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Charity, free advisor services and more: How the industry is stepping up in the coronavirus outbreak

Wealth management is racing to try to stay ahead of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has taken thousands of lives, stalled the economy and put an end to a decade-plus bull market. In the process, it’s upended the way wealth management operates. In response, the industry is rushing to support advisors, clients and the larger community they serve.

As businesses across the U.S. close their doors and business continuity plans kick into gear, advisors are offering pro bono advice to those financially impacted. Firms like Securian Financial and T. Rowe Price are giving funds to charitable organizations and donating N95 respirator masks to hospitals.

Support from across wealth management has included free services for financial advisors from a variety of vendors as they make difficult decisions about conference schedules and the fraught process of maintaining operations in the middle of a global health and economic crisis.

Advisors themselves are doing their best to give back. Being a financial advisor comes with duties beyond making money, notes Steve Tenney, CEO of Great Diamond Partners, a Portland, Maine-based RIA. “We are a leader in this community and we have responsibility to lead, especially in difficult times like these,” he says.

Tenney's RIA kicked off a $25,000 fundraising effort at the end of March to support a local food bank in Maine that he says had lost volunteers and food donations from retailers in the wake of the pandemic. “We’ve got the network and resources to help out, so we want to do that,” Tenney says.

Scroll through to see how wealth management firms, organizations and regulators are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

T Rowe Updated
T. Rowe Price
The asset manager’s charitable arm has donated $250,000 to the Fund for Educational Excellence to pay for Baltimore City Public Schools students and families left without regular meals due to the shutdown of schools. T. Rowe Price also gave $125,000 each to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy for global relief efforts and to nonprofits in New York City, San Francisco and Colorado. Beyond the monetary gifts, the company is providing healthcare organizations with 130,000 N95 respirator masks it previously had in storage for business continuity purposes.
Truelytics
Wealth management software firm Truelytics is offering emergency continuity planning for advisors with current enterprise agreements for free and at a “greatly reduced rate” for new clients, according to the company. The TrueContinuity service notifies emergency contacts and enables access to important documents and processes in order to maintain operations after unforeseen events.
Securian Financial
Securian Financial donated $500,000 for individuals and small businesses hurt by the pandemic, along with nearly 30,000 N95 respirator masks to healthcare workers and nonprofits. Before donating them to the Minnesota Nurses Association, the insurance firm and parent of an IBD had 20,000 of the masks in storage due to its own risk management policies, according to spokesman Jeff Bakken. Moving forward, the company is “prepared to make significant emergency funding available to our neighbors in need during this crisis,” Bakken added in an email.
FPA
FPA called off its 2020 Retreat, which had been slated for early May at the Lost Pines Resort in Cedar Creek, Texas. Far from standing down during the pandemic, though, the organization has recruited volunteer planners to serve any clients affected by the virus on a pro bono basis. It also released an e-book called “Navigating the New Reality,” with chapters written by eight CFPs about how to confront the economic impact.
Cetera headquarters
Cetera Financial Group
More than 8,000 advisors affiliated with the Cetera network have gained access to a new collection of home-office services designed to assist their practices during the crisis. The firm’s “Advisor Resiliency Pack” includes CFPs who can step in to help clients in the event of logistical difficulties at no cost to Cetera advisors, along with expanded services, free access to AdvicePay and resources explaining the federal relief package.
Orion Advisor Tech
Orion Advisor Tech
Financial advisors can use Orion’s planning software for free between April 1 and July 1, according to the firm. The company has also ramped up a specific client communication tool to address the stock volatility accompanying the pandemic. In addition, under a program it calls “Business as Usual,” Orion is offering its cloud-based tools for practices that find it difficult to maintain normal operations while working from home.
DPL Financial Partners
The fee-only insurance network is offering its services free to non-members until June 1. RIAs and other wealth managers can access the turnkey insurance management via the firm’s website or by calling 1-888-327-0049.
SEC-02072018
SEC and NASAA
State and federal regulators are warning advisors and clients to be on the lookout for scams relating to the pandemic. The schemes could entail “safe” investments with “guaranteed returns,” false get-rich schemes and capital raising efforts on behalf of phony companies presented by fraudsters as manufacturing critical infrastructure or health equipment, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association. In its own investor alert, the SEC cited “a number of Internet promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.”
FINRA headquarters
FINRA, SEC and NASAA
The three main regulatory bodies overseeing wealth management — FINRA, the SEC and members of NASAA — have each launched websites providing the latest comprehensive information on their operations and responses to the pandemic. Advisors can check the sites for material on every aspect of the regulatory side of the crisis.
Photo by Scott Wenger
CFP Board
The CFP Board postponed all of its certification exams on March 18. Registrants for the exam can reschedule to take it between July 7 and 14 at no extra cost. The private testing administrator, Prometric, made the decision to close all of its testing centers in North America, according to the CFP Board.
Charles-Schwab-060518
Charles Schwab
Schwab gave all employees under the officer level a $1,000 spot bonus as a “small way for us to show our appreciation,” according to CEO Walt Bettinger. Contract workers are not eligible for the bonus, according to Business Insider.

