We asked Tom Zuttermeister, Senior Portfolio Manager, about the advice and conversations he has with clients.
In the midst of this pandemic, what is the number one question you are asking your clients?
I’m asking my clients, “How can I help you?” I want to push them to think not just about performance, but also to spend time looking at things like tax considerations, income, growth, and short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Our clients vary by age, geography, profession, and background. We give the best advice when we understand not just the whole financial picture, but the human considerations that inform that picture. Are you looking for growth? Income? A combination of the two? Especially with new clients, we devote a large chunk of time answering those questions so we can move ahead in unison. It happens that clients change their minds, and we can adjust, but it’s best to know where they want to go from Day One. Then, it’s our job to help them get there.
What’s it like working with younger people, who are new to investing and financial advising?
I get very excited working with clients in their 20s and 30s because I can help them make important decisions early, with oftentimes modest amounts, that end up having a profound impact on their long-term financial health. It’s very rewarding.
What piece of the financial system puzzle do you pay attention to every day?
I probably pay the most attention to the stock markets. I monitor them every day because my clients expect me to do so. If there’s an opportunity to make a profit, then by golly, we go for it. Primarily, I look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ. I don’t pay as much attention to the overseas market because our clients are more focused on the two US-based markets. I am a neutral observer; I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and I’ve witnessed big swings one way or the other. Every year, something happens that causes the markets to react. But over time, the markets adjust and work their way up. We remind our clients all the time about that. From the oil embargo to 9/11 to the 2008–2009 crisis to today, we’ve seen plenty of troubled times. Keeping calm in the face of these challenges is an essential part of our advice and our approach. Clients need an anchor, a calming force, and my experience allows me to provide that for them when they need a little reassurance. I make sure we always keep our medium- and long-term goals in our sites.
What piece of historical financial advice still holds true today?
You can’t go broke taking a profit.
What question should every investor ask on a yearly basis?
The biggest question for clients is a simple but important one: What was the return for your portfolio? We like to look historically and see where we stand. If we’re down this year during unusual times, I like to make sure we look back and gauge where we really are from a long-term perspective. That information helps clients stay grounded and able to move ahead according to their priorities.