Joe Duran details his next venture at Future Proof

Joe Duran has mixed feelings about the current state of the wealth management industry, one that he had a significant hand in shaping.

After helping to pioneer the creation of large, nationwide registered investment advisors with United Capital, which he launched in 2005, he’s now concerned about what will happen with others. After Goldman Sachs sold United Capital to Creative Planning just four years after acquiring it for $750 million in cash, Duran wonders how that will impact the expected returns of other firms that have invested in the independent advisory space.

Mostly, he’s worried about whether the industry, despite sustained growth, is maybe getting a bit stale.

“There’s so little original thought,” Duran said Monday while speaking at the Future Proof conference in Huntington Beach, California.  “When I look at the industry now, everyone is doing the exact same thing, and it’s a version of United Capital that is not as good.”

That’s why rather than talk about the past or even the present, Duran is more interested in the future. At Future Proof, he shared new details about Rise Growth, a new venture he plans to launch in 2024 with a simple mission: Grow the next generation of national firms.

Rise Growth will provide firms with capital, but it won’t look like the traditional venture capital or private equity firms that are already crowding into the independent advisor market, he said.

“We’re going to help build [these firms,]” Duran told InvestmentNews. “We’re not just money. I wouldn’t do this if it was just money.”

Instead, Rise will help provide what Duran said all firms need to become a nationwide independent advisors: their own technology ecosystem; business management practices that RIAs need to grow beyond a lifestyle practice; and strategies to achieve both organic and inorganic growth that doesn’t force advisors to join an aggregator like United Capital.

“Everything that I’ve done has led up to this idea,” he said. “I want to build the partner that I wish I had in both my previous ventures.”

Technology is a core part of the offering, especially building a data infrastructure that can take advantage of rapidly developing artificial intelligence technologies, which Duran says will be ubiquitous in wealth management much sooner than most people think.

“I don’t think anyone really grasps the amount of innovation happening right now in AI,” Duran said.

From automatically optimizing a separately managed account for taxes to identifying next best actions to take with clients, AI will help RIAs of all sizes efficiently serve significantly more clients without sacrificing service, he said.

“People pay advisors to be understood, and AI allows us to understand what you’re thinking and feeling before you do,” he said.

While he prefers to think about the future, Duran also answered some questions about his past with Goldman Sachs (Duran stepped down as head of personal financial management in February) and the recent deal to sell its RIA business to Creative Planning.

Duran praised the people he worked with at Goldman, but said the regulatory scrutiny a global bank faces is completely different than what he’s used to in the RIA world.

“I was spending 70% of my life on compliance and regulation and risk management, which is just no fun at all for someone like me,” he told InvestmentNews. “I like to make a big impact, and it just felt like no matter what you do, you’re just not going to make a big dent at a firm like Goldman Sachs.”

As for his former United Capital business, Duran remains confident about his decision to sell to Goldman Sachs but admits to being “a little sad” about the deal with Creative Planning.

“I think the advisors were very excited to be at Goldman Sachs, and we sold it with the view that this was going to be their forever home,” he said. “I don’t think any of them were planning on making a change.”

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