SYM Financial Advisors: Building Uncommon Relationships in Uncertain Times

May 2020

In these unprecedented times, having a trusted and knowledgeable financial adviser to walk you through your personal and business goals can be critical to your financial well-being amid the current global pandemic crisis. Your wealth planning, portfolio management and 401(k) is the business of SYM Financial Advisors.

For more than half a century, SYM Financial Advisors has been guiding their clients through both bear and bull markets, weathering financial storms, and strategically planning in times of prosperity.

A Brief History of SYM Financial Advisors

In 1968, SYM Financial Advisors started out in the insurance business. As Rick Harrison, principal and senior financial advisor at SYM Financial Advisors, explained, the company reformatted its business model over the years from a product-oriented to an advice-oriented model.

SYM Financial Advisors
Rick Harrison

“We are a fiduciary with all of our clients,” Harrison explained. “SYM felt that in order to be a [fiduciary] and be sitting on the same side of the table as our clients, we needed to have complete transparency and reduce as many potential conflicts as possible. No one pays SYM but our clients, and we have no arrangements with outside mutual funds or insurance products.

Today, SYM Financial serves clients in the Indianapolis, Winona Lake, Fort Wayne, Mishawaka, Indiana and Midland, Michigan areas.

“Statistically, we’re 60 employees spread across the offices that we manage,” Harrison shared. “We manage $2.7 billion in client assets per our ADV dated 3/30/20.”

Are You the Ideal Client for SYM?

When asked who the ideal client for SYM Financial Advisors is, Harrison replied, “Other firms will often talk about certain asset size or clients with a certain number of investible dollars. What SYM is looking for [in our clients] are people who are looking for ‘thought’ partners –clients who are looking to partner with us in terms of meeting their financial objectives. We are not just investing a portfolio. We get to know our clients uncommonly well, and so we look for clients who are seeking advice, willing to follow advice and also have more than just their dollars invested in the relationship. We also want their time. We meet with our clients frequently and want their input as we help them meet their financial goals.”

Additionally, SYM Financial Advisors also looks for a level of openness in their clients.

“There is a certain openness that we require from our clients because we want to get into the heart of what their money is for,” Kim Harvey, director of marketing and business development, emphasized. “If they are able to let us in to all the different aspects of their lives that their finances touch, we can really do some great work on their behalf.”

SYM Financial Advisors Advising as a Team of Collective Professionals

Harrison has ensured that the entire SYM Financial Advisors’ team is collectively working to provide the best guidance and service for all of their clients with whatever issues and concerns they have throughout the current crisis.

SYM Financial Advisors
Amanda Legler

“My standard line is, ‘We’re not in the money business—we’re in the people business,’” Harrison stated. “That becomes especially true in times like this. This is the third ‘crisis’ that I’ve worked through with clients, and while the circumstances are different, what we are trying to accomplish and what our objectives are have been the same throughout times like these.”

Harrison continued, “We know that times like this are going to happen, though we never know why. Whether it is a pandemic, financial crisis, terrorist attack or whatever, we know that these things occur, and the key is to plan ahead of time, and we have done that. It is our job to remind our clients that we have planned for this and are prepared for it.”

Working as a collective team of professionals, SYM Financial Advisors brings in decades of experience to best advise its clients on financial matters ranging from personal portfolio objectives to company-sponsored retirement plans and everything in between.

SYM Financial Advisors
Mariah Sanford

“To me, being fee-only—meaning the clients are the only ones that pay us—and being a fiduciary are two really important aspects of SYM. Another important point that I will mention is that we work in a team environment and we have a really deep bench, so our clients are getting SYM’s best advice regardless if that comes from me or from another adviser in the company.”

How Does One Safely Navigate Their Finances Through This Particular Storm?

