New United Capital platform digitizes planning advice

Firm says the platform allows it to better deliver on its planning-centered pitch to clients

Oct 7, 2014 @ 11:06 am

By Trevor Hunnicutt

United Capital plans to unveil a splashy platform on Tuesday that will reboot the way the firm delivers financial planning guidance to clients for the digital age, chief executive Joe Duran said in an interview.

Clients of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based advisory firm will now receive access to a digital platform called The Guidebook, which in real time aggregates client information from other software services such as Salesforce, Financeware, eMoney Advisor, MoneyGuidePro, Envestnet and Advent.

The platform then compiles all the financial goals recommended for a client — from insurance to liability protection to health care planning — with an individualized status report and “action date” on each. Advisers can now build these for clients in under 30 minutes, according to Mr. Duran.

The guide, which allows advisers to embed personalized video, is also printable for clients who prefer a hard copy.

“What this is going to allow us to do is make our guidance process something real and tangible; it's not just an idea, it's something we can show people — here is what you're going to pay for because we think investment management is being commoditized,” said Mr. Duran.

The Guidebook has been in the works for three years, but it took months of beta testing by advisers and an investment that Mr. Duran estimated to be at least $5 million to get it off the ground. The firm has delivered Guidebooks to 1,400 existing clients.

United Capital has 49 offices in the U.S. and advises on more than $10 billion in assets.

“I view what they're doing with the Guidebooks as a big step forward,” said Michael E. Kitces, director of planning research at Pinnacle Advisory Group. Mr. Kitces has held seminars for United Capital advisers and also was briefed on the platform before its launch. “They have the cash flow to invest into building these kinds of tools on their platform in a form that small firms don't have.”

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