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Congratulations to Sarah Prescott on her recent promotion to Assistant Investment Portfolio Manager. Sarah joined The First National Bank in 2016, following her graduation with a Business and Information Management degree, and moved to the Trust Department in 2017. Sarah quickly proved herself to be a valuable member of the team and became assistant to Janice Epaillard, the Head of Trust Administration. Through Janice’s mentorship, Sarah embarked on the Cannon Financial Institute’s Certified Trust & Financial Advisor (CTFA) program. She will complete the third and final module in February of 2021. Sarah will be an asset to the Investment team, adding her experience in Administration to the platform. Under the supervision and tutelage of Pete Baksh, Chief Investment Officer, and Susie Pelfrey, Trust Investment Officer, she will learn all aspects of investing and the financial markets, with the ultimate goal of becoming a Trust Investment Officer.
To round off what has already been an exciting year for Sarah, she will marry her high school sweetheart, Stephen, on October 11, 2020 and become Mrs. Sarah Kluesener.
We all wish Sarah continued success in her new position and send our best wishes to both Sarah and Stephen, for their upcoming wedding.
WELCOME TO OUR NEW TRUST EMPLOYEES
Dawn Stephens, Administrative Assistant to Janice Epaillard, joined the Trust Department in July of this year. Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, in an active duty US Army family, Dawn graduated from the University of Montevallo in 1992 with a Bachelors of Business Administration with concentrations in management and finance. Initially working in customer service management, with a hiatus to raise her four children, Dawn returned to the workforce as a preschool teacher at Dunnellon Christian Academy where she became Department Director. Dawn also taught 2nd Grade at Solid Rock Christian Academy. A promotion for Dawn’s husband brought them to Leesburg in early 2020, and with their youngest son in his second year in college, Dawn was ready to put her own college education and previous work experience to good use and rejoin the corporate workforce.
Dana DeMott may be a familiar face to some of our clients as a transplant from the retail side of the Bank. Dana also joined the Trust Department in July of this year, as Trust Receptionist. Originally from Pinehurst, North Carolina, Dana moved with her husband and their son to her husband’s home state of Florida in 2014. They built a home in Downtown Mount Dora, and Dana joined The First National Bank as a teller in 2018.
We are very lucky to have Dawn and Dana as members of our team as we know they will provide a professional and friendly welcome to you, our valued clients.
ECONOMY, STOCKS AND BONDS
Markets awoke on October 2nd to the news that the President and First Lady have tested positive for COVID 19, a headline that is justifiably unnerving. It increases the impact of several of the key risk factors we have highlighted as being important to current market conditions. These are:
The month is off to a mixed start. The S&P 500 is trading between 3300 and 3400 as we start the month, and the VIX volatility index is climbing, indicating more volatility ahead. With that said, we did not witness a major selloff in the markets on the news referenced above, which is a very positive signal from markets. While we are cautious about increasing volatility, it is important to contrast current conditions with those prevalent in the Spring to avoid becoming fearful. In the event that we see a pullback, it is likely to find support due to the fact that the variables associated with COVID are now well-known. The market was so weak in the spring not due to the news, but the fact that investors did not know how to assign values to stocks until more details emerged, and therefore were not in a position to buy them. This time we have a much better idea of what any negative consequences will look like, valuation models will continue to work, and value investors can step in to buy if prices decline.
On the economic front, reports continue to come in ahead of expectations in most areas, with the exception of a notable weakening in the employment situation. This is being addressed by another round of stimulus being debated in Congress right now, and the markets seem to be viewing the stimulus positively. Con- sumer confidence has come in ahead of expectations, and since consumer spending is the main driver of our economy, this is also signaling some strength.
Interest rates are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future, and we view government agency bonds as being more attractive than corporates right now, due to a comparable yield with no credit risk.
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