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Joe Duran in his home in Newport Beach CalifPhoto by Joseph Llanes
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United Capital Goes Paperless

United Capital Financial Advisors’ 50 offices will be completely paperless by the end of the year. From the client onboarding process all the way to being fully invested, clients won’t have to touch a piece of paper, CEO Joe Duran told at Schwab’s IMPACT conference in Denver this week. Four offices have already made the switch. 

The firm wanted to make the onboarding process more scalable for advisors, so they are able to service more clients. More paperwork means more man hours, Duran said. The paperwork involved in the client onboarding process can take three hours; United Capital has cut that down to 12 minutes. In addition, the paperwork involved in preparing for a client meeting goes from being a multi-hour process to taking 25 minutes.

Clients can either input their data into a client portal, which will link all their brokerage accounts, or the advisor can do it in Salesforce. Either way, there will be no double inputting of client data, as United Capital’s technology is all integrated.

United Capital uses DocuSign to provide electronic signature capabilities, and Laser App, which helps advisors fill out and process forms.

So far, the firm’s advisors have been neutral on the change, Duran said. But their directors of operations have been refining and testing the paperless model. It makes their jobs a lot easier.

But the client interactions throughout the planning process are what makes advisors’ jobs easier, and it allows them to create scale, Duran said. For example, United Capital advisors are able to hold live video conferences with clients. In addition, the firm will start beta testing a new investment selection process in February that uses gamification. The new tool will help clients prioritize their investment focus, including cost, performance, tax and protection. United Capital won Schwab's Pacesetter IMPACT Award this week for its innovation in making the planning process interactive through gamification.  

“They’re the real robo advisor,” Duran said, referring to United Capital advisors’ use of technology with clients.

The robo advisor trend—the rise of online advice platforms—was a hot topic at Schwab’s annual conference. But Duran believes two things make robos unable to replace the flesh-and-blood advisor: complexity and the cost of making a mistake. The more complex a person’s situation and the higher the cost of making a mistake, the more they need a person to provide both judgment and empathy. Machines can never provide those things.

Right now, Duran sees some mega RIAs, such as United Capital, getting closer to where the robos live. As a result, he believes the robo advisor platforms will go upstream to compete, and will do so by adding advisors of their own. (Personal Capital and some others already do.) At the same time, advisors will go downstream, using technology more to scale their businesses and serve smaller clients.

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