Some branch managers at Schwab, including Peter VanBemmel, have gotten creative in helping employees relieve stress. After public access to branches in San Francisco was closed, he brought in therapy dogs to cheer up associates, according to LinkedIn.
J.D. Power
J.D. Power is conducting research on Americans’ views of the impact of COVID-19.

Some two-thirds of individuals are “somewhat” or “very” worried that the pandemic will hurt them financially, according to a J.D. Power Banking Industry Insight survey conducted among 1,200 adults between Feb. 28 and March 1. The top three financial concerns include unexpected health expenses, loss of job hours and declines in portfolio value.

For more information, check “Consumers anxious about virus want reassurance from banks: J.D. Power” on American Banker.
CFRA
Financial advisors and clients can get free independent stock research, courtesy of CFRA’s weekly newsletter, The Outlook, for 90 days. Besides the newsletter, CFRA is also providing up to five equity reports and five fund reports each month free and select other resources that are usually only available to its paid subscribers.
Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual
A visitor to Northwestern Mutual’s downtown Milwaukee headquarters has tested positive for the coronavirus, local news station WTMJ-TV reported last month. The company didn’t confirm or deny the report. In an email, spokeswoman Betsy Hoylman noted that advisors and corporate employees in Milwaukee and New York are working remotely for the foreseeable future. The Northwestern Mutual Foundation also announced that it had given $1.5 million to Feeding America, the American Red Cross' Disaster Recovery program, the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation’s Travel for Care fund and other charities.
Creative Planning
Peter Mallouk’s Overland Park, Kansas-based RIA boosted its gift to Harvesters — The Community Food Network to $1 million to assist the food bank’s efforts to feed people facing financial burdens due to the coronavirus. Harvesters coordinates aid across 26 counties in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, spanning 760 nonprofits and more than 140,000 people each month.
Thanks to the higher estate tax exemption under the new tax law, advisors are revisiting an old strategy called upstream planning to enable their clients to save capital gains taxes on highly appreciated assets, according to this article on Barron’s.
IRS
The IRS pushed back its filing deadline to July 15 while reminding filers that they can still request an extension beyond the new date. State deadlines could still vary and the federal tax collector reminded those anticipating a refund to file as soon as possible.

For more information, check “IRS pushes tax date to July 15, same as payment deadline” on Accounting Today.
Investments & Wealth Institute
IWI canceled its Annual Conference Experience, which had been scheduled for late May at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. The organization is providing registrants a full refund or the option of exchanging their registration for another conference later this year or for next year’s ACE in Seattle. As an added incentive for exchanging the registration rather than getting a refund, the organization is giving the virtual version of ACE free of charge to those who simply transfer their ticket to a later event.
TD Ameritrade building photo Bloomberg News
TD Ameritrade
TD Ameritrade Institutional launched a new virtual event series to help advisors better manage their firms during the coronavirus. The series features guidance on topics ranging from business continuity planning to managing stress. E-learning resources for financial advisors were also added to the custodian’s Education Center for the duration of the health crisis.

