Apr 4, 2014, 2:40 PM EST

How Lewis' "Flash Boys" will impact the financial advisory industry

By Joe Duran

There are good books that make you think differently about the world, and occasionally great books that really make you question the underpinnings of what you think reality is. I believe the new Michael Lewis book, “Flash Boys,” falls into the latter camp. The new book might be Mr. Lewis' most audacious, scary and infuriating work. For me, it might be his most impactful. I read the book cover to cover on a recent transcontinental flight. At times it felt like I was reading George Orwell's “1984”; at others it felt uncomfortably like I was reading a hidden report about the Watergate scandal. It gave me knots in my stomach. This is an important work that will create debates and re-open the barely healed wounds of the public's trust in the world's capital markets and its participants.I have been thinking about the implications and lessons that this carefully documented account of high-frequency trading — and... Read full post

Mar 27, 2014, 9:03 AM EST

Finding originality in financial services in a sea of copycats

By Joe Duran

Like most mature industries, financial services is replete with copycat market-share-focused firms - all the fish fighting for their own pool of safety in the blood red waters cluttered with all types of fish. Matt Brinker, our head of partner development, and I were having a talk about that subject because once again, we were working with two firms with the same name. We have the good fortune of meeting and assessing hundreds of successful independent advisers every year. We get to see the broad spectrum that our industry has to offer. Without exception, the folks we meet with believe that they have an exceptional firm that is not quite like any other. The truth is that they are absolutely right if they drill down to the details. However, to the more casual observer, the differences are imperceptible. Why does this matter? Because many of your potential new clients are simply comparing you to the other 143 million firms that pop up... Read full post

Mar 6, 2014, 9:35 AM EST

An adviser's toughest job: Telling a client the truth

By Joe Duran

Yahoo recently posted an article about the oldest living person in the world, a smiling 116-year old great-great-grandmother living in a retirement home for the last 18 years. Her surviving children are 92 and 94. It made me think about the worst conversations we can ever have with a prospective client — those in which they are already retired, but do not have enough savings to maintain their lifestyle. Their golden years might not be as golden as they'd hoped. Here's the great dilemma our nation is going to have to solve over the next decade: 10,000 Americans will reach the retirement age of 65 every day for the next 18 years. That's over 3.5 million Americans every year for the foreseeable future. Most are woefully unprepared to live for decades on their savings. What should we be doing about this impending crisis?First some context. In the early 1900s, people typically died before reaching the current retirement age. In the... Read full post

Feb 21, 2014, 11:35 AM EST

The adviser of the future: 3 trends of tomorrow

By Joe Duran

The future of business is being determined at breakneck speed. Three years ago, I wrote a paper with Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., about the “Consumer Revolution” that suggested we were in a unique time in American history, where entire industries were being eviscerated by category killers that were altering the rules of engagement with consumers and forcing revolutionary change upon all of the other firms in their industry. It's incredible how much has happened to change that reality in such a short period of time. In that small span, new and improved companies have become woven into our everyday lives. Imagine life without Skype, Facebook or Twitter. Imagine life without Amazon, SiriusXM or Google. Imagine life without Netflix, your iPhone or Starbucks. The truth is we are all intertwining companies into our lives in ways we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. These are frontier times in global business. This... Read full post

Feb 13, 2014, 12:01 AM EST

The beauty of truth

By Joe Duran

"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."John KeatsWhat a perfect ode to your valentine. I was given this poem as a young man, studying English literature in Zimbabwe. I remember being completely uninterested in having to memorize “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” How could the trials and tribulations of some hand-painted caricatures on the outside of an urn possibly be reflective on me and my life? But these lines, for some reason, have stuck with me the entirety of my life. The idea that the ultimate quest for all humans is truth — and when you see it, if it is genuine and real, everything can take a patina of genuine beauty — is simply inspiring to me. It's especially interesting when you think about it from a professional perspective. Surely nothing could matter more to our clients than us seeing the truth and helping them to live their truth. Unfortunately,... Read full post

Jan 28, 2014, 9:48 AM EST

Joe Duran: Are you 'living the why?'

