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Advisors Pay It Forward

Advisors (and Patrina) join the fight against COVID-19

One of the positives that comes out of any crisis is how often a community steps up to help those who may be struggling. The financial services industry is no exception.

We have been sending out emails offering not only Patrina clients, but everyone in the Exchanges, financial services (RIA and broker-dealers), and insurance industries access to free MyRepChat compliant text archiving and low-cost 17a-4-compliant archiving.

But we are not the only ones stepping up to the plate to help.

Advisors offering help during the pandemic

In a recent article in Wealth Management by Reporter Mark Miller, he reported that a growing number of financial professionals also are offering pro bono guidance to people who need it.

He cites two organizations that have posted lists of advisors who are available to help— the XY Planning Network and the Financial Planning Association. The Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP), which makes grants that fund pro bono advice programs at nonprofit and community organizations, recently launched a CFP Volunteer Match platform, which aims to bring CFP volunteers and nonprofits together, and 120 CFPs signed up just within a few days.

According to Miller, most pro bono planning help is being provided to lower-income households that don’t have investments. So, the advice focuses on emergency needs like household budgeting, credit and debt management, and employer benefit problems. For older clients, advice about Social Security also comes into the picture.

Can advisors step outside their comfort zones?

Yes. Because the current situation calls for it.

“You’re dealing with things that you don’t normally deal with in your practice,” Suzette Rothberg, a CFP with Northwest Asset Management in Delano, MN, told Miller. Rothberg volunteers through the FPA and Family Reach, a nonprofit organization that provides direct financial assistance to cancer patients and their families. She started volunteering long before COVID-19. In 2018, she was motivated to get involved for personal reasons—cancer diagnoses for her husband and mother in a very short time. The experience she went through herself, prompted her to pay it forward to others facing the same planning issues.

After taking an FPA training program, she began to offer pro bono counseling. She works with people who believe they are destitute, but creating a plan to prioritize their bills—who to pay now, and informing them that others may be willing to provide some relief – can be a game-changer.

This is not many professional’s first experiences with pro bono service

The XY Planning Network pro bono initiative is a grass-roots effort recently launched by one of its members, Kevin Mahoney, a CFP and founder of Illumint in Washington, D.C. Mahoney’s interest in pro bono advising was prompted by the federal government shutdown in 2018. He told Miller that as a D.C. local, he was seeing the shutdown impact a number of friends who were furloughed. Because so many had the same questions, he decided just to put out the word that he was available to help.

Today, he says, the situation is very different. But his interest in helping was similar: If you’ve lost your job or a significant part of your income, let’s talk about your budget. How will you make your way through it?

The FPA’s pro bono model takes clients through a “mini-planning” process. This follows the basic financial planning process with the exceptions of implementation and monitoring. The basic steps involve gathering data and setting goals; data review and clarification; and plan presentation and discussion. FPA stops short of implementation—that’s for the client to carry out.

Advisors are “paying it forward”

Aside from tangible advice, many planners say the pro bono engagements can accomplish something else that’s very important—a friendly, expert ear to listen to what’s on the client’s mind.

“In most of the conversations I have, I’m not sure how much tangible financial advice I’ve been able to give,” Brett Koeppel of Eudaimonia Wealth in Buffalo, N.Y. told Miller. Koeppel, who has offered pro bono services through the XY Planning Network, says it’s mostly been about just being there to listen—people are stressed out and uncertain about the future, and they haven’t had someone available to vent to about it.

Working through community groups

FFP—which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year—makes grants to nonprofit and community organizations, which in turn, partner with planners to provide financial advice, typically reaching about 23,000 people annually.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the group has been reaching out to its grantees to make emergency grants. It also has been curating online resources for planners doing pro bono work.

Who can advisor give back during COVID-19?

According to Miller, nearly everyone involved in pro bono work agrees that two ingredients are needed to make the scope of this work more prominent and more effective. One is promotion to let people know that help is there—and the other is more advisors volunteering their time.

He shared the following resources to help with the latter.

The Foundation for Financial Planning (FFP) has launched a CFP Volunteer Match platform, which aims to bring CFP volunteers and nonprofits together. The FFP also has a Coronavirus and Pro Bono Planning Resource Center to provide consumers and financial planners with tools, tips, and resources to help address the personal financial fallout of COVID-19.

The group also has a Pro Bono Financial Planning Volunteer Training page that helps planners understand the basics of how to provide pro bono service to underserved members of the community. The training is approved for one hour of continuing education credit by the CFP Board.

FFP also offers a Sample Client/Planner Letter of Engagement that planners can use with pro bono clients, among other resources.

What is Patrina doing to help the exchange, adviser, broker-dealer communities? Fast access to free, MyRepChat compliant text archiving and low-cost 17a-4-compliant archiving. We take our role as the leading innovator in regulatory compliance, with a real track record for delivering the right intuitive, affordable compliance solutions to Exchanges and the Finance and Insurance sectors. Particularly in this time of crisis. So, let’s talk. Call 212-233-1155 and ask for me, Mark Opila. I’m the CEO of Patrina Corporation. Be smart. Be covered.Let’s talk.