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Joe Duran: Why Advisors’ Role Will Become ‘Fundamentally Different’

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Joe Duran, head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management, says the role of an advisor is poised to become much more about “reducing financial anxiety for their clients, simplifying their lives and making them feel they have their arms wrapped around all the financial challenges that people have.”

In other words, “the role of the advisor is going to be fundamentally different” from what it is today, he explained in a recent interview with ThinkAdvisor.

Duran, one of the VIP judges for ThinkAdvisor’s new industry recognition program, the LUMINARIES, is laser-focused on the need for advisors to engage in honest conversations with their clients. He founded United Capital Financial Partners in 2005 and sold it to Goldman Sachs for $750 million in 2019. 

As part of their changing role, financial advisors will have to offer different services “and do a lot more than they used to,” the executive explained. They’ll need to offer tax preparation, insurance, banking, mortgages and estate planning. 

“The breadth of services to be expected is going to be greater, and that requires a rethink of your value stack as an advisor,” Duran added. Clients also want their advisors to be “mobile ready,” he says, meaning that they can work digitally with their advisors more than they are today.

“The competitive landscape is so different,” he said. “Big firms like Goldman Sachs bring so much together [and] share such a broad set of services.”

“Many advisors will struggle to keep up” as big organizations zoom in on this industry shift “and bring together all that clients need,” Duran explained. Advisors will have to give clients “a much broader set of services and do this efficiently.” 

Latest Personal, Professional Changes

As head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management, Duran and his colleagues serve corporate employees looking for financial wellness information as well as CEOs of large companies in need of financial planning and wealth management services, he says.

It has about $120 billion in assets, over $1 billion in yearly revenue and several thousand employees. “It’s quite a large group,” he said.

Before United Capital became part of Goldman, it worked with $25 billion in assets and had roughly 800 staff members. Duran worked with a board and management team at United Capital, but he also made many decisions affecting the business on his own. 

“Now, the decisions come through a group of people, it’s collaborative decision-making, and that’s been very important for me to learn [from] and grow, frankly,” he explained.

“At a personal level, it’s a very different risk metric,” Duran said. “Now that a team’s responsible [for key decisions and results], I sleep better at night than I did a few years ago.” 

In addition to this change, the business he leads has “resources I never could have imagined when we were an independent firm” which make opportunities bigger, too. 

“When we started United Capital, people thought we were crazy [because] we said we were going to talk about life and not about money,” the executive explained. We created something called “financial life management” … as a way to help you adapt as life unfolds. “The whole industry has really come our way in that direction.”

Duran discusses these issues, as well as several other “hot topics,” in this podcast interview.