When I reflect back on 2020, it’s felt like five years, rather than twelve months. So much has happened and we’ve collectively had so many ups and downs. Even though this year has been unusual (to say the least), we have focused on the positive for our firm and our team. 2020 has allowed us to put things in perspective, figure out what’s important, implement new technologies that make the client experience better, and continue to grow. I want to share some of my thoughts and reflections on this year.
Shooting a Video, Pre-COVID
If you’ve visited our new website, you’ve hopefully seen our new video. We are always looking for ways to keep our clients connected to our team. Many of our clients don’t live locally, but they communicate regularly with our staff either on the phone or via email. We thought a video that shows who we are and highlights our values as a firm would be an important connection point.
So in February, we spent a whole day filming, which was a cool experience to bring the entire team together and the finished product turned out really well. As soon as people saw the video though, one of the first questions was, “Are you still seeing clients without masks?” We had to explain that, “No, this was filmed pre-COVID.” At first, we thought our timing was extremely unfortunate but it actually turned out to be perfect. Soon, none of our clients would be able to visit us in the office, so having this video as well as the technology updates we put in place helped us stay connected virtually. Now our clients who live in New York or California feel as close to us as those who live in Baltimore or Bel Air.
Working Remotely as a Firm
A great client experience is one of our most important core values as a firm, and every year, we have multiple check-ins. Because not all of our clients are local, we already knew how to create those same touch points virtually. We implemented virtual meetings with many of our clients years ago, so this was something we were able to continue and introduce to our local clients very quickly.
Another aspect we had to consider was changing the way we work as a close-knit team of eight. We updated our technology to make sure that everyone could safely and securely access their office phones, computers, and shared drives from home. Normally, I can pop into Sheryl or Anthony’s office, or run into Holly or Lisa in the hallway to discuss something. There is an energy to our team when we’re all in the office – it’s a collective feeling to do our best for our clients and for each other. That said, we’ve made the best of the situation. Some of our team has worked from the office the entire time while some have worked from home as needed. Either way, we’ve come up with ways to stay connected as a team, like our weekly zoom meetings, our corporate retreat and our day of volunteering. And in some ways, being apart has given us an even greater appreciation for each other.
Dealing With The One Thing We Can Never Control: The Market.
The market downturn in 2008 and 2009 was a tough time for everyone, including our firm, since the Marshall Financial Group was a solo practice at that time. The world was going haywire and it was just me trying to reassure clients through it all. Although the real low of 2020 was the market’s steep decline in March, it felt much different than 2008/2009 for many reasons.
The first reason was the market itself. The initial volatility made it tough not to feel stress. It was a surreal experience, but as a team we pro-actively reached out to our clients and provided regular video and market updates. Luckily, the market rebounded just as quickly and it looks like it’s going to end the year on a positive note.
Another reason is because the Marshall Financial Group has grown to a team of eight – four financial advisors and four administrative staff. We were all here to talk to clients, reassure them, and try to help them through the stress of both COVID and the stock market volatility. Together, as a team, we worked hard to help clients and each other make it through this year that we’ll never forget.
As part of the chaos of 2020, we decided to add another big change. In addition to updating many of our technology systems and building a new website, we also changed broker/dealers. Earlier this year, the broker dealer we had worked with for 15 years merged with a larger broker dealer and although we had close relationships with the staff and senior management, we made the careful decision that this new company would not be the right fit for our clients nor our firm. After an intensive search, we decided to partner with a new broker dealer, Purshe Kaplan Sterling (PKS) Investments. We believe that with change comes opportunity and we knew that this would be a better fit for us, but most importantly for our valued clients. We felt we could have a similar relationship with PKS as with our previous broker/dealer. They feel like part of the family, where we can develop long-term relationships and trust that ultimately benefit our clients and our team.
In 2020, all businesses have been forced to change in various ways. Marshall Financial Group took time to get better and stronger internally. We invested in better technology, an upgraded compliance process, and robust performance reporting. In 2021, we are confident that all the changes we experienced in 2020 will lead to a better client experience and continued growth for our firm.