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United Capital’s FinLife Partners Reaches $3B in Less Than a Year

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In less than one year, United Capital Financial Advisers’ FinLife Partners has reached $3 billion in assets under contract signed – tripling its initial one-year target of $1 billion.

FinLife Partners is a white label of United Capital’s advice, training, planning and investment management platform that allows independent advisors to access the firm’s proprietary Financial Life Management system.

“It’d be nice to say it’s strictly a function of what we built, but the opposing forces in the industry and demographically and whatnot, I think, are a bigger driving force to the demand of what we’re doing,” Matt Brinker, head of national partner development at United Capital, told ThinkAdvisor.

First and foremost, Brinker says there is a “consumer revolution and the desire to have digitized financial services.”

The opposing forces that have firms drawn to a platform like FinLife Partners are differentiation and fee compression.

Regarding differentiation, Brinker said, “you draw a 30-mile radius around any major metropolitan market and most of the RIA websites and offerings are essentially going to look the same: holistic, fiduciary, 130 years of experience, CFPs, all having your best interest at heart. The wirehouses … are more or less telling the same story.”

FinLife Partners is the nation’s first fully integrated wealth management operating system, according to United Capital.

“In the same way Amazon Web Services became the operating system for many companies, FinLife Partners makes the United Capital wealth management operating system available to select third-party firms,” according to United Capital.

Brinker had previously talked to ThinkAdvisor about how “disruptive” digital innovation was driving acquisitions both within United Capital and the industry. United Capital’s FinLife platform allowed United Capital a way to connect with firms it wasn’t acquiring.

“We’ve been operating [one of the fastest growing RIAs] for the last 11 years, and we’ve invested in an incredible amount of money in technology and proprietary, front-end, behavioral finance-driven client experiences,” Brinker told ThinkAdvisor by phone on Monday. “We woke up and we recognized that we actually have a way of doing business with other firms that isn’t predicated on a transaction.”

Last April, United Capital launched FinLife Partners in beta and invited a few firms to be its first customers.

“[We] reached out to a handful of firms that we had transaction conversations with but for various reasons – theirs or ours – we decided not to proceed in doing a deal, but they were incredibly attracted to our platform,” Brinker said. “So we went back to them and asked if they wanted to be our first FinLife customers.”

The initial 10 firms have been established as a “Founders Group” that represent a national footprint from east to west, including Boston; Houston; and Sacramento, California. They range in size from below $200 million to upwards of $1 billion in assets under management.

Those 10 firms that have completed the FinLife Partners onboarding experience, which includes robust training, coaching sessions and systems conversion – all managed by United Capital – have introduced Financial Life Management to clients with immediate success.

The first two FinLife Partners firms have already added more than $1 million in expected top-line revenue growth in just four months – and that’s by simply changing the way they currently charge their existing clients, according to United Capital. Firms have also transitioned clients into United Capital investment strategies for increased efficiency in their operating model.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Brinker said. “We’ve been operating fairly under-the-radar in terms of developing a pipeline and whatnot. It’s resulted in more than three times what we anticipated doing in 2016. The pipeline is incredibly robust.”

The firm expects to sign an additional $10 billion to $15 billion in assets under contract in 2017, significantly more than the original $5 billion target.

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