Brown Advisory client teams are making personal contact with clients to offer specific guidance regarding portfolios and planning steps in the midst of the COVID-19-driven market volatility.
Additionally, Mike Hankin (President & CEO) and Dave Churchill (CFO & COO) are writing regularly to our entire client base to provide context and updates on the firm's evolving operations and our responsibilities to clients during this period.
Below you will find a running record of these communications.
March 18, 2020
We would like to provide you another update on our operations as we navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19. We hope that you found our previous updates on March 5 and March 11 helpful (see below for previous letters), and we appreciate the questions and suggestions that you have shared with us. This feedback is having a direct impact in shaping how we seek to meet our responsibilities to you.
Beginning almost two weeks ago, we began testing our ability for entire teams across the firm to work remotely. As the U.S. and U.K. began to shut down, we rolled our testing period into live, remote operations. Since last Friday (March 13), nearly 100% of our colleagues have been set up at home. While we are experiencing heavy loads of connectivity and transactions, we are pleased with the technology and communications support that is in place. Notably, we conducted remote trading operations on two of the busiest trading days of the year—March 9 and March 16. We believe that we can continue operations in this manner for an extended time period. For sure, we have learned a great deal already about the experience of working remotely—including the importance of connecting face-to-face over videoconferencing—but we have been able to institute necessary changes and improvements in response thus far. As an example, we are encouraging colleagues to organize communications over channels that allow people to see each other—using WebEx, Zoom, FaceTime and other “face-to-face” technology. Our internal COVID-19 Task Force continues to meet daily and is responsible for monitoring all aspects of Brown Advisory’s operations with the goal of providing uninterrupted support to our portfolio managers, analysts, strategic advisors and client service teams—so they can support you.
One of our highest priorities is staying in touch with you. Our goal is to make sure that we are responding to your needs and objectives. The best way we know to do this is by reaching out on a regular basis to every client, to listen and, with the help of the video tools mentioned above, to have a face-to-face conversation if possible. In addition to one-on-one connections, we have launched a series of webcasts (live) & webinars (recorded) to enable each of you to listen to presentations by various portfolio management and investment analyst teams. Last Friday, we provided an update to our institutional clients via a live webcast conversation with Eric Gordon, Director of Equity Research, and Tom Graff, Head of Fixed Income—if you’d like to listen to that discussion you can access it here. Tomorrow, we are recording a webinar more directly applicable to many of our private, endowment and foundation clients: It will feature Paul Chew, Chief Investment Officer; Erika Pagel, Chief Investment Officer of Sustainable Investing; and Kif Hancock, Head of International Investment Solutions Group. If you are interested in receiving this webinar as soon as it is produced, please click here.
You will also be able to find links to those discussions, and the many others to come, in the newly launched Coronavirus Information Center on our website. This page will feature a running update of actions we are taking in the areas of Investments, Operations, Communications and Events. So while Dave and I plan to collate much of this information for you in this weekly letter format, please know that this new resource is available if you want to see what is happening more frequently.
We will end by saying that it is very hard to generalize our investment thinking in this forum—it really does depend on client-by-client and strategy-by-strategy situations. What we can say, however, is that our firm has managed and invested through volatile times before—in fact, decisions our teams made in both the 1999/2000 and 2008/2009 time periods led to significant runs of outperformance in the years that followed. We believe that our continued focus on performance, advice and service will serve our clients well over the next few weeks, months and years.
Again, we really appreciate the feedback, thoughts and questions you have shared in response to these letters. Both Dave and I are here for you if you think we can be helpful in any way. We send our best wishes for health, safety and comfort to you, your family and all those you care about.
President & CEO
CFO & COO
March 11, 2020
Just one week ago, we wrote to brief you on the preparations that we have undertaken to protect the interests of our clients and our colleagues in the face of COVID-19 [note: the prior letter referenced here was sent on March 5, and can be found further down the page]. We write today to update you.
Our preparations have included many steps in addition to the detailed business continuity plans that we have had in place for many years. Our plans have included the ability for all employees to work at remote locations, including their homes, using Brown Advisory secure technology and equipment. We believe that many of you are also familiar with our active use of videoconferencing for client and colleague meetings, including our hallmark firm-wide research meetings which all colleagues attend four mornings each week. While we regularly subject our business continuity plans to rigorous testing, we have now, with the supervision of our COVID-19 Task Force that was formed in February to oversee our preparations, subjected our business continuity plans to sustained and active implementation. By the end of the day today, over two-thirds of our colleagues will have worked from their homes in the last seven days. Our testing included requiring our entire equity and fixed income trading teams to operate from their homes; importantly, our latest remote trading operations were conducted this past Monday without any interruption on one of the busiest trading days of this year. We believe that we are well prepared for the entire firm to operate remotely for an extended period and will continue to run a significant portion of our daily operations in this manner for the foreseeable future.
