Tony Battaglia believes in the power of a plan.
The wealth manager, who runs the recently opened Raymond James Financial office branch in Warner Center, told the Business Journal the single most important thing investors need to get through a financial crisis like the one caused by the coronavirus pandemic is a robust, long-term strategy to fall back on.“It’s really important to have a plan in place before (crisis) hits so you can prepare,” he said. “I’m looking to position conservatively. We look to diversify; we look to put together a balanced plan.”In his role as branch manager, Battaglia oversees a team of seven wealth advisors employed by Raymond James while working to grow his personal practice, Battaglia Wealth Management of Raymond James.“I do have clients, but that’s not my primary focus,” he said.
When the pandemic hit and the bottom dropped out of the market in March, Battaglia said there were “a lot of emotions.”“I’m prepared for many different scenarios, but I don’t know if anyone could prepare fully for what we faced,” he recalled.Ups and downsAs an advisor, Battaglia said he doesn’t bother trying to take advantage of a market dip – or in the case of the coronavirus, a dive – during a crisis.
“It’s very hard to time if tomorrow’s going to be better than yesterday. It’s not about the timing; it’s the time in. The long-term resiliency of the market – look at the history. It’s tried and true,” he explained.However, he encourages reallocating capital when necessary to maintain a desired balance of assets according to an investor’s long-term plan.“If you have a diversified portfolio – let’s say to be extremely general, you invested 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds – it can very well be the case that five years later, the stock market has outperformed in a way that you’re now 80 percent in stocks and 20 percent in bonds. Your allocation so to speak can be changed greatly just because you’ve profited from one,” he said.Battaglia said even though the pandemic isn’t over, it’s not too early to make adjustments to account for the financial landscape it has created.
“Hopefully, we’re closer to the end than the beginning. There’s not a feeling of ‘it’s over,’ but more a feeling of, ‘what did we learn? Where are we? How are we going to prepare if it starts again?’”He said investors would do well not to simply review their asset allocation, but even the titling of their accounts and the organization of their balance sheets. A return to the basics following a period of commotion will help identify and correct weaknesses in a portfolio.
“Those foundational pieces – the stronger that is, the better to withstand any volatility,” he said.
Culture interruptedRaymond James’ Woodland Hills office had been open for just eight months when the pandemic forced a massive culture change within the finance industry as people worked from home and canceled meetings.Battaglia described one of his primary objectives as manager of the new branch “to bring visibility of Raymond James, of the Woodland Hills office, to the San Fernando Valley.”While Battaglia himself has worked at wire houses in the Valley for decades, the Raymond James brand didn’t have a presence north of the 101 freeway until July 2019. Building trust with the community and its investors is a job that changed dramatically when the virus arrived and in-person meetings abruptly stopped.
Battaglia said video conferencing software like the now-ubiquitous one by Zoom Inc. has advantages, and may someday replace casual phone calls to a client, but it can’t match the connection and communication you get from a face-to-face meeting, especially during a turbulent market. That’s one tradition he doesn’t see the finance industry doing away with.In what has been one of the toughest years in recent memory, Battaglia said he has been motivated by people’s resilience in the face of great uncertainty. “I care about the people I work with, the clients I work with, the advisors and associates I work with. It’s been nice to just see how strong people are. I think crisis has a way of bringing people together. What we went through does make you stronger.” – Andrew Foerch