“It’s not like we are soothsayers with a crystal ball and knew that this [pandemic] was specifically coming,” Harrison said. “But, we knew that something was coming, and it won’t be the last [crisis]. There will be others following this one, so the idea is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Now, in the heat of the battle, our job is to remind clients that we’ve planned for this and that they are going to be OK because the knee-jerk reaction of investors is to be doing ‘something,’ like selling stock or moving portfolios around. The fact of the matter is, we have already done that. We’ve planned for it, and it’s been taken care of.”

Harrison and his advisers walk their clients through their immediate cash-flow needs and advise them based off both short-term and long-term objectives.

“One of the things that we talk with our clients early on about is anytime you have a dollar to invest, the most important question you can ask yourself is, ‘When do I need that dollar back for spending purposes?’” Harrison said. “If you need that dollar back within the next year, it should probably be sitting in your bank account. It’s not going to earn very much, but it’s not going to lose anything. If you need that dollar back within the next five to six years, it probably ought to be in bonds so it can earn a little bit more [interest]. It will be susceptible to a little more risk but not a whole lot. Anything seven years and longer ought to be invested in stocks. Not saying you can’t sell out of it if you want to, but you want to be in a position where you don’t have to sell stock during times like these.”

How Has SYM Adapted to the New Normal Without Sacrificing Its High-Touch Service?

“The one nice thing about this business is that if I can get internet access, I am—essentially—sitting at my desk,” Harrison said. “What is missing throughout this process is the face-to-face interaction. Most of our client meetings are face-to-face, and we have had to resort to more phone and web meetings as a result of all this. Personally, I miss that part, and it’s a totally different experience when you can [physically] sit down and see somebody’s body language and converse about their grandkids and things like that as opposed to just trying to get through an agenda. We’re trying to conduct business as much as normal, and though our method [of meeting] has changed a little bit, the level of service and care has not changed.”

Harvey added, “We recognize that this is the time when we are most needed. Our skills and abilities are going to be critical to how our clients come out on the other side of this, and everybody [at SYM] is cognizant of their roles right now. We are doing a lot more than just reassuring our clients to stay in the market. Our investment team is making trades, as there are always opportunities to take advantage of when you are in a market like this, and we have incredibly intelligent people who are doing that every day. We are busier now than we were at the beginning of the crisis because these ‘lemons’ have provided a chance to make lemonade.”

The Human Factor in the Investment Equation

Harrison added that SYM Financial Advisors adds value by having experienced team members who have worked through these types of events before and understand that this is the time to be more proactive, which adds value to the relationships with their clients.

Harrison stated, “We’re a high-touch firm, and we are proactive in reaching out to our clients. Our president said it best, ‘Sometimes you need a punching bag or a shoulder to cry on, and we’re here to do either or both of those for you.’ I think people appreciate that, and when you know your clients ‘uncommonly well,’ you know which of your clients are taking this [crisis] in stride and which ones are really fearful right now, and you put those [client] cards at the top of your list and stay in touch with them frequently.”

What Lessons Were Learned From 2008 That May Help Investors Through This Crisis?

While 2008 was a result of a fractured financial system and today’s bear market is a direct result of a global pandemic, Harrison said there have been lessons learned from 2008 that have been applied to help cushion the financial impacts of the current market.

“This time around—in terms of the financial system—the banks are much more capitalized today than they were in 2008,” Harrison explained. “They have been stress-tested, and everything that I’ve been reading and hearing so far is that the banks are in really good shape. That is important, as the most important thing in the whole financial banking industry is confidence. Confidence is something that is hard to earn. It’s an emotional thing, and there is no formula for it.”

Harrison concluded, “I don’t know how this is going to play out, as we’re in the middle of it. We will have to wait and see, but what is interesting is if you go back and look at all the crises, including the [Great] Depression, the oil embargoes and all those high-inflationary environments of the past, we’ve come out on the other side and we’ve learned some things. And I think we are stronger as a country because of it.”

For more information on SYM Financial Advisors or to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, visit sym.com.

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Disclosure: The opinions expressed herein are those of SYM Financial Corporation (“SYM”) and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to sell any product. SYM reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. This is not a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security. SYM is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about SYM including our investment strategies, fees and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.