BOSTON - No matter how well he was doing for them, how well educated he was or how clearly he spoke, it didn’t matter if he wasn’t speaking his clients’ language, Joe Duran, chief executive officer of United Capital told the audience at a Fidelity Investments forum Wednesday.

Eventually, he said, he realized that developing strong client relationships and serving them well is all about helping people make better decisions. “The only proven way to improve a human’s life is to improve their decisionmaking,” Duran said more than once.

It’s with this ideal that he started United Capital. “It started with the very simple view that I must include clients in decision making. They rent me, but they need to own their decisions,” Duran said.

This premise is also what continues to drive the practice tools his firm is developing. United Capital recently announced the opening of a 20,000 square foot training center in Dallas, Texas, a “hub,” as Duran called it, where these methods will be developed and advisors will receive training.

One key method is Honest Conversations, which is currently pending a copyright and centers on five questions in empowering clients to own their financial future. Those questions are:

  • How do I think about money?
  • What matters to me?
  • Where am I today?
  • How do I get where I want to go?
  • How am I doing?

Each decision comes with a tool for advisors to help guide clients through the process.
For example, to answer the question, how do I think about money?  Advisors can use United Capital's Money Mind Analyzer, a series of questions, to understand whether clients are driven by fear, happiness or commitment, Duran explained.

“With this tool we know ahead of time what the conversations or arguments are that the clients are having at home,” he said.

Unlike the other tools United Capital advisors use, Money Mind Analyzer is available for free to all advisors.

According to Duran, United Capital was launched in part as a response to evolving consumer demand, but it’s also services like those the firm offers that play a role in changing consumer expectations.

Duran said the industry is amid a “revolutionary shift” in purchasing decisions because consumers have never before received so much of what they want so quickly.

“The biggest challenge for smaller advisors is that consumer expectations are being elevated and they will be forced to do things that they don’t have the money or resources to invest in,” he said.

The services and technology United Capital advisors have access to for instance, are things that a one-man shop would have a very difficult time replicating because of the costs involved.

“They used to compete against Merrill Lynch who doesn’t deliver anything…What we’re doing is completely changing the stakes,” he said.

As such, Duran said he sees trouble ahead for small registered investment advisories.

“What we do know is that there are a lot of advisors who think their entire value is wrapped around they’re delivering advice to clients and telling them how it’s going to work out," he said. “But the reality is that we don’t believe that’s the future.”

Looking toward that future and how RIAs can survive in the shifting landscape, Duran implored advisors in the audience to consider exactly what they’re clients pay them for and to build everything around that value chain. “Is our value in delivering investment returns or is it in helping clients improve decision making?” Duran asked the audience.