5 Questions for Breanna Sykes, Financial Advising and the Market During a Pandemic11/02/2020 05:13PM ● By John Gales
5 Questions for Breanna Sykes
1. I understand that you have just recently joined the Copper Leaf Financial team and are in the midst of moving your family from South Carolina to Vermont. What prompted you to make such a significant move?
- My husband and I are both from NY and have family here in VT. We were in the Carolinas for about 11 years, starting when my husband went into the Marine Corps. We stayed for work, but every year we talked about coming back north. My husband’s company made him permanently remote this year which gave us an opportunity to come to VT. I was originally drawn to Copper Leaf because it’s a fee only planning firm. Having such a simple and transparent model makes for a great client experience. What really has me excited is the owners are a mix of CPAs & CFPs which means their minds are thinking about the past, present and future for our clients all the time. Our partnership with Davis & Hodgdon is unique. We take care of our client’s taxes and financial planning under one roof. When your financial advisor and CPA work together we can be more efficient in our approach and it saves the client a lot of time going back and forth between advisors to gather information. It’s a great benefit for our clients and the employees because of the first hand tax education we wouldn’t get at another firm.
2. 2020 has resulted in market volatility and uncertainty for many investors. How are you and the Copper Leaf team addressing this with your clients and their portfolios?
- We have an evidence-based investing philosophy that says diversifying and staying the course outperforms trying to mold to market trends. By using historical data and running thousands of scenarios for our clients they can see what happens to their money in different market conditions. This allows them to pick their custom risk level so that when we continue to stay the course and not cave to market trends, they are comfortable with the ups and the downs. We also provide education and information regularly to help clients understand why the market reacts. By showing clients what the market has done before and after every presidential election, for example, we can help them understand trends. Helping our clients understand the market helps us explain why our philosophy works.
3. How has Copper Leaf changed its workflow and procedures including the management of client relationships within the new normal that has resulted from the pandemic?
- Copper Leaf adapted to meet the needs of the clients by offering Zoom meetings to all clients for a face to face interaction. Instead of handing a client a paper copy of their plan, we walk clients through their plan in real time while screen sharing. We can update information live instead of reprinting documents. Clients are responding really well to that. All employees have the ability to work from home while still staying connected to everyone at the firm via Zoom. This was wonderful because when I started with Copper Leaf I was still living in South Carolina. With their remote capabilities I was able to start working right away and have continued to work through my move back to Vermont. I loved that I could start right away and meet everyone I’d be working with.
4. How has the pandemic affected other ways that you are advising your clients, other than through the investing lens?
- Investing is just a part of what we do. As I said earlier, we invest for the long term and anticipate down times in the market. Because our investment philosophy is staying the course and not emotionally responding to the market, our clients have focused their time on what really matters during this pandemic. They’ve been able to take care of their personal matters knowing their finances are in good care. Our holistic approach to financial planning encompasses more than investments. We look at debt to see how we can increase cash flow or help save money on interest over time. We review insurance policies to make sure you’re fully protected. We recommend estate planning for every client. We can’t create a plan for you without making sure that plan is protected from every angle. Our advice goes far beyond investments.
5. We keep hearing the term “fiduciary” as it relates to financial advisory firms. What is it important to ensure that my advisor is a fiduciary?
- Fiduciary advisors are bound by law to make decisions based on the best interest of their client. We are fiduciaries. I’ve worked in a variety of companies from a large nationwide broker dealer to a small independent broker. I’ve met with clients who own products that don’t make sense for them. It is incredibly important that you know how your advisor gets paid. At Copper Leaf you will never have to worry about why we are making a recommendation. Our fees are transparent and we don’t sell products for commission. We always make recommendations based solely on our client’s needs and best interests, not our bottom line.
Copper Leaf Financial, LLC is a fee-only, registered investment advisor, serving clients nationwide from offices in Williston and Rutland, VT. The firm provides true wealth management to successful business owners, professionals and families seeking tax-aware, holistic, evidence-based planning and advice. The firm has served clients with expert staff including experienced CPAs and Certified Financial Planner™ professionals.