Without fail, every year brings new challenges and opportunities. As investors we are keenly aware of continually changing dynamics and how they impact markets, economics, and our lives. However, 2020 brought a rare level of change. As we reflect on the past year and the sober anniversary of the first local cases of COVID-19, the Allegiant team came together – virtually – to reflect about the many ways we have connected with our client families. We asked each Allegiant team member to share an example demonstrating some of the meaningful ways we've helped our clients, teammates, and community through these unusual times.
All of us had endured a lot by the time I joined Allegiant in December 2020. It remains a challenging time in so many ways, but everyone has been so welcoming. Our Director of Client Services Kristina Eastmond has been such a wonderful guide for me – as I know she is for all of our clients. Together we've all adjusted to new technology and customized platforms. I admire the way the firm operates as a team. You can still see and feel that – even as many of us are working in home offices right now. It's an entire client-focused group of dedicated professionals serving wonderful clients.
Senior Operations Specialist
One of the most important initiatives we accomplished for our clients this past year had nothing to do with the pandemic. The transition to becoming an independent registered investment advisor (RIA) by registering independently with the SEC as well as the move to Charles Schwab as our custodial firm were key strategic decisions. Driven by our desire to upgrade the client experience, lower expenses, and improve technology, plans were in development prior to the discovery of the novel coronavirus, but to implement these advancements amid the pandemic was a remarkable achievement. These changes were conducted in the best interests of our clients and were my personal focus for the year.
As many things changed, so much has stayed the same. I'm also proud of Allegiant's continued support of our community. Last spring, we stepped up to donate more than $50,000 to 12 local nonprofits. This season we've also worked with several to evolve traditional sponsorships to matching grant opportunities for Forty Carrots Family Center, the Sarasota Ballet, and All Faiths Food Bank.
Paul Cantor, CFA®, AIF®, CFP®
Chief Operating Officer, Principal
When 'everything' shut down last spring, Allegiant had already quickly transitioned to a secure remote operation. We were consistently on the phone with clients, listening to concerns and calming fears by reminding you that your plan factors in volatility. (At the same time, the Investment Management team took swift, decisive action within your portfolios.) We didn't know how long we'd be operating remotely as we adjusted to the work-from-home environment. After a few weeks, as we continued regular meetings and account reviews, we started hosting more Zoom meetings. Until that point, I hadn't realized how much I missed in-person interactions, real face-to-face conversations, expressions and body language that are all important as we get to know and work with you as clients. Adapting to Zoom's technology – and committing to video meetings vs just audio – was a reentry point for me personally. I had missed the human connection, I still do, but we can continue to be fully effective and connected via Zoom. I'm thankful there's so much we can still achieve together virtually. (Full disclosure: I'm a hugger and I miss real hugs, but I'm glad to see your smiling faces on the screen for now!)
Michelle Cross, CFP®, CPA, CDFA®, AIF®
Last year marked the first major market pullback since I have worked in this side of the financial industry. In advance of and throughout those key days and weeks of extreme volatility, the Investment Management team worked together closely—sometimes around the clock. My role expanded from primarily research into a more direct role in managing our clients' portfolios. Thankfully, I have been working crazy hours for several years preparing for the CFA® exam, so I was prepared to rise to the occasion. Looking back now, it is clear to see the benefits of long-term planning as well as the swift actions taken by our team. Our team's hard work has paid off, just as my hard work with the CFA® Program (1,500 hours of preparation over three years of study) has yielded success. I am proud to have earned the designation of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) charterholder amid the pandemic.
Cameron Dees, CFA®
Sadly, several clients have passed away over this past year. When we learn of the death of a client, the Allegiant team reaches out promptly to comfort, guide, and rally around the client's family. Not only do we handle operational needs related to accounts, we help beneficiaries, executors, and trustees feel at ease during these emotionally challenging times by providing a useful roadmap as they navigate difficult and sometimes overwhelming tasks that require attention. We liaison with attorneys and CPAs, bringing all professionals together while holding client family members' hands, providing them confidence that important details are tended to properly, and respectfully. We are not here to simply earn our fees; the Allegiant team is here to earn a bigger, more meaningful place in your life – and even beyond for the sake of your children and grandchildren. We consider this charge a solemn and sacred responsibility as we honor those we have lost by fulfilling their final wishes, ensuring that resources are protected and distributed exactly as they wished and planned.
