Another thing we quickly realized is that our advisors aregoing to continue to need assistance and to do prospecting virtually. They all wrote to and took care of their clients when thisstarted. They’ve trained and prepared their clients [for volatil-ity]. Clients took a lot of this in stride. Prospecting in a digitalworld is another area that we’ve had to spend a lot of time on.
Lon Dolber, American Portfolios: This was a question ofculture meets reality. About four years ago, I told my team thatI wanted our employees to participate in our national conference [while, at the same time,] they’re going to have to work.We realized that they would have to work remotely.
Four years ago, we completed our digital transformation.The first thing we did was to remove our desktop computersand go to laptops with docking stations. The second thing wasto move our phone system to being totally in the cloud and …our email and our data, too.
In March, I literally told every employee to go home andtake their phone and their laptop with them. We have … a verysecure network perimeter with our firewall. But when they’reworking remotely, we knew we’d have to get their networkperimeter into the cloud. We spent a lot of time on that.
You might say that we did a pandemic exercise four yearsago without even realizing it, because we did it for culturalpurposes. I want my employees to be in a position to spendsome time with my customers, the advisors. And that’s prettymuch how it started.
Ryan Diachok, Geneos Wealth Management: Similarly,we’ve had our systems cloud and digital based for five orso years now. The main systems our advisors use — ourhome office system — has everything in the cloud andeverything remote.
Where we were on the spectrum of enhancing the digitalplatform — what we were doing in the past year — has helpedus. We’ve been making a concerted effort on the operationalside of the business, too, getting electronic signatures in place.
As for the things we worked on a lot last year, the timingcouldn’t have been better. While the adoption wasn’t necessarily huge as we were rolling these things out, having thatinfrastructure built for when everything hit the fan in Marchwas great timing for us from that perspective.
Also, we have had business continuity for years, … which wetest monthly. When March hit, it was a quick and easy decisionto say that everyone go home, and it was completely seamless.
Dolber: That’s a good point. Our industry was a perfect candidate for the remote working environment.
Diachok: I’d add that we’ve been working … with our clear-
ing firms on mobile banking. We’ve really made a push for
mobile banking solutions, … so that there’s automated checks
flowing to our home office. That helped us tremendously in
processing business when everything was so crazy there in
March and April.
Webber: Lon hit on a good point, which is in some ways
our industry is absolutely equipped … to pivot quickly,
because we’ve been able to leverage the cloud and the digital
It gave us all the ability to strike while the iron was hot, and
get out there and push adoption that we may have been strug-
gling with for many years had this not occurred.
John Burmeister, Lion Street: [The pandemic] gave us a
shove that we needed to move forward, without a doubt. Also,
it’s great to see insurance companies, whether it be variable
or fixed, starting to accept electronic signatures. [These shifts
represent] the silver lining of the pandemic, if you can actually
As for some things that we did in 2019, we rolled out a cyber-
security monitoring system at the home office … and to our
advisors. Had we not done that, I don’t think we would have
been nearly as well prepared to go remote.
As a relatively new broker-dealer, we started with 100%
cloud-based systems. That made it very easy for us to [execute]
our business continuity plans. Also, we got the phone system
set up so it could go through wireless.
Like others have said, we made the determination on a
Friday to go remote, and on Monday we were up and running.
Our advisors … didn’t know that we were remote. We didn’t
make a big announcement. It was business as usual.
We had to make some changes in how we operated, for
things like checking the mail and ensuring people’s safety
[against infection]. We set up a rotating schedule, so if
somebody went in on week one, then somebody else went
in week two, three or four. We’re continuing to do that in
As the pandemic went on, we had to adjust so people couldgo back into the office and grab phones and monitors. Weordered more monitors, so they can work from home for alonger period of time.
IA: What’s been your broker-dealer’s greatest challenge
due to the pandemic?
Dolber: Generally, for the last four years, the biggest challengeis cybersecurity and information security. When you go todigital transformation, you’re going to be allowing a lot morepeople into your world, and that’s a significant challenge.
We have roughly 115 employees, over 700 advisors andabout 700,000 end customers. That’s a very big ongoing challenge — monitoring all these systems.
We’ve developed the ability for people to work remotely,but also for the end client to get into the client portal. This