2020 was a highly unusual year that required all of us to regroup and pivot in response to largely unforeseeable challenges. We faced a global pandemic, volatile financial markets, political and social unrest, and the need to learn how to conduct business and life remotely. For many people and businesses, 2020 was a tragic year. More than 360,000 Americans have died so far from COVID, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with front line responders, and anyone impacted.
One of the things that confounded many investors in 2020 was the extent to which the behavior of the financial markets often did not reflect immediate health, political, social, and economic realities. The difference was not a sign of callousness or willful disinterest, but rather an indication of the markets’ forward-looking perspective, which we discuss in more detail in the 2021 Sage Outlook linked below. As a result, 2020 ended up as a good year for the majority of investors’ portfolios and the Sage organization.
Despite the ongoing public health crisis and unsettled political climate:
- Client portfolios performed well due to the markets’ recovery from March and our disciplined approach, commitment to strategic diversification, and intra-year tactical moves,
- More clients continued to benefit from our expanding wealth management services,
- We introduced new technologies that created efficiencies for our clients and the organization, and
- We welcomed strong new members to the team.
The unique nature of 2020 heightened the gratitude we feel for the trust our clients place in us. We consider it a privilege to have helped steer all of you through the year’s stressful moments.
The year also magnified even more the appreciation we have for the Sage team. These 30 professionals work tirelessly and passionately to do the right thing for all of our clients, no matter what else was going on around them.
From our perspective, 2020 was a success because of the resilience and grit shown by our clients and team, the strength of our relationships, and Sage’s culture, which is defined by our team’s commitment to helping others. We like numbers because they can tell a concise story. It is rewarding to see our client retention continue to exceed 98%.
2021 Market Outlook
While we are not in the business of predicting how the markets will perform over short periods of time, we are cautiously optimistic about 2021.
- We expect it to be a year marked by global synchronized growth, particularly in the back half, characterized by six central themes:
- Continued accommodative monetary and fiscal policy
- Vaccine rollout
- Consumer spending driven by pent-up demand
- Acceleration of secular trends such as e-commerce
- Low to moderate risk of inflation
- Impact of a new administration
- While risks remain, our base-case scenario is that the U.S. economy will rebound in 2021 to post a gain of 4.5 – 5.5% year-over-year, assuming an orderly recovery from the pandemic and no surprising economic developments.
CLICK HERE to access the full 2021 Sage Outlook, including our annual “Base Case View of 2021 Asset Class and Portfolio Performance.”
For those who prefer a shorter piece, CLICK HERE for a condensed series of bullets.
The Sage Organization in 2020
Managing investments is our core competency, but our mission is broader. We want to help you make smart, personally beneficial decisions in all areas of your financial life so that you can achieve your goals and have peace of mind knowing that your finances are well ordered and professionally stewarded.
In 2020 we continued to spend more time with many of our clients on financial planning and the areas covered by our family office services. We also had the privilege of being introduced to even more family members and friends of our clients. We value introductions to the people close to you tremendously as they reflect your confidence and trust.
This summer, we started to get to know close to 100 of our clients’ young adult children through the Sage Summer Symposium: An Introduction to Investing and Personal Financial Management.
- This 6-week program originated from our desire to create a meaningful experience for a group whose summer plans had been upended by the pandemic. The interest it sparked has us considering other ways to connect with family members.
To provide even more comprehensive advice and services, while continuing to maintain the high quality of your experience, Sage welcomed three new team members in 2020: Daniel Hochbaum, Investment Analyst, Ben Alimansky, Investment Strategist and Daphne Kotridis, Associate Wealth Manager. We expect to add a few more people to the Sage team in 2021, as we continue to manage growth.
Everything we do is a collective effort, and we work hard to recruit, develop, and retain exceptional people. The care we put into our people has created a strong and stable team with a 97% retention rate.
Opportunities for Innovation
Challenging circumstances can create opportunities for innovation. At least three changes we made during 2020 will, we believe, permanently improve the Sage experience.
- Forced to rethink how to meet with clients as well as how to continue to collaborate closely as a team while working remotely, we quickly adopted the Microsoft Teams and Zoom online communications platforms. Virtual meetings are now routine and will continue to provide alternatives even when the office reopens.
- We introduced scheduling technology that allows clients to set up their meetings with Sage directly without going back and forth by phone or email, thus adding ease and efficiency.
- Sage’s office lease came up for renewal in January. After much deliberation, we decided to stay in our current space. The need to work from home coincided with our refreshing the office and making a few changes without the degree of disruption typically associated with a construction project. We are hopeful that our clients and team will enjoy the renovated space when we are able to meet in person.
Finally, as you know, it is important for us to find ways to help others, particularly in a year such as 2020, when so many people around us continued to struggle. While we support many charities, one of our most meaningful relationships is with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. We were deeply gratified that so many people joined us once again in support of Alex’s The Million Mile, the annual virtual run/walk/bike.
- Our team logged more than 6,500 miles and donated more than $52,000 this year. Our team’s total contributions to this event since its inception in 2013 total more than $286,000 and have funded more than 5,600 hours of research into cures for childhood cancers.
It would be easy to rush to put 2020 behind us. Time Magazine declared it the “worst year ever” in living memory for most Americans, and yes, the year contained too much tragedy, unrest, and insecurity. There were a few silver linings and astonishing achievements, many of which give us reason to feel humbled, grateful, hopeful, and optimistic about 2021 and beyond.
- The herculean efforts of the scientific and medical communities to find ways to treat and prevent the spread of COVID
- The strength of our technologies, infrastructures, and people to rapidly adapt to working remotely
- The many innovations that occurred in response to challenges
- The “found” time we had with our immediate family and the need to reflect on what “work-life” balance really means
- A heightened connection to and appreciation of our communities
- For us specifically, the opportunity to guide our clients and their families through a difficult time while seeking to help them achieve their financial goals
Despite the misery and grief of 2020, we continued to look for ways to transform lives, treat disease, and defend the things that are important. Despite extraordinarily difficult times, we made progress in key areas, and that gives us reason for hope.