* Advisers providing extensive advice on debt crunch
* Mass emails, social media, among the tools used
* Merrill webcast gets many viewers-Bank of America
* One adviser says more question of disgust than fear
* Some see opportunities for clients if rates rise
By Lauren Young and Beth Pinsker
NEW YORK, July 28 (Reuters) - Most financial advisers are holding a lot of hands this week. Many of their clients, with the horrors of the financial crisis so fresh, are getting scared by the possibility of a United States’ debt default.
But while Americans may blame sleepless nights on their lawmakers, they can’t complain too much about the range of advice they are getting from the financial community. If anything they may be getting overloaded.
Using not only email, text messages, websites and phone calls, but all the social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, financial advisers have sought to preach the need for calm on a mass scale this week.
Indeed, if there is a deal in Washington to extend the debt ceiling before the U.S. government threatens to default it could go down as one of the most over-communicated financial non-events ever, even rivaling Y2K in 1999.
“It’s my practice’s position that we should be more disgusted by what is happening than fearful,” said Scott Tiras, a senior financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial (AMP.N) in Houston, who has has done his communicating with 650 clients mostly via mass email, spelling out his theories that this is a short-term event.
“We believe that this too will pass but not necessarily without volatility in the short run,” Tiras said. “We are not suggesting any major portfolio changes at this time,” he wrote in an email to clients this week.
Matthew Tuttle, who manages $100 million as the chief investment officer at Tuttle Wealth Management in Stamford, Connecticut, said he has relied on more conventional forms of technology to spread the word - a mix of phone calls, text messages, emails and webinars.
But it is when he talks to people in person that he truly senses the anxiety and displeasure in people’s voices, and why he tries to keep things calm: “People are angry that the government can’t get their act together and worried about the long-term impact on our country.”
Major financial institutions are turning to the Web and other electronic means to communicate information to their clients.
Merrill Lynch’s [MERUS.UL] homepage now features “The Deficit Hits Home”, an 18-minute video interview with Sallie Krawcheck, who is president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America (BAC.N) and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, talking about the impact of the deficit on the nation’s future.
The segment ends with a list of investment ideas for clients to discuss with their financial adviser, including a focus on high-quality large-cap stocks, diversification to overseas - including emerging markets - and a rebalancing away from U.S. Treasuries which could be hit by inflation and higher interest rates. According to a spokeswoman at Merrill’s parent Bank of America, it “is one of our most highly viewed webcasts to date.”
Fidelity [FIDIN.UL] updated its website home page on July 26 to include a “Guide to the debt ceiling” and the Boston-based company’s main Twitter feed was promoting a new Q&A on the debt ceiling that the company posted on its site.
Fund giant Vanguard is now featuring a note from Chairman Bill McNabb declaring “Default is not an option” on its main web page. Charles Schwab (SCHW.N) is leading with a “market commentary” with the company’s perspective on the debt ceiling.
Twitter is also abuzz with news about the debt ceiling and what it means for consumers.
There are tweets like “What would happen if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling? Sign up for our newsletter - full report coming Tuesday www.GGFS.com”. That is from Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services, based in Suffern, New York, and helps him communicate with existing clients and pitch to potential ones.
The company also is utilizing LinkedIn, Facebook, newsletters and a blog to get the word out on any breaking developments and spread its advice: “With regards to a potential default or credit rating downgrade, we separate the two and explain that it is important to view the two as two different events,” he said. “We do not believe that the U.S. will default on its debt or obligations, technically or otherwise.”
Despite all of the gloom and doom, there are positive ways to spin the debt debacle. Barry Glassman, president and certified financial planner at Glassman Wealth Services in McLean, Virginia, says his message to clients is that the world isn’t facing financial Armageddon.
If anything, the fallout is higher interest rates, which is good for his high-net-worth clients who have fixed mortgages and a huge need for investment income.
“I don’t know anyone with a 5-year Treasury bond who doesn’t believe they won’t get their interest and principal back. If yields do jump, my clients would love 10-year Treasuries with a 5 percent coupon.”
And certificates of deposit will offer even higher yields, added Glassman, who manages about $470 million for 100 families with average accounts of $4 million.
Glassman blasted an email about the debt ceiling last Thursday, and he plans another one for the weekend, if no resolution is in sight.
Additional reporting by Lou Carlozo. Editing by Martin Howell