Kenneth Smith, CEO of Empirical Wealth Management, shares with FA-IQ how he is coping with work-from-home arrangements resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Seattle-based Smith has 25 years of industry experience and his firm has $3 billion in client assets.
“In February, I started offering our team the ability to just start working from home. It’s been a month now. When we started, I wasn’t ready to close offices, so we had shifts with just one or two people keeping the office open. As this progressed, we went to everybody working from home. In certain cities, like in our San Francisco market, they’re not even allowed to leave home. But we were already in a working-from-home arrangement for them by then.
Clients have been really, really understanding. If clients get used to this, I think this is an opportunity for us to stay in touch with our clients, beyond our quarterly in-person stuff. Now they’re getting used to doing these meetings and reviews through the use of technology rather than us having to be in front of them in person every single time.
I have a setup with my work phone, Polycom phone — two monitors and a dock. We use Windows Surface. I just have a dock. I just take my Surface, plug it into the dock and I am into our network in a way that is secure. There’s no difference whether I’m in the Seattle office or the Bellevue office. A lot of our advisors already have that technology. Our portfolio managers typically come to the office because they have four monitors. We’re making sure they have the technology and letting them take monitors home. When they are working from home, they use a VPN for security so they’re not transmitting data in unsecure ways.
I really do like the flexibility. We’ve always tried to have that, but this is the first time where we’re having a lot. It’s weird, but we’re having more communication now that we’re doing these team meetings where we’re all on camera. It kind of has refocused on the fact that we need to connect more because we do have offices scattered around. So long as everyone’s doing their job and doing it correctly and responding to clients, I don’t care so much how much vacation they take or whether they’re in the office or out of the office. I like that flexibility.”