Chairman's Message: Navigating These Difficult Times Together

Robert Balentine
March 20, 2020
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We are in unprecedented times, and the incredible speed at which things are changing around us is simply breathtaking. It’s been a tumultuous few days since our last communication. The situation escalated dramatically and quickly late last week and over the weekend, and this week is ending with widespread anxiety. Now more than ever, it is imperative to remain calm. At Balentine, we are already operating smoothly from home, continuing to work on behalf of our clients, anticipating that the authorities may ultimately mandate this for all non-essential businesses nationwide.

This week has shocked our nation. In many ways, the sense of bewilderment echoes what we all felt during seminal moments in our history, such as the Second World War, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., September 11th, and the day Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy heralding the Great Financial Crisis. But this is different; there is no visible, common enemy, and the uncertainty and fear has created real dislocation among families, businesses, and markets.

Today’s discomfort is visceral—not only are many feeling a personal concern about health for family and friends, but social distancing leaves many feeling simultaneously isolated and suffocated. Furthermore, there is now the realization that the authorities have chosen to get ahead of this pandemic by calling a halt to most economic activity, causing the economy to suffer a sudden and severe contraction and, what now seems highly likely, a recession. In the days since our last update, the Trump Administration has decided that these unprecedented measures are necessary because preserving life by not overwhelming our healthcare system is of paramount importance, even if the economic consequences are catastrophic for certain industries, leading to widespread unemployment. Just a few weeks ago, the financial markets were reaching new highs amid the strongest labor market in 50 years.

In the coming days, we plan to increase the cadence of our communication to you as events unfold. We have a page on our website dedicated to these updates. We are planning a webinar next week to address your questions, with details to follow. Below is an update from our Investment Strategy Team with our views on capital markets and investment policy. Our team does not believe that 2020 is 2008 all over again. During times of heightened volatility and fear, it is easy to fall prey to our behavioral tendency to panic and want to “sell out.”

But this is exactly the time to maintain investment discipline and remember to “be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy,” as Warren Buffett reminds us.

The events of this week have had broader implications, beyond investments. This violent capital market and economic dislocation has created generational financial planning opportunities. It has prompted everyone to reassess their circumstances and check in on their long-term goals and objectives. For business owners, the implications are profound. The administration is set to announce detailed fiscal policy measures to help support the industries and businesses most affected, and this will have significant implications for business plans in the short and medium term. We will tackle all of these topics in the coming days.

For now, click here to read our Investment Strategy Team's Market Update for March 20, 2020.

Throughout this crisis, I have marveled at how everyone at Balentine has come together as a team, working around the clock to be responsive to our clients and to one another. Together, we will get through this period of adversity. We remain grateful for the trust and confidence you place in us.

Best regards,

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