It was mostly business as usual at bank brokerages yesterday, despite a 112-point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average.
Though some brokerage chiefs reported increased buying and selling activity, others predicted it would take at least a day for customers to respond. Some said that they expected to receive calls from concerned investors, but that they did not anticipate many clients would alter their long-term portfolios.
"We're not running a sprint here. We're running a marathon and there are going to be curves in the road as you go," said Gary Collier, regional executive for the investment unit of First American National Bank, Nashville. The bank's parent, First American Corp., has $20 billion of assets.
The market dipped as low as 8316.87 on Tuesday before staging an 11th- hour rally to close at 8462.85. Since reaching a high of 9245.54 on July 14, the market has declined 8.5%, with most of the drop coming in the past week.
Banks, as relative newcomers to the brokerage business, are still grappling with how to manage investors' expectations in a lofty market. Though much of banks' brokerage business involves mutual fund and annuity sales, which are less sensitive to short-term blips, a long-term market decline would still hurt clients' pocketbooks.
Some brokerage officials said the effects of yesterday's downturn were not immediately apparent, in part because it takes time for investors to hear about a market decline, and take action.
"It seems like historically it really starts to heat up in the afternoon or the day following" a market decline, said Douglas P. Pfeifer, a registered representative at Linsco/Private Ledger. The broker-dealer services customers at National Bank of Commerce, one of the banks owned by First Commerce Bancshares, a $2.2 billion-asset banking company in Lincoln, Neb.
Some brokerage chiefs said they noticed increased activity, particularly by short-term investors. At NBC Capital Markets Group, for example, stock buys were on the rise, and fixed income sales by institutional clients were two to three times their normal volume, said Rudy Scheidt, the unit's president. NBC Capital is a subsidiary of National Bank of Commerce, Memphis. The bank's parent, National Commerce Bancorp, has $6 billion of assets.
Meanwhile, long-term investors are expected to hold their ground. "They came into this with a buy-and-hold perspective and most are still doing that today and should continue to do so," said Timothy M. Mahoney, national sales manager for Key Investments Inc., a subsidiary of KeyCorp, Cleveland, which has $73 billion of assets.
Concern among investors has increased, however, particularly since Aug. 4, when the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 299.43 points.
Neil M. Fried, who manages brokerage operations at Ramapo National Bank, Wayne, N.J., said that since Tuesday of last week, he's received three to four calls a day from concerned clients. One client, who pours money into her account at regular intervals, questioned whether she should disregard her retirement plan formulated four years ago. Though she decided not to, Mr. Fried said, "Before this week, I don't think we would have had that conversation."
Meanwhile, Ed Hipp, president of Centura Securities Inc., a subsidiary of Centura Banks Inc., Rocky Mount, N.C., predicted that real concerns would not be voiced for a few months. "There's a big difference between reading in the paper that the market's down 200 points, and looking at your mutual fund statement that was worth $50,000 two months ago and is now worth $40,000," he said.