Principal, Director of Client Service
I'll always remember conversations with so many long-time clients – truly friends – during the early days of the pandemic when there was so much fear in the world. Whether you called in with a question or I reached out to check on you, I tried to determine if there was anything we could do to help at home. It was our desire to give you a little pick-me-up with those personal calls, but you lifted me up as well! It's been an isolating time for all of us, so please know that we are always here to listen and support you. Of course, I'm a hugger and it was difficult not to give those in-person; however, I can always send virtual hugs or be a sounding board any time you need either. I'm also thankful for our clients' patience with paperwork and digital transitions as I think we've all learned more new systems than we cared to this past year! Looking back now, I see and appreciate the positive progress.
Director of First Impressions
I had the opportunity to join the Allegiant team amid the pandemic, coming on board at the firm in April 2020. Thanks to our shared dedication to a data-driven approach to managing markets, the Investment Research Team has been resolute in our commitment to communicating real-world information, cutting through the noise and hysteria, as we maintain a steady foundation and seize opportunities. I've often focused on examining historical data to better inform our investment strategies today and expanded the conversation – through published briefs, presentations, and videos - about these topics helping our clients and colleagues gain – or retain – perspective.
Will Geisdorf, CMT
Senior Research Analyst
Over the past year, through the pandemic and the arduous change of custodians from Commonwealth to Schwab, I've never been more proud of our firm's 17 team members. These individuals worked so incredibly hard on your behalf, and are still working diligently to keep you focused on your goals and moving forward. We've also moved forward as a firm, reducing costs while adding new services for clients, hiring new staff, and investing in top-shelf technology. To that end you should know that as an organization our collaborative and inclusive culture, one that stresses cooperation, constant learning, and improvement, has never been stronger. I see how driven everyone is to help our clients meet their long-term goals as well as help them get through the more quotidian details of their personal finances. The Wealth Advisors continue to guide you and take actions with only your best interests in mind, the Investment and Research team has expanded and excels at analysis and portfolio management, and the Client Service team wraps up everything by taking care of all the operational details with a genuine smile for every client, whom they know so well. While much of this past year has been unprecedented in some ways, one thing hasn't changed a bit: our commitment to being your most trusted advisor. Your success remains our mission.
Martin J. Kossoff, CFP®, AIF®
Chairman, Chief Compliance Officer, Principal
This past year we've reached out to help with digital documents and paperless programs. While many phone calls intended to ease the adjustment to the digital transformation triggered by the pandemic, I appreciated how many of them turned into authentic, comforting conversations for both parties during these unusual times. Since I joined Allegiant in the summer of 2019, I'm sure some of you wondered for a moment, "Who is this Karyn?" (We also have Karen Rivot on the Client Service Team!) But after you were reassured I was a member of the Allegiant team and we covered important details related to your accounts, our calls turned into real meaningful connections. During those early days of the "shutdown," when many of us needed a real human connection, it was a blessing to share helpful tips about navigating the quarantine environment, validate feelings, put worries at ease when we could, and relate to each other in such an open and personal way. We're here to serve as an extension of your family and family makes difficult times easier to process and get through together. We hope we've done that for you. You've also done that for us. I see that as our biggest accomplishment of the past year.
While this past year was certainly different in many ways, the philosophy driving Allegiant's approach to managing our clients' portfolios stayed consistent. Our data-driven, academic philosophy allowed us to navigate the ups and downs of the market without letting emotions cloud our decision-making. We were able to take advantage of market volatility and move clients closer to achieving their financial goals. We not only had to move quickly in making allocation changes within our portfolios, but also how we were communicating with clients. Prior to last year, we had participated in periodic digital meetings, but I have certainly "Zoomed" more in the past 12 months than I ever thought I would in my entire life. It was extremely important to make this shift in communication via Zoom, video webinars, and market updates to reassure our clients during a very volatile period. This responsibility to provide steadfast, unemotional guidance during times of immense emotional stress is one of the most important roles that our team has, and I think we did a tremendous job of that during the past year.
As I look back, I am very proud of the work that our team did and grateful for our clients who continue to put their faith in us as their most trusted advisors. During the pandemic we have added invaluable new staff members, upgraded our technology, and continued to improve each day in providing holistic wealth management. We understand the immense responsibility we hold and are devoted to our top priority: protecting each client's well-being.
Luke Nicholas, CFA®, CFP®
Principal, Director of Portfolio Management
This time last year we all spent a majority of time on the phone with clients. We were ready to hear concerns and assure clients that we had things under control, no matter what. As the Wealth Advisors helped clients navigate challenges and opportunities impacting financial plans and the Investment Management team took bold, swift action in portfolios, our Client Service team continued to perform all the important operational details that keep our firm – and more importantly our clients' lives – running smoothly. The world was experiencing a crisis, but transfers still had to be made, accounts still needed to be serviced, performing regular activities at an increased level and urgency remained my priority. It's been a bit intense, but we continue to give it (to give you!) our all. Like many of you, I'm looking forward to a vacation – eventually!
