Written by Amy Wick, CFP for Eddge and Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America
Featuring Janice Hammond, Founder and CEO of Sunrise Financial Services
Founder and CEO of Sunrise Financial Services, an independent financial services firm, Janice has her hands full, as she’s also a mom of two young daughters, ages three and five, and wife to her husband Mike. Not to mention, she’s been a top producer with Allianz Life for 10+ years and issued over $10M AZL FIA production in 2019. With her home state of Washington being under strict, stay at home orders since March 23, we checked in with Janice to see how she’s adapting to our ever changing world.
EDDGE: Janice, your governor has deemed financial services as an essential sector. What has changed and what has stayed constant for your business over the last several weeks?
The biggest change has obviously been not being able to see clients face to face. Personally, I love seeing my clients because I’ve formed friendships with them over the years. After 15 years, it’s hard for me to adapt to our new, virtual way of conducting business.
I’m 42 going on 97, and this whole technology thing is not my best skillset. Our team is amazing, though, and we have two Surface computers we rotate. They will get clients all set up and come swap the computers out after each meeting to be as efficient as possible. Some of my clients have even shown me a feature or two along the way.
I would say, on average, maybe once or twice a week, a client has requested a face to face meeting. Typically, those meetings are for reviewing a large financial plan or to collect key signatures to move the process forward.
As far as what has stayed the same, myself and our five staff members have continued to go into the office every day to make sure we’re able to deliver the level of service our current clients have come to expect.
Obviously, that was a decision each employee made for themselves, but we have a great team and it has been a busy time for all of us.
EDDGE: What are your clients most concerned about right now and what messages are you sharing to help?
Janice: I focus on retirement planning, so most of my clients are in or near retirement. This virus has been particularly devastating to this group because their number one concern today is their health. When you have a lot of stress on your mind, especially about your health, everything else becomes more exacerbated and urgent. We have been doing our best to make sure they can at least feel comfortable and confident about their finances. The majority of an individual’s stress lies in the unknown. We make sure our clients have an idea of what percentage of their assets are exposed to market risk, and most clients really appreciate that they were conservatively allocated overall, heading into this market event.
They are so happy they have a principally protected annuity included in their plan, and they’re starting to fully comprehend just how valuable it
is to their retirement. Now, with all of this personal and economic uncertainty comes an incredible amount of work. A lot of our clients have broken out of their risk tolerance ranges, and we have had to rebalance their accounts as well as update many of their plans. We are busier than ever these days.
EDDGE: Janice it sounds like things are continuing to move forward at the firm for existing clients. What about your growth and marketing efforts?
Janice: Well, we are so very fortunate we can continue to offer employment to our staff, but one of the hard decisions we had to make was cancelling all of our marketing efforts for the time being. Everything is so uncertain and we weren’t sure what would resonate and what wouldn’t. So, at this time we’re not accepting any new clients unless they come to us as a referral from an existing client.
We’re thankful we have the ability to focus on our existing clients, touch base with them, and make sure each and every one of their financial plans and portfolios are updated. This has freed up time for my marketing director to be able to focus on revamping our online footprint and digital efforts, so when we go back to some type of “normal,” we will be ready to roll out what she has built.
There have been a lot of projects like the one our marketing director is working on that pre COVID 19 were often pushed to the back burner. I’m excited that we’re able to tackle a few of those right now. One positive, new initiative that’s come out of this environment is an event we host on Friday mornings called, “Breakfast in Bed,” where we provide valuable market commentary, and invite our strategic partners to speak on their area of expertise. So far, we’ve had partners from real estate (both agents and lending partners), estate planning, and our CPA weigh in on what they’re seeing. I’ve been amazed by the turn out each week, and I’m thankful for our partners’ willingness to collaborate virtually to help everyone feel more at ease.
EDDGE: It sounds like there has been a lot of change at work for you. From an “at home” perspective, what has changed due to this crisis?
Janice: Well thankfully and amazingly this hasn’t affected our girls too much. I would say they might not even know much has changed. Fortunately, we’ve been able to keep things consistent for them, and we have help come a few days a week to keep them on a schedule. One thing that’s been a big change for our family is having my husband stay home from work. He’s a pilot and his work usually keeps him away from home
three days a week, so it’s been a huge adjustment for him to be home all week
The girls love having him home more, as do I, but a lot has changed in a short amount of time. Needless to say, as I’m sure a lot of your readers will understand, as a mom of two little girls and having a husband at home that isn’t working at the moment, there isn’t a lot of “me time” at all right now. So, I’m working more than ever, and juggling a lot at home as well. I will say
though I have loved having the time to go outside for a run, and I’ve transitioned an area of my office building, that formerly hosted client events, into a gym of sorts.
EDDGE: As a working mom, do you have any advice that helps keep you positive for the other working parents out there?
Janice: My advice for others in my same situation is take things one day at a time, focus on the positive and recognize that certain things are out of your control. Laugh, otherwise you’ll cry (which is okay, too). And for goodness sake, take care of yourself. Give yourself at least 30 minutes of personal time each day. Do something active, meditate, read, or even just watch a
trash TV show after the kids go to bed. Take time to clear your head of the day’s drama. Otherwise you are not going to be your best self, and that is the example you ultimately want to set for your kids.