Kevin Schultz, Chairman of Triad Securities Corp., a 44-year old Wall Street firm, addresses bringing the team back to onsite operations as Coronavirus restrictions are lifted, and provides insight to executives in the brokerage industry as they look for solutions in the new normal.
Q. The last two months have been historic and challenging, especially for businesses in New York, the hardest hit area of the U.S. What have your main concerns been during this time?
A. We have been focused on the Triad Securities family, and customer service, which is no different than any other time. Although we moved out of our financial district offices in March, our clients’ businesses have not stopped or even slowed. If anything, we have been busier than ever with all of the secondary pricings and public company fund raising of all kinds.
What’s amazing is that our service has been so seamless that many of our customers didn’t even realize that the entire Triad team was working remotely. We have had a number of customers ask us about this, since they didn’t notice any downtime, even during the transition period.
Our clients, including professional traders, hedge funds and family offices have very high standards and for them to comment on seamless operations is a credit to the team.
Q. Give us an overview on what you are thinking about reopening your Wall Street area office
A. In these unusual times my team and I have to figure out how our people can get back to the Canyon of Heroes withoutjeopardizing their health. (Triad offices are on lower Broadway in New York City.)
The question is do we open over the summer, or wait until fall when there could be a vaccine?
I, for one, believe that the interaction that goes on every day and the relationships we build within our firm are irreplaceable. We are not an organization where everyone sits at their desks without speaking. We actively share ideas and test concepts frequently in impromptu discussions, often related to market activity. This ongoing live discussion and vetting has tremendous benefits for our clients who are seeking insight into particular securities as well as trends.
We want to get back to that live interaction as soon as we can.
Q. What factors are driving your thoughts as you move forward?
A. Well first it is important to understand that we are a family here: team members have been with the company for an average of 18 years and we are not taking anyone’s concerns lightly. I brought everyone into the process with a survey of six yes or no questions. We asked questions such as “are the trains & buses your biggest concern?” or “is driving a possibility for you?” Answers were shared only with the executive team to give us an idea who was, and was not, comfortable coming in and under what conditions.
With this information, we set the date as June 1st originally, then moved it forward to June 15th when the governor changed the opening dates.
My goal is to get everyone, except the people with pre-existing medical conditions or the ones not ready to come into the office for any reason, 2-3 times a week to spend time with each other throughout the summer. That should keep the office no more than half full and also bring back the new normal. That said, the message from me continues to be: if you are not comfortable, do not come in!
Q. How do you see your office reopening rolling out?
A. As a first step I am sending in 2 or 3 IT personnel in early June to check on all computers and move desks farther apart so,even with a full house, people will be 6-10 feet away from each other. This will be a good test run for allowing more people to come into the office.
Then we can move forward with 8-10 people out of 35 coming into the office for the first two weeks beginning June 15th, to correspond with the lifting of the New York Pause on that date.
We are asking that none of our team use public transportation, as this can increase exposure, and we will pay for parking. I don’t see traffic being bad until at least September, since schools are out all summer, and I expect many people to still be working from home. Our group is an innovative bunch and keen to get back to the office, and I wouldn’t be much surprised to see some of our traders piloting a river boat to get here.
A. In the last 25 years we have been through two life threatening disasters, 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy. So, while a rapidly spreading virus, like Covid-19, has different impacts, we have honed our emergency response capabilities.
We were alert to the news tracking the first cases and official response in the area. New York State announced a state of emergency on March 10 followed shortly by the containment zone in suburban New Rochelle.
We reviewed all operations to ensure that we would be able to operate in any of the potential likely scenarios. By the time the full shut-down came 10 days later, our Operations and IT staff had ensured that team members could continue to serve clients in our high-touch style, even if they are out of the office.
Because our traders and teams are always available by phone, especially since many of our clients use our trading desk, this shift was simpler than it could have been. Brokerages that depend more on technology platforms to communicate with customers, may have struggled with a sudden influx of calls.
In reality, we have had to be agile during this time. During Sandy we successfully spent 3-4 days in our redundancy office in New Jersey and we moved to One State St Plaza for 3 weeks immediately following 9/11. But that kind of solution is not possible in this case and we have monitored rolling health metrics and ongoing guidance from public officials throughout the tri-state area to aid in our decisions.
Q. What other precautions are you taking?
A. In addition to the above, team members will be asked to monitor themselves for fever and get tested for antibodies ASAP. We will be diligently cleaning all knobs and surfaces and reinforcing the “six feet apart” rule. As we have since the beginning, we will monitor suggestions from the medical community and public health officials.
Q. What is your advice for other executives in New York and other hard-hit places?
A. I think everyone wants to live and work together in a safe way until medicine catches up and allows us to go back to how it was before. To do this, firms must be dedicated to staying agile, and responding appropriately to new information, especially from the medical community and local government. Additionally, I think it is especially important to listen to your people, hear their ideas and concerns. People are in varied situations, so pre-existing trust is very important here. You want your team to be as transparent as possible for everyone’s safety. I believe that steps towards reopening onsite should be ongoing, even if you can only take partial measures and that you continually monitor the success of your plans. By building up to a full onsite reopen, you will be ready when the time comes, and your firm will be the stronger for it.
About Triad Securities Corp.
Triad Securities, member FINRA and SIPC, is a full-service, agency-only brokerage firm. We provide superior and personalized Prime Brokerage Services to Hedge Funds, Family Offices, Managed Account Platforms, RIAs, Proprietary Trading Desks and Professional Traders. For more information, visit us at www.triadsecurities.com or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org