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Joe Duran, head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management

Industry Spotlight > Advisors

Joe Duran: How Advisors Can Rise Above the ‘Sea of Sameness’

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What You Need to Know

  • Advisors need to get better at marketing themselves, says Joe Duran, head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management.
  • He advises to ask yourself, “Why would I hire me?”
  • Retirement doesn’t look like it did 30 years ago, but you wouldn't know that from most advisor marketing.

Advisors need to make sure what they’re offering clients is different from the services that rivals provide and learn to get better at marketing themselves, Joe Duran, head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management, said Tuesday at the Wealth Management EDGE conference in Hollywood, Florida.

Introducing Duran, Mark Bruni, managing director of Wealth Management at Informa Connect, recalled Duran had asked a question awhile back that “fundamentally changed the way people thought about advice and changed the way I think about the role of the financial advisor.”

That question was: “What if [advisors] focused on helping people live rich without regrets rather than dying rich with regrets?”

That was a “very different way of thinking about wealth management and financial advice,” Bruno noted.

Asked by Bruno on Tuesday what advisors can do to “truly differentiate themselves in this sea of sameness,” Duran replied, “The first and most important thing for everyone here is to actually look at yourself as if you were a client and ask yourself: Would I hire me?”

Advisors should then ask themselves: “Why would I hire me?” and “What is it that I’m doing that’s so different from everyone else?” according to Duran, who founded United Capital Financial Partners in 2005 and sold it to Goldman Sachs for $750 million in 2019.

One problem is that “advisors in general are very good technicians but awful marketers,” Duran argued.

He explained: “They don’t actually stare at things from the lens of their client. So they’ll deliver a financial plan that they know they clients won’t understand and a Morningstar report that they know their clients don’t understand, and they’ll deliver it anyway.”

That is a big mistake, according to Duran, who pointed out: “We’re not doctors. There are a lot of people who can do what you can do.”

What an advisor can do differently, however, is effectively communicate to clients “what I do to show you the value” of his or her services and how they can make clients’ financial plans better and “train my team to know that that’s what we’re going to do.”

It is important that advisors understand they’re “not here to outperform the market” or “deliver a financial plan that we know is wrong,” he said. Rather, “We’re here to help people feel better and make better decisions for their client. And so we’re solving a different problem than everyone else is.”

However, advisors seem to have decided they’re “all going to use blue” and feature the “same smiling, retired people” in their advertising, he said, letting attendees in on what he called a “great secret,” which is that “nobody wants to be those retired people on a park bench.”

What clients actually want to be, he explained amid laughter from the audience, is “what they are right now but a little happier,” he said. They don’t want to be an 80-year-old person “walking on the beach.” They want to be “more dynamic,” he added.

After all, “people’s retirements don’t look anything like they did 30 years ago but our industry still talks like that,” he added.

(Pictured: Joe Duran, head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management; Photo: Jeff Berman)