As Hurricane Sandy makes its way up the East coast, flooding and power outages have already occurred and are likely to get worse. New York City has shut down public transit, some tunnels and schools and Mayor Bloomberg has urged 375,000 residents to evacuate. U.S. capital markets are frozen with the New York Stock Exchange shut down Monday and to remain closed on Tuesday.
Broker-dealers TD Ameritrade and LPL Financial rescheduled earnings calls because of the severe weather.
So while many major financial firms and residents have geared up for Hurricane Sandy and its potentially devastating impact, are advisors and their practices ready for such inclement weather? Do they know what to do?
Jude Boudreaux, an advisor whose practice, Upperline Financial, is based in New Orleans has some tips. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and more recent storms since then, such as Hurricane Isaac in August this year, Boudreaux is somewhat of an expert when it comes to how an advisor and his practice can best weather severe storms.
"The number one thing I tell people is to evacuate," Boudreaux said. Whether it's mandatory or not, it's better to be sure you'll have power than to risk it, he said. "If you don't have electricity, you can't help your clients at all."
With severe storms such as Hurricane Sandy, people are given advance notice and should heed the warnings so they can be available to clients if they have urgent issues and need to reach advisors, he said.
The next most important thing to do is back up and secure everything that you can in your office, Boudreaux said. Beyond backing up data, he recommended actually covering any electrical appliances or devices that you cannot remove with plastic. "A leaky roof or window could make all the difference in the world," he said.
It's also important to bring the data back-up with you along with a printed copy of your clients' contact information and any other important information you might immediately need, he said. If you don't have access to your CRM login for a few days, at least you can still reach out to your clients the old-fashioned way via phone.
Another smart move Boudreaux suggested, use Line2, Google Voice or another service to create a secondary emergency contact number. He added one very important caveat, clearly something a veteran storm survivor would think of; make sure the emergency contact number has an area code different form the one you do business in.
"After Hurricane Katrina, everyone was calling to check on people and no one could get through to any numbers in the 504 area code," he recalled.
With evacuation plans and an emergency number set, Boudreaux said advisors should be sure to share that information with clients. When hurricanes are headed towards New Orleans, for example, Upperline evacuates and posts its plan and emergency contact information on the firm's blog and sends out an email blast.
"It shows them you are prepared and it gives them one less thing to worry about while they are worrying about their families," Boudreaux said.
He also makes a point to reach out to his older clients before the storm to make sure they and their homes are prepared and to see if there is anything else he can do to help, he said.
And finally, once the storm has passed, Boudreaux said it's a good idea to check in with everyone affected by the storm and see how they fared.
"It shows you care and it's an easy touch point in getting back into day-to-day, normal life," he said.