By Joe Duran

I was quite surprised by the news of the departure of Mohamed El-Erian from our neighboring investment firm the Pacific Investment Management Co.Since we moved into our offices in the idyllic Newport Beach, Calif., commercial district (appropriately called “Fashion Island”), we have watched Pimco expand and consume thousands of square feet of office space around us. Under Mr. El-Erian's co-leadership, the world's largest fixed-income manager grew and prospered. He was clearly being groomed as Bill Gross' successor and he appeared engaged and content when I'd occasionally see him coaching his kid's soccer team. His departure seemed somewhat abrupt for a company that tends to be quite deliberate in its approach to most things.It got me thinking about what makes people change course, what motivates change and to question the purpose that drives all of us in our daily lives. How often do we ask ourselves whether we are... Read full post

Jan 9, 2014, 12:29 PM EST

How advisers can overcome the success paradox

By Joe Duran

We meet with hundreds of financial services firms every year and routinely find that after 20 years of existence, most of them have plateaued and now derive their growth from stock market performance and occasional referrals. Some are happily where they want to be, but more frequently, it has “just happened.” Why is it that these firms that once grew so fast have slowed down? The challenge for most advisers is that they are trapped in what we call the success paradox. Simply put, this paradox states that whatever has made you successful is also what limits you from being even more successful. Think about that for a moment. Many of us continue with our old habits because we assume that our past behavior has led to the success we have — but what if those same habits are limiting our future? Here are some tips on breaking free of the success trap:1. The bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle.We are the driving... Read full post

Dec 24, 2013, 12:52 PM EST

Making the most of the holiday season

By Joe Duran

The holiday season is in full swing. As year-end rolls in, it is an opportune time to reflect on how much we appreciate our family, staff, friends and clients. As I think about appreciation, I'm fine with admitting that it feels a lot nicer when it's a two-way street. It seems like an appropriate time to ask ourselves two important questions. First, do our clients really appreciate us? Second, do our clients know how much we really appreciate them? DO OUR CLIENTS REALLY APPRECIATE US?Many of us work with clients who will never be grateful for how much we care about them, no matter what we do. After all, there are people in this world who can only see what they don't have and what you don't do for them, and who will never appreciate what you do for them every day. People like that can be draining and can cost you far more than you might actually realize. It's a drag not just for you, but for all of your team members who work with them, ... Read full post

Dec 6, 2013, 9:02 PM EST

Lessons in leadership from Nelson Mandela

By Joe Duran

When I heard about Nelson Mandela's passing Thursday night, it brought a flood of thoughts about him and how his shadow had loomed and shaped so many of our lives in Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Growing up in Rhodesia, South Africa's northern neighbor, Nelson Mandela's name was always a catalyst to an argument. He was feared and demonized by the all-white ruling parties in South Africa and Rhodesia. He was labeled a terrorist and the open discussion at dinner tables was that he could not be freed because if he were, he would encourage the native Africans to take arms and chase all of the Caucasians out of Africa. When I was a teenager, his imprisonment was an endless source of debate about fairness and race. While he lay holed up quietly in a desolate cell on Robben Island, in the frigid, shark-filled waters off the coast of Cape Town, the rest of the world clamored for his freedom. But safety and security was the overwhelming... Read full post

Dec 5, 2013, 9:41 AM EST

Why Joe Duran hates the word 'roll-up'

By Joe Duran

There's a lot of talk about advisers' needing to find a transition plan, and many options are presented to them, including selling to a bank, junior advisers, a peer or the ubiquitous “roll-up.” But roll-ups come in many different forms. In fact, the term itself is a pejorative and used to describe somebody who simply acquires individual firms for a portion of their cash flow. They often have no regard for the underlying operations of a business' quality or plans for fundamentally improving the company. There are two things everyone thinking of joining a “roll-up” should ask:HOW'S THE PIE SLICED?The first question any seller should ask is how the investor or buyer is going to make money. The math is really simple. If the underlying investor is paying you a price and expecting to make money, and they bring nothing to the table, the only way they can make money is to take a bigger slice — and you can guess... Read full post

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