LPL’s coronavirus response adds service hours, sends 70% of staff to remote work

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The nation’s largest independent broker-dealer issued a roll call of actions it’s taking to help financial advisors guide clients through the coronavirus pandemic and historic market volatility.

LPL Financial has extended service hours for its 16,500 advisors, planned for contingencies with its most important vendors and enabled about 70% of its more than 4,000 employees to work remotely, the company announced March 19.

The actions come as wealth management firms of all sizes try to stem the rising tide of client anxiety resulting from the growing number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and steep drops in the stock market.

Such assistance could keep the tens of thousands of advisor practices using LPL as their BD running smoothly during the outbreak. Performing such mundane tasks as depositing checks or onboarding a new client can prove challenging when advisors are working remotely, according to Richard Dragotta, president of Inc Advisors, a 200-advisor LPL office of supervisory jurisdiction out of Paramus, New Jersey.

Amid such turmoil, it’s not possible for any firm to “overcommunicate,” says Dragotta, who recalls how tough it was just to find contact information for his team after 9/11. His team has gone fully remote while operating under a continuity plan he and his team devised out of difficult lessons he learned from the terrorist attacks as a UBS Painewebber branch manager in Lower Manhattan.

Dragotta praised LPL for avoiding any service interruptions during the current crisis, saying that Inc’s administrative and compliance staff has been at full capacity throughout.

Starting this weekend, LPL’s service hours will extend to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Additionally, the firm has provided its advisors with market analysis and summaries of the state and federal governments’ responses to the crisis to keep advisors briefed on the latest developments.

“The communication from them has helped me communicate that down the line. Scale matters in times like these,” he says. LPL’s move to keep technology in place and add longer service hours “clearly has been helpful,” Dragotta adds.

The No. 1 IBD also cancelled or rescheduled three advisor conferences that were earlier slated for March or April.

In addition to arranging for remote work, LPL is also having its corporate offices in San Diego, Boston and outside Charlotte, North Carolina. cleaned more frequently and thoroughly. The firm has reconfigured its remaining onsite workspaces in safe social distance and added hand sanitizer stations.

The company has also formed a COVID-19 Emergency Response Team, made up of senior leaders from throughout the company. They meet via teleconference every day to “ensure we act nimbly and flex our plans to any new information,” according to the firm’s statement.

Further, LPL has limited visitors to its offices and halted business travel. In the case of employees’ personal travel, it has issued new guidance that includes, in some cases, 14-day quarantines.

In accordance with FINRA’s recommendations issued earlier this month regarding member firms’ business continuity plans, LPL conducted tests of its ability to transfer operations from one office to another or to other locations in an emergency. Besides internal coronavirus resource centers for advisors and employees, LPL posted a public website about its responses.

“We are focused on providing the service and support our advisors and their clients need during this critical time, while ensuring our employees are safe and empowered to deliver on our mission,” the firm said.

Inc hasn’t run into any trouble with a business spanning some $6 billion in client assets in the firm’s first two days of working remotely, Dragotta says. The firm uses digital onboarding and a system in which employees process checks electronically through LPL’s program with local banks for deposits. Clients can leave them in a locked mailbox at the office.

Dragotta warns that OSJs that breezed through their required branch continuity plans without paying attention to details like ethernet cords and power packs could find themselves falling behind the crisis.

“This is the truest test in my opinion, and people are going to be able to grade themselves on how things went in real time,” he says.

Dragotta notes Inc will also be holding remote practice management meetings and even some virtual social gatherings for the OSJ’s advisors in coming days.

“As much as they are leaders, these uncertain times create a lot of questions in their clients minds and in their minds as well,” he adds. “It's not just about the markets, it's about their own mental health.”

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Business continuity Coronavirus Independent BDs RIAs OSJs Practice management LPL Financial