On the retail side, TD Ameritrade closed all its branches to the public March 20 to help prevent the spread of the virus.

For further reading, see “TD Ameritrade is first major custodian to enable all employees to work remotely..”
Alliance for Lifetime Income
The Rolling Stones postponed their 2020 “No Filter” tour, with the tour’s main sponsor offering its support for the decision. The annuities education organization of two dozen major insurers and asset managers had signed on as sponsor of the rock legends' tour in 2020 for the second straight year. The 15-show tour would have started on May 8 in San Diego.
Fidelity Charitable
Fidelity Charitable has put together a list of organizations with an immediate need for response to COVID-19 as guidance for people looking for effective ways to help. The public charity divided its compilation into three focus areas: supporting medical needs, protecting vulnerable populations and sustaining all nonprofits.

For more on helping those in need, read “Planners offer pro bono advice as coronavirus takes toll on businesses.”
Blucora
In an effort to help families financially impacted by COVID-19, TaxAct is donating 10 meals on behalf of every individual using its software to file a 1040 return between April 1-15. The tax software company, which, like Avantax Wealth Management, is a subsidiary of Blucora, aims to provide 10 million meals through Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
Raymond James
Raymond James
Raymond James is giving $1.5 million to support charitable organizations that are providing access to food and healthcare to those impacted by the coronavirus.

The beneficiaries include Feeding America, as well as local charities in St. Petersburg, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; and other cities. Some of the funds have been set aside as a reserve for future relief.
Centaurus Financial
The midsized IBD didn’t lay off any employees during the 2008 financial crisis, and it won’t be making any job cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Ron King said earlier this month. In addition, it has ensured social distancing for its more than 80 corporate employees in Anaheim, California and regional offices in three states. It has also activated certain aspects of its continuity plan. As a profitable company for each of its 27 years with a debt-free balance sheet, Centaurus is “built for moments like these,” General Counsel Paul King said in an email to employees.
InVest 2018 - Carson Group
Carson Group
Carson Group postponed its annual Excell conference, which Ron Carson’s wealth management and coaching firm had scheduled for May 26-28 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The firm is issuing refunds to all attendees. Next year’s event is slated to occur at the same location on June 1-3, 2021.
Voya Financial Advisors IAG
Voya Financial
The insurer, asset manager and parent of an IBD is waiving fees on defined-contribution plans for coronavirus-related distributions, hardship withdrawals and loan initiations between April and September. Individual employees could save between $10 million and $20 million under the change, according to the firm. Voya is also providing free services on its website until the end of September relating to many aspects of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Ameritas
An employee based at the Lincoln, Nebraska, headquarters of the insurer, asset manager and midsized IBD tested positive for the coronavirus, Ameritas said on March 24. The firm had already sent most of its employees to work from home, and Ameritas closed its headquarters until further notice. CFO Sue Wilkinson also posted a video on the firm’s website explaining its “longstanding commitment to financial strength and stability.”
Lincoln Financial Group
The giant insurance firm and IBD launched an online resource center to provide updates on the company’s responses to the virus, as well as summaries of state and federal actions in the wake of the pandemic. Lincoln also donated $1 million to some 30 organizations in 11 cities where it has a major footprint. The money will go to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, older adults and families with children who are out of school.
Entreda
Requests to the cybersecurity firm for secure remote desktop or virtual private network services have soared by 300% year-over-year in the first quarter, Entreda said last month. The firm is offering its existing users a free month of an application called “Endpoint Monitoring and Remediation” that provides such services.
BBVA USA
The bank and wealth manager unveiled a raft of employee benefits, relief programs and charitable gifts of $3.7 million in response to the pandemic. BBVA is enabling qualifying employees to receive 10 days of paid time-off if the virus makes them unable to work while ensuring full coverage of all in-network testing and treatment under its corporate health plan. In addition to the substantial donations to food banks, small businesses and other recipients, the firm is procuring $500,000 worth of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other essential materials for public health nonprofits.