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Eric Clarke, Shirl Penney and Joe Duran at the Schwab IMPACT conference
(L-R) Eric Clarke, Shirl Penney and Joe Duran at the Schwab IMPACT conference.

How to Keep Goldman Sachs From Stealing Your Clients

Three entrepreneurs in the RIA space told advisors at Schwab’s IMPACT conference what they see as the one common denominator shared by successful RIA firms, large and small alike.

Three prominent entrepreneurs in wealth management spoke Monday at Charles Schwab’s annual IMPACT conference and agreed that the most successful registered investment advisors all share one thing in common: a relentless focus on service and the best client experience they can provide.

“In our industry in particular, we’re unbelievably pathetic” when it comes to the experience clients have of interacting with their advisor’s firm, said Joe Duran, the founder and CEO of United Capital Financial Partners.

“Most advisors treat their clients like walking wallets,” Duran said. Too many RIAs make themselves the center of the advisor-client relationship, he said, and are reluctant to bring the clients too far into the investment and planning processes with tools the advisor uses behind the scenes. That’s a mistake that will eventually cost the advisor the client. The client needs to be the “co-pilot of the plane,” Duran said, and if they want to, they should be able to fly it themselves. 

It’s a lesson born of experience; United Capital once helped a client in Florida sell his business and invest the money in another that was also eventually sold. The deals made the client worth tens of millions of dollars—but that wasn’t enough to make him stay.

Goldman Sachs advisors began courting the client, and when the investment bank’s private wealth management business flew him to New York City for a meeting, Duran said his local advisors conceded “there’s nothing we’re going to do to keep him.” If the client was willing to fly to New York to meet with a competing firm, they were already gone.

United Capital didn’t lose based on the services they provided; they lost based on how Goldman Sachs made that client feel. “Your clients need to feel important if you’re going to charge a premium price and, if they do, I promise you, you will win,” Duran said. “If they feel [every client] is getting the same kind of thing, you’re going to lose.”

But advisors don’t have to woo clients and prospects with private jet travel, though, if they choose to, there are ways to make that kind of experience more affordable, said Shirl Penney, president and CEO at Dynasty Financial Partners. Often, a good client experience is simply found on the clients’ mobile device—a place the wealth manager needs to be in some form or another, Penney said. Sometimes, providing a good experience is as simple as spending time with the client, showing a genuine interest in their lives.

After all, client referrals are the No. 1 way advisors grow their business, and more than anything else, having an exceptional experience with the advisor is what prompts those referrals, said Eric Clarke, CEO of Orion Advisor Service.


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