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United Capital names first female CIO

United Capital named a 20-year financial industry veteran as its next chief investment officer, the first woman to hold the seat, says the firm.

Kara Murphy was previously the CIO of SunAmerica Asset Management, where she oversaw investment in a variety of strategies including rules-based, asset allocation, ESG and index-based funds. Under her supervision, SunAmerica became one of the fastest-growing asset managers in the industry, increasing assets to $50 billion in 2018 from $28 billion in 2013, according to the firm. In her new role, Murphy will report directly to United Capital CEO Joe Duran.

United Capital also added a chief investment strategist, Robert Landry, who was the former CIO at USAA, and joined the firm last year. “Between Kara, Bob and our entire investment team, we feel we have some of the finest investment minds in the industry working together to help our clients,” Duran says.
In prior roles, Murphy served as a vice president at Chilton Investment Company and an associate vice president at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

A happy accident landed Murphy in the financial industry as an analyst at Morgan Stanley, she says. Formally trained as an international, political and economic risk analysts, Murphy began her career as a consultant in Chicago before a family illness brought her back home to New York.

“I dropped everything and moved home, sent out resumes and got hired by Morgan Stanley,” Murphy says. “I was incredibly lucky and found out I loved the industry. It’s the same set of skills, just in a different context.”

Then, the tech bubble hit. “I started out almost to the day at the peak of the Nasdaq,” Murphy says. “Within a couple weeks, my computer screen was full of red. I watched one tech-focused fund decline 95%.”

Those “trying times” helped Murphy understand the human side of investing, which ultimately led her to United Capital, she says.

“Investment is very intangible,” Murphy says. “It’s easy to get caught up in the spreadsheets. It’s just so much more meaningful when you see the end results: helping grow someone’s portfolio, meeting their important life goals, improving their lifestyle, sending their kids to college.”

As the first female CIO at United Capital, Murphy says diversity of thought is paramount to any successful business — especially in investment management.

“It’s incredibly important to have diversity. Period,” Murphy says. “I always tell my team to challenge me — and each other. You have to challenge and change your ideas if you’re going to become better.”

When not directing investment strategies, Murphy’s three young children, ages 4, 7 and 9, take up the majority of her time, she says. “Soccer practice, Girl Scouts, the whole deal,” Murphy says. “They like to keep me very busy.”

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