Ordinarily, you might think that having your office-in fact, the entire bank in which your office is located-submerged under 18 feet of water in an epic flood that wipes out all your records would rate as a disaster for a financial advisor. Especially for one who had only set up shop in his current job a year or so earlier. But Keith Laterrade, a New Orleans native who found not just his office but the businesses and homes of nearly all his clients washed away by the flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, says the experience, while daunting, had an upside for him.

The flood and its aftermath "helped me to cement my relationship with my clients," says Laterrade. He explains that when his bank building was taken out, he stayed in touch with his clients via cell phone. The clients, meanwhile, like most residents of the destroyed city, had to evacuate the Big Easy for months and were scattered far and wide across many states, living in refugee centers or with relatives. "They needed access to their bank accounts, access to their investments, and help with applying for small business loans," says Laterrade. At one point, in the wake of Katrina, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust, the community banking where Laterrade works, was one of the country's biggest processors of Small Business Administration-backed loans, he reports.

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