.
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?
This time working from home has inspired me to reflect on a lot of things – both personally and professionally. And in both, it always seems to come back to two things: resilience and empathy.
Each day has its challenges, but if you look at our industry and our history, I believe that we can make it through and come out stronger on the other side. I’ve shared this quote with my team and with the leaders at our client firms a few times over the last couple of months: “We’re weathering the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.”
I think it’s a great illustration of what we’re all going through right now. We’re all impacted by what’s going in the world. But our experiences are unique and how we’re able to cope with the resulting changes is very, very different. Being able to stay grounded in that and put a lot more focus our empathy for others will be even more critical as we move forward.
*First Clearing is a trade name of Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.