Joe Duran

Joe Duran

Joe Duran believes wealth management can be delivered to clients with the same consistency as a McDonald’s or Starbucks.

So far, his clients have devoured that formula.

Duran began United Capital Financial Advisers in 2005, and has grown the Newport Beach-based firm organically and through acquisitions to more than $46 billion assets under management or under contract.

He has 667 employees in 95 offices and about $220 million in annual revenue. According to Barron’s, United Capital is the second-ranked registered investment advisory, or RIA, in the country.

The Business Journal honored Duran on March 12 with an Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award at Hotel Irvine (see profiles of other winners, pages 1, 4 and 6).

“The company’s vision is to become the Starbucks of financial advisory firms,” Gordon MacLean, a partner at RJI International CPAs, told the audience when announcing the award.

“This individual wants to help people live richly versus dying rich.”

It’s quite a journey for a poor kid who grew up in a war torn African country.

“None of it would be possible without an incredible country like the United States,” Duran said when accepting the award.

A Great Internship

Duran, born in Barcelona, was raised in a poor family in Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe when he was 12 years old. As a teenager, he worked a number of jobs such as selling hot dogs on the street, managing a clothing factory’s late shift and playing disc jockey at weekend parties.

When he was 18, Duran moved to London where he was robbed shortly after his arrival. He made his way around Europe, living the bohemian lifestyle with an earring, a tie-dyed T-shirt and a guitar to play in the park. He eventually met his future wife, Jennifer, who was also in attendance at the awards ceremony.

“She saw something in me,” he recalled. “She said, ‘You are going to eat the world alive,’ and I believed her.”

In 1992, he began as an intern at a wealth management firm, earning the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour. He moved up the ladder and eventually became president of Centurion Capital Management with a 15% ownership stake that became lucrative when it was sold to GE Capital for $120 million in 2001. Thirteen years after arriving in America “with nothing,” he’d become an American success story.

Entrepreneurial Author

Among his other skills, Duran’s written three books, including the New York Times bestseller “The Money Code.”