As we look back on 2020, we can probably agree that it was a year of change in many ways. The year began in a normal fashion, but radically changed in March as we all learned to adjust to a pandemic-stricken world. SFG’s business continuity plan and technology allowed us to pivot quickly and reprioritize our goals for the year, while remaining true to our core values of Client Commitment, Innovation, and Service Heart.
With innovation and technology at our core, we seamlessly transitioned to home-based offices and began virtual meetings with our team, clients, business partners, and friends and family. Microsoft Teams became our primary form of communication and allowed us to “see” everyone, even if we could not see each other in person.
We focused on our WHY: “to provide insights and solutions to inspire people to take action so that they can lead fulfilled lives.” With that in mind, we launched our new website in June to be able to communicate and provide more resources on Financial Matters, Physical Well-being, Intellectual Engagement, and Psychological Space. We are constantly adding to the site and hope you are finding it interesting, educational, and enjoyable.
We welcome you to read the remainder of this report to reflect on our highlights from 2020 and learn more about some of our 2021 initiatives.
Thank you for the trust you have placed in our team.
THE SFG TEAM
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March 2020. This act provided broad economic stimulus in the form of aid and relief to individuals, small businesses, and unique tax rules and waivers for 2020. We assisted some of our small business clients in applying for PPP loans in the spring and summer. The waiver of Required Minimum Distributions provided increased opportunities for year-end tax planning strategies. We coordinated our year-end tax planning efforts with clients’ CPAs as we analyzed each client’s cash flow, investment portfolio, and tax situation to ascertain whether a distribution or a Roth conversion would be beneficial in lieu of the annual RMD. We also addressed charitable gifting strategies with clients as the CARES Act allowed charitable donations to offset up to 100% of Adjusted Gross Income. Following November’s election, our wealth management team spoke with some of our tax and estate planning resources to discuss pending changes in tax and estate law and how we can proactively assist our clients in these areas.
We closely monitored the markets’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were in frequent contact with investment managers, while also monitoring all of our approved investments. To address any concerns with the markets, we contacted each of our clients during the months of March and April to discuss current events, their portfolios, and investment scenarios. Additionally, we contacted many of our investment managers to gain insight into how COVID-19 affected the portfolio and how the manager planned to position the portfolio going forward.
Typically, we travel to meet with investment managers as part of our ongoing due diligence process. While we couldn’t travel for most of 2020, we feel connected to them now more than ever. After traveling to Chicago, IL and several cities in Georgia at the beginning of the year, we shifted to meeting with investment managers via Microsoft Teams. The ease of and access to technology translated to having more frequent conversations with managers, and because of the use of video, those conversations were more personal and impactful.
Some of our investment managers were able to quickly identify new opportunities that arose due to COVID-19 in sectors such as private credit, prior to the Fed stepping in, and real estate, after owners sold at a discount due to knee jerk reactions in response to the COVID-19 shutdowns. As we continued to monitor our approved investments, we also began to look into new investment types, such as blockchain technology, and how they fit within the future landscape of technology.
For more information, please see our report.
In 2020, we expanded the resources available to our clients for Physical Well-being. Nicole Schultz Ninteau, PhD, MPH, joined our team as our Physical Capital Resource Manager to help clients maximize their Physical Well-being. Nicole created our recent popular Healthy Holiday series and we provided our clients with complimentary copies of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
Our team culture also embodies a commitment to good physical health. In June, the SFG Team took a trip to Incline Village, where we hiked to Monkey Rock, Lake Tahoe. We also did a hike in October to see the fall colors. We appreciate that we live in an area where the beautiful outdoors allowed us to have these meaningful outings in a safe manner. We also implemented monthly virtual team workouts coordinated by Nicole that include strength training and boxing. One of our virtual workouts included a special visit from George Foreman III, during which he taught proper boxing technique and provided tips for our ongoing boxing workouts.
Alongside our website, we launched the new SFG Library, which includes a compilation of our team’s book recommendations across all Four Capitals. To support our clients’ Intellectual Engagement, we began providing clients with complimentary copies of any book in our library upon request.
In addition, our team continued working together to bring you blog posts on topics we think are valuable or interesting to you – or both! These blogs are designed to provide you with insights and solutions to help you lead a more fulfilled life. To read some of our blog posts, click here.