Helen M. Raymond
Senior Operations Specialist
Having lived and worked through many emergencies and unexpected events – 9/11, the market crash in 2008, real estate crises, and wars – throughout my decades of experience in the financial services industry, I've learned to be a helper through the hard times. The fear is always the same, but as veteran financial professionals, we help our clients stay steady and avoid overacting to emergencies.
As the office shifted to remote operations, I was happy to step up and take care of the necessary on-site tasks. Thankfully Allegiant's leadership team was ahead of the game investing in proper masks, air purifiers and maintaining a thoughtful schedule to minimize in-person interactions when possible. We continue to operate with extreme caution and concern for each other's health and well-being – and for that, I'm grateful. A colleague thanked me recently for "holding down the fort in the office" a majority of this past year, but I must say it's been a privilege to help in this way. We're all in this together – even when physically apart. It's another defining moment to remember that out of adversity comes opportunity.
Karen Rivot, CFP®
Senior Operations Specialist
We coached many client families through provisions of the CARES Act and also provided additional guidance regarding Medicare. I understand the increased worry about healthcare costs and coverage during the pandemic and hope our advice has helped ease concerns and develop solutions. I've focused on adding insights to client conversations about education planning as well. With our always data-driven approach, we've analyzed and evaluated payment options for student loans, also impacted by the CARES Act. Personally, I've found volunteering through Allegiant's Young Professional Mentorship Program and through the organization UnidosNow particularly rewarding this past year. Being able to help those starting out in their careers find opportunities to control what they can and adapt to furloughs or changes within their education plans or funds has made a real difference in individual lives in our community. I'm proud our team can help make that impact.
Kristina Vorndran, MS, CFP®, CRPC®
Master of Science Degree, Personal Financial Planning
Our conversations took on special meaning as we continued to advocate for you and your families this past year. While the client-advisor relationship is traditionally built upon finances, it expanded and was enhanced in many ways not directly related to finances. The pandemic opened many clients' eyes to the fact their children or grandchildren needed financial help now, so we talked through a variety of gifts to family members as you shared a "personal stimulus" with your loved ones.
We've always been your advocate, but the role took on new significance in 2020 because the world was changing so quickly. There was a distinctive urgency to some updates, we encouraged business owners to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and helped sort through many provisions of the CARES Act as we served as your thinking partner through the phase of greatest uncertainty. Thankfully, you were already knowledgeable and prepared because we have always focused on providing you confidence that your investments and financial plan are positioned to withstand periods of volatility.
Recently I was thrilled to help several clients sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine while at the same time I could hear the true concern in their voices when they asked how my family was doing. I'm grateful for the real friendships we've built with clients and each other during this time. It's been touching and emotional in a real human, holistic way that I'll always remember.
Melissa Walsh, CFA®, CFP®, AIF®
Principal, Senior Wealth Advisor
Many of our conversations with clients have revolved around reprioritizing and reallocating resources this past year. We've been helping you talk through home renovation ideas, new tax law, reviewing expenses and the potential ROI when evaluating real estate options. I know several clients had been toying with local moves in the real estate market that didn't seem "necessary" (their word, not mine!) for one reason or another during our regular meetings and reviews over the past few years. But in 2020, we all reflected more about what makes us feel happiest or healthiest now. It was my privilege to aid in your decision-making process by offering an impartial voice to guide you through the possibilities and review how it could impact your financial plan. We typically help you avoid emotional decision-making when it comes to finances. This year we've often helped you make smart decisions with your money that also made you feel good, reconnected, or rejuvenated personally.
Carl A. Watkins CFP®, CDFA™, AIF®
Principal, Director of Financial Planning
We were spot on last year.
We hope that the Allegiant team helped you find comfort in your own individual plans as the world turned upside down. It's times like this when the Allegiant team kicks it into an even higher gear to make sure that everyone survives and thrives even through life's most challenging times. While our mission is and has always been to be your most trusted advisor, please know that it is you who kept us going through the past year. Your unwavering support and confidence in our work is the driver of everything we do. And your reassuring words throughout the past year provided the fuel to keep going, to work the extra hours, to make the extra phone calls, to read the extra research, and to do everything in our power to support the security and stability of each family we work with.
Throughout such a transformative year, thank you for helping to make our job a passion for each and every one of us.
Benjamin W. Jones, CFP®, AIF®
President, Chief Investment Officer, Principal
240 South Pineapple Avenue, Suite 200
Sarasota, Florida 34236
Telephone (941) 365-3745
Toll Free (800) 926-5237
Advisory Services offered through Allegiant Private Advisors, LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser