|Clients:||Registered investment advisors|
|Value proposition:||Financial life management|
|The executive team:||Mike Capelle, Chief Platform Officer|
United Capital is a wealth counseling company that specializes in financial life management and investment management. To date, the company has 85+ offices nationwide, 650+ employees, $23.4B in assets under management, plus $22.5B in assets under contract*, which represent the combined AUM of firms that signed with the FinLife platform (as of February 20, 2019).
|Mike Capelle, Chief Platform Officer at United Capital|
I had a chance to speak with Mike Capelle, Chief Platform Officer at United Capital, about the meteoric rise United Capital has seen since being founded in 2005. Mike showed me the inner workings of the platform, and explained how United Capital leverages the best technologies and strategies for success.
Mike Capelle has a strong background in technology. He worked at Intel for over 10 years in various roles, including design work, manufacturing and fabrication facilities, and strategic planning. After leaving Intel he decided to shift over to wealth management. Mike’s path to a new career landed him in a meeting with Joe Duran, CEO of United Capital. Mike, Joe, and the other founders wanted to build a national wealth management firm, and the result was United Capital. During his tenure at United Capital Mike has taken on tech-centered roles, developing infrastructure, digital engagement tools, and integrations.
Three key platform elements
- Client experience tools—Proprietary applications that are part of the process advisors are trained on. They include: MoneyMind® analyzer, HonestConversations®, InvestmentViewfindersm, and GuideCenter®.
- AdvisorCenter—Allows advisors to view all of their clients and where these clients are in their journey. This is also where different integrations such as CRM systems, portfolio accounting systems, and financial planning providers can be added.
“We’re not trying to replace the advisor’s preferred CRM, we’re not trying to replace their portfolio accounting system, we’re not trying to replace any financial planning. We’re trying to connect to those, and bring it all together into a cohesive experience.”
- Training—Every advisor goes through boot camps and coaching in United Capital’s FinLife University. There is a self-paced training platform that takes about six hours to complete. The online training consists of modules that give advisors a good starting foundation. Mike pointed out that upon completion, advisors attend a boot camp in Dallas, Texas. Here, a series of role-playing exercises are organized with hired actors to simulate client interaction.
“A really important part of being successful, I think, with a really broad piece of technology … is having a good training program and coaching program. This has been a vital part of the overall platform.”
Elevating engineers with business knowledge
Mike said that apart from United Capital advisors, new employees are encouraged to go through the training process when joining the company. Engineers and other members of the team also attend these boot camps so that they can better serve clients.
“The more your technology team can help your staff understand the product and the solution, the better they’re able to meet the end need.”
The engineers on Mike’s team work out of Dallas. As part of a management mandate, senior-level employees have to participate in a certain number of client meetings. This gives the tech team a chance to see how the platform is being presented and used, and, most importantly, gives them a chance to see areas that can be improved.
Dynamic FinLife management
The first step in the onboarding process is the MoneyMind analyzer. United Capital is built on the principle of fully understanding the client, including biases. Everyone has biases in financial decision making depending on what we value most. Mike explained that the big three needs for money are:
- To help the client protect their loved ones
- To help the client enjoy life
- To help protect the client from bad outcomes
With a few simple questions, the platform puts together a client profile, which is then used in later stages. To paint a complete picture, United Capital sends out a link to both spouses, because in most relationships financial decisions are mutually discussed and agreed upon.
“If you have both spouses go through this, and one spouse [has] a protection money mind [more likely to save] and one spouse [has] a happiness money mind [more likely to spend], the advisor already has insights into the disagreements they’re having.”
Understanding financial bias also ties in with risk planning and risk analysis—asking clients questions about their goals and aims, specifically what they want the money to do for them.
“Right off the bat here we’re getting some insights into the individual and the biases they have. The advisor is getting some insights into how they’re most likely going to have to work with them.”
The second step, HonestConversations, involves a series of conversations with both spouses. Each spouse is shown a series of cards that relate to emotional values (happiness, fears) and commitments. These cards are prioritized by the client and upon completion are reconciled to the top five for them as a couple.
According to the results, advisors can plan for ways to minimize taxes, rebalance portfolios, make adjustments to risk assessments, and make more detailed investment proposals.
Engineering team, tech stack, product management
Mike’s team is structured according to three components: head of client experience, who also handles digital product management; an engineering team that does all of the development work; and a business analyst that looks at requirement definitions and sprint management. The agile team runs build sprints every two weeks.
The engineering team is broken up into subteams, and sometimes specialty teams, depending on what is on the drawing board, integrations, supporting current architecture, etc. Also, the company relies on outsourcing providers to supplement their senior engineering roles.
The company has a long history with Salesforce because they’ve taken a customer relationship management-centric approach. In recent years, Mike said they’ve been migrating to offer more flexibility to independent advisors. They build applications on Salesforce’s Heroku platform. The platform itself is built using React to make it easier to deploy a mobile app, which United has already done.
Mike said that the company takes feedback from its user base very seriously. To get the most out of the client feedback from their app and real-time support team, they hold meetings called the “innovation tank.”
“Innovation tank is where we have a cross-functional group come together. We’ll talk through things we have that we’re thinking about, get feedback on things that we’re developing. But it’s really important that we’re getting people from the front lines that are using the technology with clients.”
Focus on interacting with clients
Fundamentally, United Capital looks at the wealth management process from a different angle. Instead of answering the question, “Will I run out of money?” they ask, “Are you leading the life you want?” Mike highlighted that they’re still performing conventional processes such as investment and planning, but their real focus is client engagement. Using technology, the company is phasing out the era of pencil and paper client onboarding in order to streamline this process, and make it scalable and repeatable.
Internally, United Capital uses integrations to improve the client experience, and these tools help connect all the data points for the entire wealth management process.
WealthTech Club takeaways
United Capital is a powerful entity in the advisory space. They have all of their processes and workflows locked down, and they’re very effective. Their tech game is also top notch. United Capital recently released a mobile app that allows advisors to communicate with clients through chat and video messaging, and to make changes to financial planning on demand.
*Not all assets are using the FinLife platform.