Our commitment to our clients requires our team to stay current with ever-changing policies and world dynamics. Our team members’ Intellectual Engagement was virtual in 2020 with attendance at virtual conferences including:
- National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) conference
- Schwab IMPACT
- Schwab Solutions
- Mauldin Strategic Investment Conference
- Investment Manager Due Diligence Association Virtual Classes
- Investment Adviser Association Compliance Conference
Beyond virtual conferences, our team attended various ongoing education seminars and webinars. William Saulsgiver also obtained his certification as a Salesforce Administrator so that he can manage and customize our client portals. Lastly, we continued our SFG Book Club tradition virtually, and look forward to adding more of our favorite books to the SFG Library.
Despite its challenges, 2020 brought many gifts and lessons, one of which was highlighting the importance of one’s psychological space. We are thankful for the role technology played in helping us stay connected to clients and loved ones both near and far. Maintaining communication with clients is always a priority for us, and it was even more important during this pandemic. Many of our conversations were not only about Financial Matters, but also focused on the client’s Psychological Space and how to cope with having fewer social outlets. We shared tips on maximizing happiness during a non-traditional holiday season in one of our Healthy Holidays series posts. And over the summer, we sent our clients vases from MOMA to enhance their Psychological Space, and we hope they continue to do so for years to come.
Culture, connection, and a sense of belonging have always been important to us as a team. It was crucial that the SFG culture was maintained even as we were all working from different physical locations. This inspired us to leverage technology and get creative with virtual team activities.
In addition to our virtual team workouts and Book Club meetings, we did a virtual wine tasting with Rombauer Vineyards. This was an exciting and educational event that included our significant others. A few months later, we held a decadent virtual chocolate tasting with local, award-winning Dorinda’s Chocolates. We also participated in a Secret Santa during a virtual team meeting for the holidays!
Service work is an integral part of our team culture and we were privileged to continue some of our service traditions. Although we had to skip our beloved, nine-year tradition of holiday caroling at the local VA hospital, we were able to continue purchasing a Whole Foods meal for the local Ronald McDonald House and adopting a family through the Northern Nevada Children’s Cabinet. This year, our entire team went shopping together online and purchased gifts for a family of three children and their foster parents.
There were a lot of big moments in 2020 for SFG Team Members. Here are a few highlights:
Alyssa created her own personal running event and ran her first half marathon with a friend!
Nicole, Bill, and their dog, Buck, bought a house in New Hampshire. Nicole and Bill got married in their newly decorated barn. While friends and family were unable to attend in person, over 200 loved ones joined in the celebration virtually. Buck was the Best Man and Ring Bearer. Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Ninteau!
William and Ronna bought a new house in Sun Valley, NV.
And then they added a new family member – Lincoln the Goldendoodle!
2020 did not stop us from continuing to implement the technology changes that we outlined for you in our 2019 Annual Report. These included moving to the cloud and completing our migrations to Office 365, a new CRM (Salesforce), a new portfolio reporting system (Tamarac), and a new document management system (Box.com). We also implemented DocuSign to make it easier for our clients to complete required paperwork. We focused on integrating these new technologies so we could maximize our productivity and efficiency.
Now we want to share this technology with our clients! In 2021, we are focused on creating client portals so we can provide our clients with timely, accurate information regarding their accounts, Four Capital goals, financial plans, and more, all in a single, secure portal location.
SFG has always taken cybersecurity very seriously and working from our home offices has been no different. Cybersecurity is more critical than ever in this new virtual office environment, so we made sure our home offices had the same level of security as we had in our office location. New hardware was installed to provide network and application firewalls for our office and home locations. These new devices also provide hardware malware protection and Intrusion Prevention Systems that actively prevent the installation of malware that may attempt to gather client data. In conjunction with the cloud services, these new devices provide full encryption of data-in-motion for SFG’s and our clients’ data. New monitoring services were also set up to provide full network review and flag any issues that may affect security.
We have several blog posts on our website to help you stay informed about cybersecurity best practices. For more information, please visit our website as well as these useful sites:
FDIC Consumer Assistance & Information
FBI Scams and Safety
Although the day-to-day looked a little different, in many ways it was business as usual for SFG during 2020. We anticipate that we will continue to work in this same virtual model throughout 2021 and who knows – perhaps that will become the new “normal” for workplaces in the future. We are excited to share some of our new technologies with you in 2021, so stay tuned as we prepare to launch our client portals and continue to provide you with insights and solutions so you can lead a fulfilled life!