Upheaval and Change

Although it seems like a massive understatement, these are difficult times indeed. I’m now talking with clients and others every day who are seriously planning to move. There are conversations about lost jobs, frustration with kids going to school online and a sense that, simply put, this isn’t the area it used to be. It’s the years of fires too, of course, but I think it’s also a realization that a time of upheaval can present an opportunity for change.

The gloominess of all this has been compounded in recent days by a worsening outlook, not necessarily for the markets, but for how long it might take to get back to normal.

First came two interviews (at least that I heard) with National Institutes of Health chief (and Dr Fauci’s boss), Francis Collins, M.D. He was apparently making the media rounds talking about where we’re at with the virus and his outlook. When pressed by the interviewers he talked about the strong possibility that we won’t be back to “normal” until late next year, maybe longer. He seemed like a level-headed non-political guy, so his timeline guesstimate felt like a body blow. Another year plus?! He was clear about not making a prediction but merely suggesting a reasonable expectation amid a highly uncertain situation.

Add to that an unchallenged portion of a question during last week’s presidential debate. The moderator asked the candidates about government officials saying that mask wearing and social distancing might last into 2022. Neither candidate rejected the premise, leading me to assume that both generally agree with that potential timeline.

Where am I going with all of this? The longer outlook for the new normal, or whatever we want to call it, and the changes being contemplated by many of you, is making me reevaluate certain aspects of my business. I wanted to share a few of the thoughts with you today.

To Zoom or not to Zoom

It’s becoming clear that we need to double down on meeting virtually. While not being as satisfying as meeting in person, it definitely gets the job done. The technology continues to improve and so does our (mine and yours) comfort level with using it. Zoom is by far the most popular choice. I had been using the platform some years back when it had some useability issues and security concerns and I switched to something more professional. This was pre-pandemic, of course, and Zoom has been investing heavily to beef up security. Given how popular it is and my want to make things easy for you, I’ll go ahead and sign up for the business version of Zoom. This lets us choose between multiple platforms and, assuming Zoom proves better for you, we’ll just stick with it.

Popup meetings using video or just phone

We’ve always been able to chat via phone or exchange emails, but I’m wondering about the concept of popup video calls. This is an impromptu call where we could use screensharing and video on the fly if needed. I have the technology already, but there hasn’t necessarily been a reason to make this as efficient as possible. The goal is to be on the phone with you and then start using the technology within a minute or two. Again, ease of use is key.

The elusive in person meeting

Another big question is what, if anything, to do about my office. My building is still not open and won’t be until Sonoma County is in the “yellow” tier of the State’s phased reopening plan. Like you, I don’t know how long that will take. I’m planning to keep my office for the foreseeable future, but it’s unclear how valuable the space will be if fewer folks want to (or need to) meet in person.

I used to do house calls when I was first getting started with my practice and maybe I should consider offering that in the future. Part of the reason I enjoy my office is that all the technology I use to serve you is readily available. But ironically, I already have most of the technology to make things portable, I just haven’t really tried to leverage it yet. Maybe this will be better and more convenient for everyone. Time will tell.

If we move, can you still be our advisor?

Fortunately, most states have what are referred to as de minimis rules that allow me to keep working with you wherever you are so long as I have fewer than six clients there. Maybe if more than five of you move to Idaho, for example, I’ll need to register as an investment advisor in that state. It’s only paperwork and some relatively minor fees to get that done. So, the simple answer is yes, I can continue to work with you wherever you are. Maybe I’ll even come visit.

I won’t be making major changes like shuttering my office anytime soon. These are just some of the thoughts percolating in my brain these days. As I think about all of this, I’m also reconfirming some fundamentals. This is my profession and I love what I do. I also intend to do it for a long time and my outlook is fundamentally positive. I just want to stay flexible in how we work together because the environment is likely to be in flux for some time to come.

Have questions? Ask me. I can help.

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