Some 2.5 million Floridians have been told to evacuate as Hurricane Ian is set to hit the highest-risk areas of the state, from Naples to Sarasota, on Wednesday. The Charlotte Harbor area is forecast to get a 12- to 16-foot storm surge and hurricane-force winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Wealth management firms in the region are bracing for the storm’s impact. Raymond James Financial announced Tuesday its St. Petersburg, Fla., home office would be closed Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the storm and to “ensure the safety of our associates.” The firm has put its business continuity and evacuation plans in place, and will run its business operations from its Memphis, Tenn., Southfield, Mich., and Denver offices.
Sally Cates, a spokeswoman for Dynasty Financial Partners, which moved its headquarters from New York to St. Petersburg in 2019, said the firm is executing on its business continuity plans and evacuating employees in vulnerable areas. About 25 of the 70 Dynasty employees live in vulnerable areas in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and the majority of those were evacuated to surrounding safe areas. She said this is the first time the firm has had to evacuate employees since moving to Florida.
“The health and safety of our employees is paramount,” she said. “That said, we have clients across the U.S. and we have executed our business continuity plan.”
Concurrent Advisors, an office of supervisory jurisdiction that recently announced it was leaving the Raymond James platform to form a hybrid RIA, said it closed its Tampa office and evacuated Monday, which impacted about 30 employees. That included co-founder Nate Lenz, who evacuated his family and newborn child.
“Most of the impacted Concurrent team have been preparing for the hurricane for the past few days, and have evacuated from their homes. They expect to work remotely for the rest of the week,” the firm said.
Captrust Financial Advisors has also closed its Tampa office, and is making sure its employees abide by local evacuation orders.
“As part of Captrust’s business continuity planning, we ensure that all systems and data are housed in multiple geographies,” said a Captrust spokesperson. “So even if the Tampa Bay office loses power or is significantly damaged, our broader Captrust team will continue to seamlessly serve clients. Our thoughts are with everyone potentially impacted by the storm.”
Fidelis Capital, a new RIA formed recently with the combination of two teams from Wells Fargo Private Bank and Bank of America Private Bank, which has a Tampa office, relocated several team members early Monday who live in high-risk areas. The firm is also in contact with clients to offer them immediate assistance, as well as help after the storm passes.
It’s a critical time for the firm, as it’s still in the middle of transitioning clients to the new RIA.
“In addition to constant communication amongst team members throughout the day, we are hosting two all team calls a day to ensure no client issue or team member issue is unaddressed,” said the Tampa Bay Fidelis team, in a statement. “Our systems allow us to function remotely as effectively as if we were in the office.”
The team says their custodian, Fidelity, has also been supportive during the storm, having representatives join its team calls and putting systems in place so that clients are served during the office closure.
Curtis Parry Jr., founder and CEO of RIA Unique Wealth, an RIA and Dynasty partner with offices in Tampa and Clearwater, Fla., said his firm has about 10 team members in the Tampa area. Most of those employees are Florida natives, and are hunkering down and waiting out the storm. Other team members, especially those with young kids, made the personal decision to evacuate north.
“Our executive decision was always obviously ‘Do what’s in your family’s best interest. Have that liberty, that autonomy, especially as we’re all working remotely these days,’” Parry said. “So some of them are leaving the state, leaving the Tampa Bay area. It’s really a family-by-family, employee-by-employee type of decision.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the RIA put in place flexible schedules for team members and the ability to work from home if needed. The firm also has secure networks to protect client information and ensure there are no disruptions.
Parry said the firm has been asking employees and clients if they need help boarding up windows, locking up their houses or procuring sandbags, but few folks have taken them up on the offer. But since he’s not leaving town, he expects some clients may need help once the storm passes, especially if they can’t get back into the Tampa area immediately.
“Once the storm clears through, and hopefully it’s limited damage, everybody wants to get back in, so now there’s tremendous congestion getting back in. If it’s not too bad and if the roads stay clear, if clients haven’t taken us up on the front end of helping them with whatever they need, then we’ll be in town when they may not be able to get back in town,” Parry said.
He said Dynasty has been proactive about reaching out and letting his firm know that they’ll have a limited crew themselves, so orders and trade transactions may take longer to process.
“Communication is key whenever you’re going through something like this, and Dynasty has stepped up to the plate,” he said.