ORLANDO, Fla.- Trying to maximize your client’s wealth?

If so, you’re in the wrong business.

So says Joe Duran, the CEO and founding partner of United Capital, one of the industry’s leading acquirers of RIAs.

“If you continue to work the way you have been,” Duran told a standing-room-only group of advisors at TD Ameritrade Institutional’s annual conference, “you may not be in business in five years.”

Clients are more interested in a life well lived than money, Duran asserted in his presentation “The Bionic Advisor” that was both a bracing wake-up call and a masterful sales pitch.

“A client’s financial life is about the pursuit of their ideals, not money,” he declared. “Delivering alpha is not where your value resides. If you’re not talking about standards and values to clients, you’re letting them down.”

United is calling the concept “financial life management” and branding – and charging – accordingly. Duran claims the approach offers advisors a way to fend off disruptive digital technology and its inevitable squeezing of traditional advisors'  profits by commoditizing advice and lowering prices.


Digitization could hurt and disrupt advisors as much a Uber impacted taxi drivers, Expedia hurt travel agents and Netflix undermined video stores, he suggested. 

“Disruption is happening in our business and it’s really big,” Duran said. “At least half of the people in this room will not have a business in five years.”

Advisors relying on investment management can expect to compete in a 30 basis point world, Duran warned. Financial planning may bring in another 20 basis points.

“If you’re not involved in a client’s whole life, you won’t get over 50 to 60 basis points,” Duran asserted.

So what do advisors need to do?


Clients now expect “a completely different approach,” Duran said. They want “completely personalized” advice, the way their musical library is personalized on iTunes.

Clients also now expect advisors to be omnipresent, interactive and “culturally aligned” with them, according to Duran. “If you’re not one of the top five visited apps on their cell phone, you will be marginalized.”

Financial advisors need to charge for what clients value, digitize their clients experience and digitize their own operations, Duran said.

Advisors also need to recognize that “people are happiest when they are financially aligned with their personal goals,” Duran said. And advisors must acknowledge that people think of their financial life more in terms of spending and a series of trade-offs than anything else, he added.

“One hundred percent of your future livelihood depends on helping people better understand their life decisions,” Duran argued. “To do so requires empathy and judgment.”

For advisors who want to digitize the process, United has begun beta testing the firm’s financial life management platform, ”UC Guide Center,” with  metric features such as “financial years of freedom” and “ideal life index.” United plans to charge a percentage of the increased revenues of advisory firms who sign up, Duran said.

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