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How Joe Duran came to the U.S. with $200 and sold a $750M business to Goldman Sachs

Grete Suarez
Producer

Goldman Sachs ( GS ) closed a deal to acquire wealth management company United Capital for $750 million in cash on Thursday, as part of Goldman’s long-term strategy to push into wealth management.

“[United Capital] will serve as a cornerstone of our business as we execute on our long-term strategy to offer clients solutions across the wealth spectrum,” said David Solomon, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs in a statement . “United Capital will help accelerate this strategy by broadening our reach.”

Goldman expands into the high-net-worth segment

Joe Duran is the founder and chief executive of United Capital, which is based in Newport Beach, California. He built his business to $25 billion in managed assets serviced by 220 financial advisers across 95 offices. Duran said he is excited about the deal.

“In our own universe, there really hasn’t been a way to partner with Goldman, so this is a really exciting opportunity for us,” he said on The Ticker , in his first live interview on Yahoo Finance.

Joe Duran

Goldman Sachs has traditionally been an investment bank, servicing institutions and ultra high-net-worth individuals. This push into the wealth management space signals an appetite to diversify their assets and access a new market segment. For Duran, that works just fine.

“They’re the preeminent brand for 100 million or more. We are preeminent brand for folks with $1 million to $15 million,” he said. “They have a desire to broaden their reach and offer some of their services, their intelligence and IP to a market segment they haven’t been able to access.”

Leveraging Goldman brand

Duran grew up in war-torn Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, and came to the U.S. at 18 years of age with just $200 in his pocket. He said his experiences are why he focuses on the big picture when it comes to investing.

“Most of investing is a mental game, you can’t do anything about what the market does,” Duran said. “We try to remind people to focus on what you can control.”

It is with this mindset that he is confident he can double his business from $25 billion to $50 billion in assets under management in a “relatively short period of time” — that is, within two to three years.

Much of United Capital’s expansion is owed to the white-labeling of United Capital’s “wealth management operating system,” a digital platform that independent advisers use for portfolio management and financial planning. Now under the Goldman Sachs umbrella, that reach can expand.

“Goldman has a reputation within its own walls. With Finlife we have a white labelling of our platform which will expand and improve because of what Goldman brings to the table,” he said. “I’m really excited about what can happen with this unique combination. We can completely revolutionize the entire industry together.”

President Donald Trump announced lifting of steel and aluminum tariffs for Canada and Mexico at the National Association of REALTORS Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo, Friday, May 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The ‘Trump put’

Markets have been volatile since trade talks broke down with China as investors have been in a flurry to de-risk their portfolios as well as anticipate what comes next.

“The thing that’s messy about this is this is not a unilateral debate. We have a president who can take a lot of bandwidth and make it all about his views, but in reality is this is a bilateral discussion,” Duran said.

But never fear. Duran said President Trump has demonstrated that he doesn’t like to see the market go down.

“We have what many call ‘the Trump put.’ When the market goes down, he’s going to send a tweet to make it go up again,” he said.

Duran’s advice to investors? He says, “You just have to focus on what you can control.”

Grete Suarez is a producer at Yahoo Finance.

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