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Michael Kitces’ #FASuccess Podcast: Talking Financial Life Management With Joe Duran

The primary focus of Joe Duran’s United Capital is to help clients live richly, not die richly.


Joe Duran is the founder and CEO of United Capital, a national independent registered investment advisory that oversees nearly $25 billion of assets under management. It’s one of the largest independent wealth management firms in the country.

What’s unique about Joe is that he doesn’t view his own advisory firm as being in the wealth management business but instead in the financial life management or FinLife business instead, where, as Joe puts it, the primary focus is to help clients live richly, not die richly.

In this episode, we talk in-depth about United Capital’s financial life management offering, why the firm starts by talking to clients not about their goals but about their values and intentions instead, along with the unique tools that United Capital developed specifically to facilitate the values and priorities conversations with clients, especially couples.

How United Capital standardized the value-add of their financial planning process even while allowing their advisors to choose from multiple financial planning software platforms. And why Joe believes it’s not wise to force every client to go through a comprehensive financial plan up front even for firms that are otherwise very financial planning-centric.

We also talked about the evolution of United Capital itself, why the secret to scaling an advisory business is moving beyond what Joe calls a cult of personality business centered around the founder/owner to a cult of company business, where both clients and talented employees want to work for the company itself. How United Capital began to charge standalone financial planning fees to reflect their financial planning value, but ultimately shifted back to charging AUM fees instead.

And why asking two simple questions: “Will this help us serve more people?” and “How would we beat United Capital if we were making a competitor to ourselves?” has guided United Capital’s evolution from being an RIA aggregator to a single advisory firm with a unified client experience to increasingly becoming an advisor technology platform company instead.

And be certain to listen to the end as Joe shares the advice he wishes he could go back and tell his younger self. That in the end, you have to keep focusing on the process of serving clients and not the results. Because you can’t control the results, only your inputs. Even a steady focus on the right inputs has allowed United Capital to grow an advisory firm with more than $200 million of revenue in under 15 years. And so with that introduction, I hope you enjoy this episode of the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast with Joe Duran.

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