In April, United Capital Financial Advisers launched a white-labeled version of its digital financial planning tools that independent registered investment advisors can license directly from the firm. CEO Joe Duran believes that business—the firm’s FinLife Partners platform—could be bigger than its own advisory business in two years’ time.
“It’s taken me 11 years to build United Capital into $16 billion, and I think we could have more in two years on our platform,” Duran said in an interview with WealthManagement.com.
Despite having done little marketing for the platform, which gives advisors access to such planning tools as the "Money Mind" analyzer, the "Honest Conversations" exercise and a client guidebook, along with a website and client-facing content, United Capital has signed on one firm and is in the process of signing on a second with a combined $800 million in assets. Duran claims over 70 firms with a combined $20 billion in assets are in the pipeline.
By the end of the year, Duran expects there to be 10 advisory firms with about $2 billion in assets on the platform. Next year, the firm will be able to take on more firms, and he expects to take on another $10 billion in assets by the end of 2017.
Duran admitted that there was some pushback from United Capital’s existing advisors, who were concerned that their software is being offered to outside firms.
“Their initial reaction, as you can imagine, was, ‘Why would you give away my competitive advantage?’” Duran said. “And I said to them, ‘There’s no such thing as a competitive advantage over the long term. It’s not like we’re Coca-Cola with a protected formula. The truth is, if you’re in the service business, you have to do what you do better than everyone and as much as possible to as many people as possible. If we want to own the financial life management position as a company, we have to go beyond our four walls.’”
If the firm doesn’t offer it to outsiders, Duran is afraid someone else will replicate the technology; this way, at least they’re first to market.
Also, because the firm’s advisors are also shareholders in the company, they will benefit from FinLife Partners’ future growth.
“I said to [our advisors], ‘The day that you’re competing against someone across the street who has what you have is the day you should feel really good because it says that our company has become immensely successful,’” Duran said.
The first group of advisors to sign on with FinLife Partners will likely be heavily skewed towards those who custody with Fidelity. In May, the custodian announced a partnership with United Capital and Fidelity advisors will get preferred pricing for FinLife. United Capital has also guaranteed that if Fidelity advisors don’t see a 20 percent boost in their revenues after the first two years of using FinLife, they get their money back.