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Updated: March 31, 2020

Waterville wealth firm invokes Buffett playbook in crisis response

Brian Bernathez in his office (seated, in front of book shelves) Courtesy / Golden Pond Wealth Management Brian Bernatchez, founder and president of Golden Pond Wealth Management, is working alone in the firm's Waterville office while managing a remote workforce.

Don't panic about today's financial market turmoil. Think like the Oracle of Omaha and take a long-term approach to investing. 

That’s what Waterville-based financial adviser Brian Bernatchez is telling his wealth management clients amid the crisis-induced volatility.

“If you just hold onto the good stuff and be like Warren Buffett, in the long run that's what works," he said, working alone in his boutique firm's office while managing the rest of the eight-person team remotely. The office has been closed since March 19.

The firm, founded in 1996, manages $350 million in assets. Three of the eight employees are financial advisers.

"I could be functioning at home, but I decided to stick with the ship," Bernatchez, founder and president of Golden Pond Wealth Management, told Mainebiz by phone.

Amid the ongoing crisis, Bernatchez finds that regular communication with clients is more important than ever, particularly given that about two-thirds of them are retired or close to it, with an average age of about 70.

The firm, licensed in about 30 states, serves 400 to 500 families and institutions, including a number of nonprofits and endowments.

Like industry peers in Maine and elsewhere, Golden Pond has had to adapt quickly to communicating with clients remotely, which Bernatchez said the firm is doing primarily by email.

"The client thing has been challenging," he said, "but most of our clients are at least connected by email. We send out a communication to them every couple of days, not only talking about the markets and how we're reacting, but also other things like reminding them not to drop off paper checks."

Golden Pond Wealth Management sign
Courtesy / Golden Pond Wealth Management
Golden Pond is open for business, though the office is temporarily not.

On the investment side, it helps that 90% of the assets are managed in a fiduciary capacity, he said, meaning "we don't have to get permission to do things, we've got models that we follow."

With some clients needing extra reassurance, "you almost become a psychologist during times like this," he added.

His main advice is to stay the course but also be proactive on the buying front: "We're seeing investments that if you're patient from 10 to 15 years from now you can look back on as a once-in-a-generation opportunity."

He likens today's stock-buying opportunities to bargain shopping at Marden's Surplus & Salvage.

"The difference is this time everything is on sale ... It’s like walking into Marden's and everything's selling for 50% [off]."

Lately he’s also finding Golden Pond itself on the receiving end of unwanted bargain hunters.

"In the last two weeks the predators have started coming out," he said. "I've been contacted by a couple of Wall Street firms wanting to know if I'm interested in selling the business. Unfortunately, there will be some companies that will probably say yes, but our business is set up so that we can withstand this."

Our business is set up so that we can withstand this.

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