We know that the challenges presented by COVID-19 will likely exist for weeks to come. As you know, many universities and schools have decided to adopt an extended spring break and then to rely on online classroom studies into mid-April. We also will take a very conservative approach and will move any office and any colleague to remote operations if there is any concern about the spread of the disease. We are also aware that activities adjacent to our offices can be threats as well. Accordingly, last evening, we asked our New York colleagues to work from home until further notice. We made this decision after we learned that someone had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in a “co-working” space on the 3rd floor of the office building; our office is located on the 35th floor. With the solid footing provided by our business continuity plans and the testing of them, we believe that this is the right decision to make and can be accomplished without interruption in our responsibilities to you. In preparation for similar situations in other locations, we will continue our practice of having significant components of our team work remotely. We believe that taking this extra precaution will allow us to stay ahead of the current challenges from an operational standpoint.
We come to work each day excited to meet the challenge of serving an incredible group of clients. We are privileged to have the responsibility of providing thoughtful, timely and focused investment and strategic advice and the highest levels of service and support. We believe that our colleagues, our technology systems, and our business and custodial partners are well prepared to do so.
Lastly, we also think a great deal about our responsibilities to the communities in which we work and live. We are working closely with healthcare institutions to ensure that we are doing our part to help minimize the spread of COVID19. We ask for your support of the steps that we have taken.
President & CEO
CFO & COO
March 5, 2020
As we learn more and more about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, we want to share with you the preparations that we have undertaken as a firm to protect the interests of our clients. We know that we must be prepared to conduct business in the face of any type of challenge, and provide our clients thoughtful, timely and focused investment and strategic advice and the highest level of administrative support and service—no matter the circumstances. We also take extremely seriously our responsibility to provide our clients and our colleagues a safe, healthy and secure business environment.
We regularly test and update our contingency plans in order to be prepared to meet unexpected events of various types. Like many other businesses, we have developed detailed plans to establish business operations at alternative locations. Our business continuity plans provide colleagues the ability to work at remote locations, including their homes, using secure Brown Advisory-provided technology and equipment. Further, we already rely significantly on video conferencing facilities and are able to connect colleagues, clients and any of our service providers by video conferencing on almost immediate notice. Finally, we have taken steps to make sure that our service partners, from outside custodians to the financial institutions through which we execute trades, are able to operate on a remote basis, just as we are.
In the current instance, we have also formed a task force comprising colleagues from across Brown Advisory to focus on the various threats presented by the spread of the coronavirus. Already, the task force has implemented additional precautions. These include, in part, reduced travel, more frequent and intense cleaning of each of our offices, and a supportive but stern policy that requires employees to seek immediate medical advice for any illness and to stay away from the office until full recovery. Our task force meets daily, and we expect additional precautions to be implemented.
The task force is guided by a mandate that the most important role we have as a firm today is to continue providing clients the advice and service you have come to expect, particularly in light of today’s rapidly changing investment climate. To that end, we must be sure to support all of our colleagues so that they can be there for you.
As part of our precautions, we must share the disappointing news that we have decided to cancel our Navigating Our World conference which was scheduled for April 21 in Washington, D.C. We simply cannot ask our clients and speakers to travel and convene, given the uncertainty of the public health landscape. We are, however, planning to share the NOW 2020 experience through what we believe will be an exciting program of online videos and podcasts. Our NOW theme— Investing Strategically in a Polarized World—remains as relevant as ever, and we look forward to sharing our plans with you soon.
From an investment perspective, we are not attempting to predict the path of the coronavirus or the near-term direction of markets. Our focus is to make thoughtful investment and, where relevant, strategic planning decisions on a client-by-client and strategy-by-strategy basis. We have faced volatile markets many times over the years, and will certainly face them again in the years to come. We build and manage portfolios knowing that challenges will rise unexpectedly, and as such we feel confident that we can capitalize on the opportunity that volatility often presents.
We are certain to learn more in the next few days and weeks about the coronavirus, COVID-19 and their impact on the health of our clients and colleagues, on our society and on the global economy. We commit to you that we will take whatever steps are necessary as a business and to do so in a fully transparent manner.
President & CEO
CFO & COO